© 2016 Dreamer Fund, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  All images © 2016-2019 Dreamer Fund & Monica Valencia. Images & Artwork may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of the Dreamer Fund or its agents. 

MISSION & VISION

Our mission

 

We assist Dreamers and undocumented students financially to pursue and complete law school through creative community engagement. We have also expanded our services to help the immigrant and undocumented community with free legal services, legal training for the protecting of their rights, and advancements in civic and grassroots-level engagement.

 

Our vision

 

Our vision is to raise funds to provide financial support for Dreamer and undocumented law students in California and to expand to help all students all over the nation. We also strive to raise awareness surrounding the struggles and difficulties that undocumented students face so that our community can be supportive of their efforts. We seek to bring about substantive change to educational institutions through legislative and social policy changes. Our hope is to help the community we serve in a more concise and permanent manner, so that immigrant and undocumented students can live a life that they deserve. We use fundraising, education, training, community dialogue, art, photography, storytelling, community engagement, and leadership as tools for change to benefit the future of our community.                

 

ABOUT US

About US

 

The DREAMer Fund was created in 2016 by a coalition of law students in San Francisco, California. The coalition was a response to several undocumented law students who were facing barriers in paying for their law school tuition and other expenses, which jeopardized their ability to continue and complete their legal education.


Our group consists of multicultural, mixed immigration status professionals, and allies  eager to make a change. Through our combined skills, knowledge and passions we seek to  address systemic issues in the education system that frustrates Dreamers’ and undocumented students’ ability to achieve their professional goals. Likewise, it is our priority to forge a safe space for all persons.

MEET OUR TEAM

Monica Valencia is from Los Angeles, California and she was born to immigrant parents from Mexico. She is the first in her family to attend college, graduate, and receive a higher education. Spanish is her native language and learning to speak English at a young age was a difficult endeavor. She believes that her language and her culture are both important to her identity, but also to the way in which she navigates her spaces in society.  

 

Monica enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after high school and received station assignments in the U.S., South Korea and Germany. She excelled in the military and spent six years in service of her country, traveling through Europe, Asia, and the U.S. Monica returned home to California with an honorable discharge.

 

After the military, Monica graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, where she excelled academically and received numerous awards, scholarships and fellowships. As a McNair Scholar and Mellon Mays Fellow, she was able to design, conduct, & complete an Honors Thesis under the instruction of Dr. Jody Agius Vallejo and Dr. Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo. Monica spent a year and a half in the field conducting ethnographic research based on participant observation and in-depth interviews. Monica successfully presented her research findings at numerous sociological conferences around the nation. 

 

Monica graduated from USC having received one of the highest honors; the Order of the Laurel and the Palm, among other honors that celebrated her academic abilities. She graduated from USC (Magna Cum Laude) with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Human Rights.

 

Monica went on to study law and received her Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree at the University of San Francisco School of Law. While at USF Law, she gained practical skills by interning and externing at various organizations including the Immigration Center for Women & Children, Justice Now, and the Immigration & Deportation Defense Clinic at USF Law. Monica taught Street Law to high school students in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA, and competed on the Asylum Moot Court Team at USF Law. She was also one of ten students selected to participate in the Keta Taylor Colby Death Penalty Project and was assigned to the Capitol Defenders Office in Jackson, Mississippi.

 

As a result of her dedication to the profession of law, she has been awarded several awards including the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association Fellowship, the Equal Justice Works Public Interest Law Award, and the OneJustice Pro Bono Publico Gold Award two years in a row. Monica graduated from law school having received a public interest law certificate with high honors.  At her graduation, Monica was also the recipient of the 2017 "Pursuit of Justice" award; which is only awarded to one student from the graduating class. 

While in law school, Monica founded the Dreamer Fund in 2016, a non-profit in San Francisco, California, with hopes of giving back to her immigrant community. She is currently the founder and co-executive director of the Dreamer Fund and her focus is to work collectively and learn from the undocumented and immigrant communities to create social change and education equity. Monica was trained under the "Rebellious Lawyering" model by her mentor and professor, Bill Ong Hing, and was also a Post-Bar Fellow at the Immigration & Deportation Defense Clinic at USF Law, where she continued her training with Prof. Bill Ong Hing, Esq. and Prof. Jacqueline Brown Scott, Esq. 

Currently, Monica is a supervising attorney at Catholic Charities San Francisco. 

Gabriela Garcia - Co-Executive Director

My name is Gabriela Garcia, I am an undocumented immigrant originally from Michoacán, Mexico. I come from a large family of six. It was due to the size of my family that we slowly migrated to the United States. Arriving to the United States was a big shock for me because of the language barrier and not knowing if I was going to be able to continue with my education. The language barrier made it so I had to work twice as hard simply to keep up with my peers. The challenges I faced learning a new language and adapting to a different culture made my early years in the United States very difficult. However, it was through these adversities that I was able to cultivate self-growth and an appreciation for knowledge.

After graduating from Leuzinger High School, I attended El Camino College, where I obtained an Associates degree in Political Science. Due to the lack of financial aid available for undocumented students, at the time, I had to work throughout my education in order to pay for it. I eventually went on to obtain a Bachelors degree from California State University, Los Angeles in Political Science.  I was then accepted to the University of San Francisco School Law, where I’m pursuing a Juris Doctorate. Once I graduate, I plan to work as an immigration or civil rights attorney.

Before attending law school, I worked at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). I was first hired as a legal fellow and later gained formal accreditation from the Board of Immigration Appeals. This means that I am accredited to give people legal advice, represent people in front of the Board of Immigration Appeals, and assist people with filling out applications with legal representation. My goals is to be able to make a positive change in my community by providing legal services at a low cost.

Lizett Rodriguez Pena - Deputy Director

Lizett Rodriguez is a first-generation immigrant from Michoacan, Mexico who was raised in Watsonville, California. Ms. Rodriguez wants to practice immigration law to continue using her immigrant experience to advocate for underrepresented communities.

 

Lizett graduated from the University of California, Davis with a B.A. in Sociology and Chicano Studies and will receive her J.D. from University of San Francisco School of Law. She practiced immigration law as an Extern with Open Door Legal and an Intern with Immigration Resources Center. Lizett also participated in University of San Francisco (USF) School of Law Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic where she represented unaccompanied immigrant children in their asylum immigration proceeding.

 

Lizett served as the Vice President of La Raza Law Student Association and as Co-President of USF Parents and Advocates Law Student Association, which she helped establish after having her first child to advocate for law student parents’ needs and rights. Lizett is committed to dedicating herself to the cause of justice.  

Ned McKenzie Martinez - Co-Director of Policy

Ned is originally from Peñasco, New Mexico in rural northern New Mexico, but now calls Oakland his home. Ned earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish from the University of New Mexico in 2011 and his Juris Doctorate from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 2017. Ned was first introduced to immigration law as an Immigration Legal Assistant and Interpreter at Santiago Law Office, P.C. in San Francisco from 2011-2014, where a big focus of his work was to prepare individuals eligible to apply for DACA.

 

During his first summer of law school, Ned served as the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association/Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom LGBT Public Interest Fellow, which sponsored his summer fellowship at East Bay Sanctuary Covenant in Berkeley. At East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Ned focused primarily on representing LGBT and HIV+ individuals applying for asylum before the San Francisco Asylum Office. During his second and third years of law school, Ned participated in the University of San Francisco School of Law, Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic. As part of the clinic, Ned provided direct services for families and unaccompanied minors in immigration removal proceedings and before the San Francisco Asylum Office.

 

In October 2015, as part of a group of USF clinic volunteers, Ned traveled to the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX where he volunteered with the CARA pro-bono project which works to assure vital access to counsel for the asylum-seeking women and children being held at the facility. During his second and final summer of law school, Ned worked as the California Bar Foundation's Removal Defense Fellow at Centro Legal de La Raza in Oakland to support the launch and development of a new pro-bono project that was established to serve detained immigrants being held at the Mesa Verde Detention Center in Bakersfield. In addition to proudly supporting the Dreamer Fund, Ned currently works back where his career first began, as a Post-Bar Law Clerk at Santiago Law Office, P.C. in San Francisco. Ned became an attorney in 2018. 

Anna Manuel - Co-Director of Policy

Anna is a graduate of University of San Francisco School of Law (J.D., certificate in International and Comparative Law) and San Francisco State University (B.A., Anthropology).  

 

During law school, Anna worked with the USF Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic, providing legal representation in asylum cases, volunteered with No Más Muertes, providing humanitarian aid to migrants crossing the Sonora Desert, and provided research assistance to Bill Ong Hing on the subject of immigration family detention centers. Working with the Frank C. Newman Human Rights Clinic, she advocated against immigration family detention at the United Nations Human Rights Counsel (UNHRC). She also advocated at the UNHRC for immigrants’ rights at the US-Mexico border, and for the ethical use of forensic genetics in cases of human rights violations. She has conducted in-depth research on the issue of missing migrants and unknown migrant remains at the US-Mexico border. She also interned with Asylum Access, UC Berkeley Human Rights Center, and Center for Justice and Accountability. She is currently working as a Butler Koshland Immigrant Rights Fellow at the University of California Immigrant Legal Services Center at UC Davis School of Law. 

 

Anna was raised by working class parents in rural California. She and her sister were the first in their family to attend college, and Anna was the first to attend graduate school. Anna is an undocually who advocates that the people who hold positions of power must look like the communities they claim to serve. To this end, she demands education equity for Dreamers and undocumented students!

