Mural Encourages Undocumented Students to Spread Their Wings

The Undocu-Scholars Program mural centers around the monarch butterfly’s wings with the Santa Ana College’s Dons logo on top/ Lesly Guzman/ el Don

Ceramics student and mural team member Thomas Roberton might not look like it, but he grew up in Mexico. As an American citizen of Scottish descent, Roberton moved to Mexico with his mother and stepfather, who couldn’t obtain a green card to stay in the United States. For Roberton, Mexico is his home.

So when the opportunity came earlier this semester to help design a mural that would honor and represent Santa Ana College’s undocumented immigrant students, he knew he had to participate. According to the most recent Student Satisfaction survey, one in 10 students self-reported themselves as undocumented.

Roberton’s mural team classmates voted for his design, which features a large monarch butterfly, an insect that has been used by many artists to symbolize migration from Central America to North America.

“I wanted to have that feeling of beauty,” Roberton said. “When people come into this country, they start a new beginning.”

The mural was displayed on campus during the Undocumented Student Week of Action Oct. 14 through Oct. 18. A second butterfly-themed mural, designed by mural student Alexis Medina, was live painted during events held throughout the week.  

Club members of the I.D.E.A.S. club, ASG members, and faculty like Maribel Pineda (wearing sunglasses) gather around at the end of the Coming Out of the Shadows event/ Ashley Ramynke/ el Don

SAC student Isabel Gonzalez was born in Mexico and crossed the border when she was 7 years old. Having to live in fear of revealing that she was undocumented growing up, Gonzalez said she had to work hard to learn a new language and immerse herself in a culture she didn’t know. Despite facing roadblocks, she enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and graduated from SAC with a 4.0 GPA earlier this year and is now studying art. 

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“I was mad and frustrated and bummed out [for not being able to receive the same resources as documented students have from the college], but I still wanted to learn and worked hard,” Gonzalez said. “So, this mural means giving us wings to move forward.”

SAC counselor and Undocu-Scholars Program Coordinator Maribel Pineda said she reached out to art professor Darren Hostetter to collaborate on the project because of his participation in the AB-540 Ally training. She hopes the art will raise awareness about immigration at SAC.  

“I believe that art is a form of activism,” Pineda said. 

Roberton’s art is painted on a piece of cloth to make it portable and interactive. It is currently hanging in the counseling offices.

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