Thursday was National Institutions Coming Out Day, sponsored by United We Dream, which seemed like the ideal time to announce the Freedom Education Fund, set up to provide scholarships to undocumented students, who demonstrate financial need.
As explained in the packet given to the press, “A qualified applicant for the Fund must not be a legal permanent resident and not possess a green card, visa or other legal documentation. Undocumented status also includes individuals who have been granted conditional resident status or a deferred removal action under federal law and individuals that were born outside of the United States but have lived in this country for a significant portion of their lives.”
The Freedom Education Fund concept grew out of Miriel Manning’s senior project at Prescott College, and, “eventually grew into a larger collaboration between undergraduate students, the Social Justice and Human Rights Masters Program, faculty, staff and community members.”
According to Manning, the fee has the approval of the vast majority of on-campus student body members.
While waiting for the event to start, students led chants and waved signs at the vehicles passing by. Some drivers honked in support, others were not so positive. But most just drove on by, oblivious to their message.
The press conference lasted almost 40 minutes, partly because after each of the speakers, the message was translated into Spanish.
“Arizona is nationally known for its saguaros and our bigoted draconian practices towards undocumented peoples. This is not arguable."
Manning started by reading from her script, “Arizona is nationally known for its saguaros and our bigoted draconian practices towards undocumented peoples. This is not arguable. Currently Maricopa County’s Sheriff is on trial, yet again, for his characteristic racist hate mongering… We want to prove to the world that in an election year filled with hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric, Prescott College is one of the few institutions in Arizona that is open and accepting of undocumented students. We will not stand idly by as our friends and loved ones are being deported from a country founded on the backs of slaves and denocide of the idigenous population, yet claims to be free and democratic.”
Click here to read a written script from most of the speakers.
Manning with a representative from the local Alianza organization, which donated over $1000 towards the scholarship.
Ernesto Morales, one of the students who led the pre-event chanting, stood as a background to the speakers and held up a homemade sign with a provocative message that elicited more than one reaction from those in the crowd.
Ernesto Morales holds up a sign that he identifies as his "art."
Morales explained why the sign was important to him.
Is Prescott College trying to distance itself from the issue?
The press conference was supposed to be held on the Prescott College Campus at 371 Garden Street in Prescott. However, upon arrival, there was a large sign in the windows that read, “No press conference.” The sign did not provide any further information, but a couple of students were standing near the door smoking a cigarette, and they said that the press conference had been moved to the Coalition for Compassion and Justice location.
When asked about this abrupt and unannounced move, Manning replied, “We were excited to hold our press conference in the community and share our celebration with students and our local community.”
Manning hesitated when she was asked if she thought the Prescott community at large was supportive of their efforts with the Freedom Education Fund. “Of course, there’s always going to be some opposition, but overwhelmingly we have the support of the students and that’s the real focus of importance. And we’re connected to statewide and national movements, so I think actually, that’s really the key.”
In the original notice for the press conference, dated April 4, 2016, Manning listed the following speakers:
1. Miriel Manning - Prescott College student
2. Scholarships AZ member
3. Paul Burkhardt - Prescott College Provost
4. Adrianna Lopez - Local community member
5. Prescott Unified School District representative
6. Arizona Dream Act Coalition representative
But, it didn’t take long after issuing that initial notice for a retraction to be sent out, stating that Prescott Unified School District was not a sponsor of the effort and would not be speaking at the press conference. On Thursday, it turned out that nobody from the Prescott College administration spoke, either.
Manning tried to explain the lack of speakers from the Prescott College administration, “It’s common for a press conference lineup to change, you know, it’s all circumstantial. We just wanted the focus to be on the students’ voices and the fact that we, collectively as students, decided to implement this $30 fee per semester for the scholarship. And we’re here today to celebrate.”
This press release was sent out by Prescott College as a follow-up to Manning’s April 4th release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
220 Grove Ave Prescott, Arizona 86301
Paul Burkhardt, Provost
Prescott College to Offer Full Scholarship to Undocumented Student
Prescott, Arizona – April 5, 2016
Prescott College will offer a full scholarship for one undocumented student starting in the 2016-2017 academic year. The scholarship is made possible by the Freedom Education Fund – an undergraduate student’s Senior Project, a student-led campaign to collect a fee paid by on-campus students, and institutional aid provided by the College.
The Freedom Education Fund began as the Senior Project of student Miriel Manning, with the aim to raise enough money to help an undocumented student pay for tuition at Prescott College. Miriel’s efforts to raise funds gained momentum among the on-campus student population, and soon students brought a petition signed by a majority of their peers to the administration asking for a $30 semester fee to support the scholarship.
“Prescott College offers an experiential, interdisciplinary education that teaches our students how to make the change they want to see in the world,” says Prescott College Provost, Paul Burkhardt. “We are very proud of the way one student found a cause they cared about and rallied support from their fellow-students to help someone in need. We need more leaders with that kind of charitable spirit.”
As a private, nonprofit organization, Prescott College does not receive any federal or state funding. Tuition and investments from alumni and friends make up the operational budget. “Private investment is needed in order to offer scholarships,” explains Prescott College President, John Flicker. “In fact, most of our scholarships are supported by philanthropic donations. Whether it’s this scholarship or others, we need more people to invest so we can make our transformative, hands-on education dedicated to the environment and social justice accessible to more people.”
The fee was requested by on-campus students only, and will not be implemented for students in the distance programs offered at the college. Individual students may request an exception to the fee. The college offers generous scholarships to students from Arizona in particular, but also from across the nation and world. Students interested in applying for the Freedom Education Fund scholarship should contact Admissions at (928) 350-2100 or Financial Aid at (928) 350-1111.
About Prescott College
Prescott College was recently ranked in the top 10 of most innovative small colleges in America. The College offers competency-based programs in the liberal arts and professional disciplines with a focus on interdisciplinary and experiential education. A private, nonprofit, four-year college, Prescott College offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in a residential and limited residency format, including an on-campus Master of Arts in Social Justice and Human Rights. For more information, visit our website at prescott.edu.
Editor's Note: An earlier version identified Prescott College President John Flicker as being in attendance at the rally. That was an error, President Flicker did not attend. We apologise for any confusion or problems this may have caused.