DREAMERS is a short film that explores the lives and struggles of three undocumented students within the California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) system. Juan Cano, Angel Ku and Emmanuel Valenciano are competitive students who have gone distances to receive a higher education. DREAMERS  reveals how a lack of resources can prevent students from reaching their highest potential. Despite these barriers, these students are pushing for their dreams, defying stereotypes, and shedding light upon America's gap in access to higher education for many people like them.

DREAMERS seeks to:

  • Educate about the obstacles undocumented students face as move forward on their quest for a higher education
  • Demonstrate how policies place a limit on undocumented student's right to a fair education and highlight that many undocumented educational needs are unmet because of policies in place, or lack there of
  • Encourage American citizens to support undocumented students in their quest for higher education by way of community involvement to ensure the right to education for all who seek it
  • Discussion Guide
  • Partner Organizations
  • Facts & Resources
  • Meet the Filmmakers  


Discussion Guide*

The purpose of this discussion guide is to provide an accessible resource and learning tool for opening up the conversation around supporting access to higher education for all.

  • What kind of struggles do the students face in their everyday life?
  • Think about Angel Ku when he talks about during the winter, and how things started to slow down for him. How might his struggles impact him internally?
  • What are some ways the students go about to pay for tuition? How do financial aid applications create barriers for the undocumented students?
  • How does receiving an education empower students? How do these students plan to contribute to society after college? In general, how can receiving a college education contribute to society overall?
  • How can the media portrayals help or hinder undocumented students? How might the media influence the amount of resources accessible to undocumented individuals, who are seeking a higher education?
  • What can U.S. citizens do to encourage and advocate for undocumented students in their quest to a higher education?


Partner Organizations



Helps undocumented students (youth) coping with stress or any mental illness due to their challenges. This organization helps them to network and seek for mental health help.



Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles


Is an organization that aids immigrants from social injustice and provide social services in Los Angeles.

2533 W. Third Street, Suite 101
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Telephone - 213.353.1333


Facts & Resources

  • Undocumented immigrant students graduating from high school have trouble reaching higher education due to a lack of money and resources. Over 65,000 undocumented students graduate high school students annually, but only a small percentage - 5%-10% - go to college. 
  • Since the rise of awareness about undocumented students, there has been a change in the K-12 school system. The National Education Association now elicits awareness on how to help undocumented students K-12.
  • There's a false notion that immigrants come to America to use government funding. Immigrants contribute their share by paying taxes through their paychecks tax deductions or sales taxes for example. Hence, the economy is benefits from immigrant employees. 
  • Public universities do not have as much financial aid available as private universities do for uncommented students. This makes it harder for students to have broader school choices to apply to. 
  • Many of the undocumented students live under severe stress and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. They feel like they are unable to speak because they fear deportation or society will look down on them for being "illegal aliens." 
  • If implemented nationwide, The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act or "DREAM Act" would provide a pathway of legal status to thousands of undocumented immigrant students who are high school graduates yearly. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced it in May 2011. The Act has 32 supporters in the Senate and 2 in the House.
  • Some states have already made it possible for undocumented immigrant students to pursue their college dreams. While states cannot currently legalize the status of undocumented immigrants, they may allow undocumented students to attend their universities and qualify for in-state tuition. California, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin are all among those states, which have allowed undocumented students to attend their universities and qualify for in-state tuition. 
  • With a lack of financial aid or in-state tuition, it is extremely difficult for undocumented students to afford to attend a public university. Nearly 40 percent of undocumented children live in families below the federal poverty level, compared to 17 percent of American citizens.
  • To help undocumented students afford to attend college, 11 states have passed laws that provide undocumented students with the opportunity to receive in-state tuition. California, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin permit undocumented students who have attended and graduated from the state's primary and secondary schools to pay the same college tuition as other state residents.
  • The largest amount of money to ever be donated to undocumented immigrant students at a university is $1 million from The Haas Fund to UC Berkeley in the fall of 2012. The $1 million donation will aid 200 students from 20 countries.


Meet the filmmakers

KIMBERLY LEWIS, a Health Education graduate who has always been drawn to healing through art. She believes film well as other mediums can encourage others greatly. She gravitates to writing, singing and dancing. In an ever changing world, her mission is to be one who learns, then teaches the truth about peoples victories and disparities worldwide. This is her first time completing a film project at San Francisco State University.


NIA RANSOM graduated in Spring 2013 with a degree in Cinema. She is a cinematographer, writer and director and believes the best part about making films is the journey and amazing people who come from all walks of life. She plans to spend the rest of her life improving the world and changing lives through story telling by using media and technology.


MARIA (MIA) SOLARES was born in Guatemala and migrated with her family to America in persuit of a better future. Her struggles as an undocumented student and the loss of her younger brother as a victim of violence influenced her goals. She wants to become documentarian filmmaker in order to capture the reality of oppression and social injustice. Her films will be used to bring out awareness, advocate and educate. Her main focus is to help the youth and by giving them a sense of hope.


OWEN WESSON, a graduate from San Francisco State University, first became interested in multimedia as he attended high school. After completing courses in the multimedia academy offered at San Leandro High, he went on to college with a focus in film; particularly in cinematography. Over the years he has refined his interests into the world of documentary and experimental film making. In addition to DREAMERS, other works include Writing a Love Story and Animal Sanctuary.


*The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute