Many undocumented students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients felt lost and afraid to seek help until Kimberly Castillo became the first Dream Resource Center (DRC) lead.
The DRC, which opened on Sept. 26, 2019, is where undocumented students, DACA recipients and AB 540 students find the support and guidance for their educational journey.
Castillo said the most important thing for her is making sure students walk out feeling better than when they came in.
“They may be going through personal situations at home or just want to feel heard,” Castillo said. “If students come in and they’re completely lost, I want to make sure that I give them a guide or give them the information that can help them be successful.”
Castillo said she wanted to work with undocumented students because she has a close connection with them as a first-generation American.
“I come from immigrant parents, and I have people in my family who are still undocumented,” Castillo said. “I see the struggles, and I also see the different opportunities that are available, especially here in California that some people don’t know about.”
Castillo started at Pierce College as an intern in the Outreach and Recruitment program four years ago. The OAR helped her to gain experience in different areas of counseling and student services. She also supervised the peer mentor program for two years.
Castillo received her master’s degree in Counseling and Student Services at Cal State University Northridge.
Castillo said her former community college counselor inspired her to go into the counseling field.
“She was just really nice, really helpful,” Castillo said. “So I decided to major in psychology. Then I knew that I wanted to pursue college counseling.”
Castillo said she wanted to work at a community college because she went to one and it is a way for her to give back to the community.
Even though Castillo did not get the chance to be involved in her community college, she said she wants to make sure students are involved in all the opportunities Pierce offers them.
Castillo said it is important in the current political climate to have a place dedicated where undocumented and DACA students are not afraid to receive the help they need.
“I feel like there’s this big fear around it, and some people are misinformed sometimes,” Castillo said.
Castillo said students are her motivation to keep moving forward even during tough days.
“I would never want to not work,” Castillo said. “I want to be here to help students so they don’t get stuck or just don’t know about an opportunity.”
Castillo said she wanted to be an advocate for letting people know about the different resources and services that can be useful for them.
Castillo said the most difficult thing about her job is when students have problems that do not have immediate solutions.
“I’m faced with challenges, like a student applying for financial aid and they’re not eligible,” Castillo said. “So that becomes a little challenging. But I still try to inform the students about other ways that they can get help.”
Dean of Student Engagement Juan Carlos Astorga, Castillo’s supervisor, said that Castillo is creating and nurturing space within the Dream Resource Center to help students succeed.
“She’s an amazing asset to our college,” Astorga said. “[She is] very supportive of students and very knowledgeable of the challenges that students who happen to be undocumented are facing.”
Luis Morales, a student support worker at the DRC, said he has not seen anybody else take a big step like Castillo did to actually initialize the DRC and try to work with every student possible to make them feel supported.
“The reason that I stick with the Dream Resource Center is because of Kimberly,” Morales said. “She makes me feel like I’m part of the DRC, and the way she works is the way that I look up to.”
Castillo said that her job was tough at the beginning, but helping undocumented students is fulfilling.
“It was definitely worth it because now it’s rewarding coming to work and helping students and leaving work and feeling like you did some good that day,” Castillo said.