“Dreamers of Wisconsin is the first nonprofit organization in Wisconsin whose mission is really to commit to serving undocumented students pursuing higher education in Wisconsin,” Cristhabel Martinez, executive director of Dreamers of Wisconsin, tells Madison365.
The organization works to support undocumented and “DACAmented” students financially and legally and provides mental health resources, in addition to unique student programming, and are expanding their efforts to support students statewide.
“On our leadership staff, there are people who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who were on leadership when they were on UW-Madison’s campus through dreamers of UW-Madison, which is our one of our chapter organizations,” Martinez says. “And essentially, you know, when we were involved as students and undergrad, a lot of the times a lot of students or administration would come to us asking and directing people to our organization.”
Dreamers of Wisconsin is committed to the long-term, comprehensive goal of undocumented justice with an emphasis on policy reform, student services, and abolition. The organization was founded in 2016 and then branched to support students throughout the state.
“At the time we were a student organization, we didn’t have the resources, the funds or have the capacity, or the time, really, to be able to serve students when we’re students ourselves and we don’t have resources ourselves,” said Martinez. “And we saw that unmet need. And we decided to start a nonprofit organization where we could not only serve students in Madison, but at a statewide level. That’s kind of how we got started.”
Their work as a student organization displayed the need to help students throughout the state of Wisconsin. They are branching out to rural communities to support students who would otherwise be ignored.
“It’s a lot of community building and outreach, definitely building connections with different campuses around the state,” said Martinez. “We’re especially in rural areas, like Green Bay and Oshkosh, connecting with counselors and administrators there to start bringing awareness about the systemic change that needs to start happening at institutions and how we can meet students’ needs on campuses, as well.”
Martinez said undocumented DACAmented students are not eligible for state financial aid or federal aid, which means that they aren’t eligible for loans or scholarships that normally require you to be US citizens.
“That creates a huge financial barrier because instead of paying $10,000 in tuition at UW-Madison, students are charged $35,000 despite the fact that they have resided in Wisconsin for their whole lives,” said Martinez. “That’s kind of where our fundraising initiatives began and why we offer scholarships to meet that unmet need that oftentimes, students don’t have — like the financial resources to be able to allocate to their education. We’re tirelessly trying to fundraise to make sure that we’re able to provide as many scholarships as we can to students who really deserve it and have the right to pursue higher education, as well.”
To donate for Dreamers of Wisconsin and support their fundraising for undocumented DACAmented students, click here: The organization just launched their writing center, which is in place to support undocumented DACAmented students in Wisconsin who are applying to college and scholarships. For more information about the writing center with the Dreamers of Wisconsin, click here.