Dyvianne Martinez - Co-Director of Community Outreach (NorCal)

Dyvianne Martinez grew up in a socially conscious farm-worker community in Ventura, California. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico through the Bracero Program and worked in the fields and packing plants of Ventura County. Due to her upbringing and experience, she is inspired and motivated to work for the benefit of her mixed status immigrant community.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2009 and is currently a graduate student at the University of San Francisco School of Education and a candidate for a Master’s in Organization and Leadership.

 

After UC Santa Cruz, she worked as a litigation assistant at a plaintiff-side law firm in Oakland that mainly represented farm workers in the Central Valley.  She then worked at the local food bank in Oxnard, CA helping to support outreach efforts to Spanish-speaking and Mixteco indigenous communities.

 

Dyvianne currently works at the University of San Francisco and wishes to continue working in higher education upon receiving her degree. Her goal is to help first-generation students in navigating higher education and to provide the support that is needed for students to be successful. 

Bethzy Garcia - Co-Director of Community Outreach (SoCal)

Bethzy Garcia was born and raised in Mexico. She came to the United States at age 15. Bethzy is the first in her family to finish high school, graduate from college and attend Graduate school. Bethzy attended a low performing public school where the school was often placed on lock-down due to fights sparked by racial tensions. Despite the lack of a safe environment at school, Bethzy had very encouraging teachers and supportive parents who encouraged her do well in school. In spite of the language barrier and the cultural shock, Bethzy managed to be at the top of her class and was able to finish high school in three years.

 

Bethzy graduated from California State University, Northridge with a Bachelors in Psychology and a Masters in Educational Psychology. She also has a certificate in Human Resources from Loyola Marymount University. As part of her graduate thesis she created an after school program for elementary students. She used math games to motivate students to learn. Bethzy is very passionate about education and her goal is to help low income, minority, and first generation students to accomplish their academic goals.

 

After the announcement of Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals (DACA) in June 2012, Bethzy was hired at CHIRLA as a Legal Fellow. Since the implementation of DACA she has helped to coordinate CHIRLA’s DACA program and has helped thousands of people to apply for DACA. Bethzy has also been part of the expansion of the Legal Services Department at CHIRLA. In 2014, she became one of the first Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Accredited Representatives at CHIRLA. As a BIA representative Bethzy is able to provide legal advice and represent clients seeking immigration benefits. Bethzy has helped clients to apply for naturalization, family petitions, adjustments of status and U-Visas.

 

Working for CHIRLA has given Bethzy the privilege of helping thousands of Dreamers to apply for DACA. In addition, she has also participated in multiple college workshops where she has provided presentations regarding AB-540, The California Dream Act and financial aid in general. Bethzy is currently working on her College Counseling certificate at UCLA in order­­­ to better help the student population that she works with. As an immigrant, Bethzy understands the struggle that many undocumented students endure while attending school.

 

Bethzy joined the Dreamer Fund because she values education and as an undocumented student, she has struggled to put herself through school. Plus, she believes in giving back to the community and helping others to accomplish their dreams.

Rosan Agbajoh - Dreamer Resource Coordinator

Rosan Agbajoh was born and raised in Nigeria.  She grew up in a big family with a lot of extended relatives. Growing up her parents were involved in Nigerian politics. Her mom was a lawyer and her dad was a politician. As a child Rosan had always wanted to change the political climate of her country. She wanted to get rid of the corruption and she wanted to help the poor get the justice they deserved. She figured the best way to do this was to become a lawyer.

 

Rosan came to the United States at the age of 12 on a tourist visa. She and her family came on a vacation but her mom decided that Rosan should stay and attend school in the United States, as many children seeking a better future do. Moving to America seems like a great thing for a lot of people, the American dream they call it, but at that time for Rosan it was an American nightmare. She was away from her family and friends and the culture shock was drastic. In Nigeria, everyone was the same and racial discrimination was an anomaly, but in South Carolina she faced racism nearly everyday at school. Rosan moved around a lot, living with different family friends, finally moving to California to attend high school at Mt. Eden. At Mt. Eden, Rosan was involved in journalism and she was one of the founders and president of Black Student Union, providing a space for students of color to come together, share their experiences, and be represented in the school.

 

After high school Rosan suddenly realized how much her immigration status affected her. She had to be strategic on which colleges to apply to because she could not pay for college the way her peers could. As an undocumented student she had to pay for college out of pocket because she did not qualify for any government aid. This troubling, and often daunting legal status directly affected her educational path, but she remained determined to pursue higher education and attain a law school degree. She attended California State University East Bay where she attained a Bachelor’s in Political Science, Pre-law, and a minor in Psychology.

