Aris Johnson, Touro Graduate Student
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Mar 11, 2015 | 15097 views | 0 0 comments | 403 403 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Aris Johnson was among a group of students from Touro College Graduate School of Social Work who lobbied for the Dream Act in Albany on March 10. The 52-year-old Jamaica resident and mother of three felt strongly about advocating for those who need it.

“I’m a social work student and I’ve worked with early childhood centers for most of my adult life,” Johnson said. "I’ve grown interested in the policy that could help so many children."

It was Johnson’s second visit to the capital. Her first experience in 2013 served as a learning curve, when she learned the procedures of Lobby Day. This time around, she was prepared with a better understanding of the process.

Her second trip focused on conversations with Assembly members in order to forward the idea that children of undocumented immigrants should receive college tuition assistance from the state.

It’s a notion that is personal to Johnson. Her father was an immigrant from the Virgin Islands. Growing up, he pushed his six children to work hard for a better future.

Although the family struggled to provide financial means for their children to pursue higher education, Johnson is thankful to be a product of public school education and beneficiary of financial aid. She will receive her second master’s degree, the first in public administration, once she graduates in May.

And she argued that all eligible children should be given the same opportunity.

“We stop those who are trying to excel,” she said. “How do you not have limitations all through their childhood life, whether it’s free education or free lunch or free daycare, but then put limitations on higher education?”

Throughout her neighborhood in Jamaica, especially in her place of worship, Johnson has seen plenty of instances where the Dream Act could change lives. And those who oppose the proposed legislation should think twice.

“Certainly look to your background to understand that whether it’s third, fourth or fifth generation, all of our ancestors have come from somewhere,” she said. "So we’re all in need of resources whether we are in need at this moment or later on in life.”

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