A group of Jamaica Plain educators are part of an organization that is fighting for the rights of undocumented Boston Public School students.
Jamaica Plain residents Adriana Costache and Maya Taft-Morales have been working with BTU Unafraid Educators for more than two years, or as Maya Taft-Morales described it -- since Trump was elected. Both fielded questions about their involvement in the organization.
Q: What school do you teach in, and what do you teach?
Costache: I teach math and science to English learners at Fenway High School.
Taft-Morales: I teach 4th grade inclusion at the Donald McKay K-8 School in East Boston.
Q: What is BTU Unafraid Education?
Costache: We are a group of educators and community members fighting for the rights of undocumented students in Boston and beyond. We offer workshops, run a Week of Action to show support to immigrant and undocumented students, and run a scholarship open to all undocumented Boston students.
Taft-Morales: Our purpose is to build sanctuary schools from the ground up. The term sanctuary schools is defined differently by different groups. So, to us, a sanctuary school is a place where all immigrant students and families, including those who are undocumented, are welcomed, respected, cherished, and protected. As a group, we are committed to creating and sharing resources, leading initiatives, and participating in advocacy that stand in solidarity with immigrant students and families, with a focus on issues related to irregular status.
Q: How does BTU Unafraid Educators help students?
Costache: We work to make schools more inviting to immigrant and undocumented students. We educate teachers and counselors about how to best support students. We also offer need-based college scholarships to any graduate of the Boston Public Schools. Those scholarships have ranged between $500 and $4000.
Taft-Morales: For example, we crowdsource and share great resources to support teachers in teaching integrating the experiences of our undocumented and immigrant students into their curriculum with booklists and lesson plans. We support teachers in creating plans to lead events in which schools up their support for students, perhaps by inviting a lawyer or speaker to come in and teach them about the rights of undocumented people, perhaps by passing out flyers with information about how to meet with an immigration lawyer for free. We also do a lot of work around supporting college counselors to: One -- tell their undocumented students that college is an option and, Two -- walk them through the necessary steps to get into college
Q: And these are students across Boston Public Schools of all ages?
Costache: We are primarily working with high school seniors and graduates as they transition to college. However, it is important for 9th to 11th graders to be aware of this resource to keep hope alive.
Taft-Morales: Many teachers in Unafraid teach in lower grades as well, teaching lessons, doing weeks of action, and supporting families down to elementary school.
Q: What can someone do to help BTU Unafraid Educators?
Costache: They can donate to the scholarship or start their own fundraiser on the Kindful platform! Undocumented seniors or graduates of BPS can request an application.
Taft-Morales: They can also connect their teacher friends to the organization, and encourage them to do the work at their schools to make their schools more supportive of undocumented students.
Q: Anything else?
Costache: Part of the reason why this problem exists is because legislators in Massachusetts have been unwilling to grant in-state tuition to undocumented students. At this point 20 states and D.C. give in-state tuition and/or state financial aid to undocumented students. Missouri just passed a similar law, but it has been impossible to do this in Massachusetts. There are multiple bills in the Massachusetts legislature right now that would grant in-state tuition to undocumented students. I believe state Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz's is the most comprehensive.