 

Rosan is currently attending law school at the University of San Francisco School of law where she is pursuing her Juris Doctorate degree and will be a graduate of the Class of 2017. She aspires to be a personal injury plaintiff attorney and currently works at the personal injury law firm, Lamb and Frischer.

 

Rosan’s decision to attend law school was an expensive one because of her immigration status. She received some sponsorship from the Nigerian government and her mom constantly gave her all so her daughter could attend law school. Rosan knew at the end of the day it was worth it because, as a lawyer, she would be in a great position to make a difference in her country and fight for the underrepresented people in her community. Coming from an immigrant background gave her a unique look at the law that benefited her immensely in her studies. She found that the struggle to pay tuition and the uncertainty of her education pushed her to excel in all aspects of life. It was through those moments of struggle that she learned the benefits of being an immigrant, and the importance of both representing and supporting others in her similar situation. Rosan aspires to one day be the president of Nigeria. Rosan became an attorney in 2017. 

Zulma Muñoz - Director of Communications

Zulma is a 3L at the University of San Francisco School of Law. Zulma was born and raised in Oakland, California, and is a graduate of UC Berkeley. As a first generation Latina, Zulma is passionate about ensuring increased access and equity for all immigrant families and communities.

 

She knows from personal experience how awful and disorienting it is when family members, contributing hard working members of society, suddenly don’t come home because they are arrested and slated for deportation. Zulma has worked for E4FC and Bean+Lloyd, LLP and she hopes to start her own immigration firm one day.

Tyla Jones - Events Director

Tyla is an anthropologist, educator, activist, writer, event planner, and DJ from the Bay Area.  She graduated from San Francisco State University, with a degree in Anthropology and Human Rights, with an emphasis on Critical Medical Anthropology, working with refugee and migrant rights research and advocacy. After graduating SFSU, she was hired to work in Student Affairs at the California Institute for Integral Studies, doing Community Space Management, where she was later accepted into the Anthropology and Social Change Department’s Doctorate Program.  There she did her MA on Self Organized Health Systems in Autonomous Zones in Greece and Mexico. She put her doctorate on hold to focus more on organizing and supporting the resistance movements occurring in the Bay Area.

 

Tyla is also the founder and co director of, "Join the Movement Coalition”, a grassroots community platform that organizes fundraising events for radical social change and resistance education projects in the Bay Area and beyond. These events include: Live shows, film screenings, teach ins/workshops/ lectures, rallies, and much more.  They are also expanding into forming their own free social services clinic in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2020. 

 

Tyla believes that by bridging gaps, connecting the dots, and creating new ways of understanding what resistance looks like, JTMC can be a tool towards dismantling oppression through celebration and art.

Miguel Castillo - Creative Director

Miguel is an immigrant from Oaxaca, Mexico. Since the age of three when he was brought to the United States, Miguel has grown into a passionate activist for immigrant rights. As an undergraduate at San Francisco State University, Miguel was one of the key student leaders who created the university's first Dream Resource Center which provided support for undocumented students. Miguel was also selected to be a part of the inaugural cohort of the DreamSF Fellowship, where he served at a variety of Bay Area Immigrant Rights organizations. Miguel is currently a Client Services Manager at MAF, in addition to sitting on the Leadership Board of Dreamers In Tech and works as a freelance graphic designer.  

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PARTNER WITH US

Partnerships are a valuable way to collaborate and work with community organizations, educational institutions and other like-minded groups. Partnerships include stable leadership, vision, and the necessary drive to build networks to resolve issues affecting our communities – together.

 

In an effort to build long-lasting partnerships, our goal is to cultivate an understanding of our partner’s work by understanding their culture, appreciating their values, working with their organizational framework, and comprehending their vision.

 

Through shared objectives, the Dreamer Fund hopes to work with organizations in order to advance each other’s missions in an organic way. This entails building capacity together as partners in an underserved and underrepresented community, but also evolving jointly and adjusting as we learn about different issues and different approaches.

 

We are committed to working towards the good of the community that we serve. As our partner, we would work with your team collectively to bridge gaps in the services that are needed by undocumented and immigrant students and by enhancing our programmatic impacts.

 

Our vision is to come to your area and provide students, staff, faculty, organizers, family and allies with the necessary tools and resources that will be helping in successfully applying to graduate school. We tailor our resources and presentations to the needs of your community. W also provide mentorship and volunteer opportunities for persons interested in learning more about law school and advancing the ‘undocumented and immigrant graduate-level student’ blueprint.

 

By accepting to be our partner, we would like to list you on our website as an educational institution or organization that we collaborate with. No other information will be posted about you. We only ask that you grant us permission to tell our community who we are working with and/or who shares our vision.
 

We look forward to having you as our partner. If our visions do not align at this time, don’t worry. Our door is always open for future collaborations.

Email us for more information to hello@dreamerfund.org