Dream Teams

First reach out to the YLC to access the Dream Team Network.

Questions to think about:

  • -What are our roles as educators and allies in supporting larger struggles for immigrant justice for youth?
  • Beyond individualized support for students, how can we create spaces at our schools that develop our students’ capacity to advocate for themselves and their community?
  • How do we extend beyond the work we do within the walls of the classroom and our school to support undocumented youth in order to engage in larger movements or actions to change the policies that impact immigrant youth?

Why this matters:

“I’ve never told anyone outside of my family before.” “Wait, if someone came by plane that doesn’t automatically mean they have citizenship, does it?” “I had no idea people from ___ country had problems getting papers!” “Wait, your family does that too?” “My father got deported last year.” These are all questions, reactions, and reflections that can arise in high school Dream Teams – a student ‘club’ that can become a supportive and informative space for undocumented students and allies to come together in their school.

What’s below:

  • Creating Dream Team at your school (for students and staff advisors)

  • Dream Campus Network


1. Starting a Dream Team at your school!

One of the ways you (teacher or student) can support undocumented students in your building is to build a Dream Team at your school. This can be for documented and undocumented students, or family members of undocumented people, or allies, who are interested in immigrants’ rights broadly speaking, or it could simply be a support group and safe space for undocumented students at your school. At some schools, these groups function similarly to a Gay-Straight Alliance/any other identity-based group; as potentially the only place some students will share a struggle or a part of their identity they are proud of. Dream Teams can also focus more on political advocacy beyond the school community.

The New York State Youth Leadership Council (http://www.nysylc.org/) is this state’s only undocumented, youth-led organization, and they can assist your school in setting up a Dream Team. Contacts are here: http://www.nysylc.org/dreamcampusnet/ and http://www.nysylc.org/localchapters/

 Some ideas for first steps to starting a Dream Team:
  • For the first meeting, it’s a good idea to set some guidelines for a safe space (ex: what’s said in here, stays in here; respect for all, step up and step back).
  • Teach content that includes references to immigration status and stories of immigrants in the USA

  • Reach out to students who have shown interest in immigration policy or immigrant rights

  • Reach out to students who have come out to you as undocumented

  • Set a first meeting time. Have food.

  • Look for student leaders -> ask students to facilitate/rotate facilitatorship and note-taking responsibilities

  • Join our listserv! We’re a bunch of educators advising Dream Teams across the city already. We can troubleshoot together. Email teachdream@nysylc.org .

Tips or things to keep in mind when starting a Dream Team:
  • Think about if the group will be closed to undocumented students and specific ally staff, or open to all, or some mix in between. This may affect the safety of the space/if the meetings will be used more for support, or education, both, etc.

  • Read the rest of this guide and especially the ‘critical moments’ [LINK] section. Be mindful of your position as an ally.

  • Talk to other teachers and students in afterschool clubs that might have intersecting interests (GSAs are often really helpful/advisers of those groups may have plenty of advice about how to structure meetings)

 Possible goals/purposes for a high school Dream Team:

– Safe haven (space) for undocumented students to find their voice and feel empowered to change their current situation. Safe space for students come out as an undocumented and unafraid and to support one another.

– Inform the student body and community about the struggles of undocumented youth and what actions they can take to get involved.

– Training on rights for undocumented and documented folks; at work, school, healthcare, etc.

– Training on pathways to legal residency

– Training on political advocacy/affecting immigration reform

– You could ask a member of the New York State Youth Leadership Council – the only undocumented-youth led organization in New York can come to a meeting and do a training!

– Educating peers and community members about everything you’ve learned

– Learn about college process/life in college with different immigration statuses

Tools and Sample Materials for Dream Team meetings:

Model Dream Team Agenda:

Each meeting could include a facilitator, note-taker, snacks-getter, etc. Our Dream Team kept all of our notes on one Google Doc that we could all access. We also created a listserv within the school.

  • Welcome! Eat.

  • Check in: Our Dream Team started every meeting with their names, highs and lows from the past week; could be about anything or related to the main agenda item for the day. This might be the most important part of your meeting, no need to rush.

  • Announcements: Check NYSYLC’s website (and this one) before each meeting to see what they have going on this week! Students/staff may also have announcements about other events going on at school

  • Main Agenda item? Could be planning an upcoming event (i.e. guest speaker from YLC), or reading the ‘Beyond Deferred Action’ guide together from Educators for Fair Consideration, or researching the steps to registering as an ‘in state resident’ for NYC community colleges to share with the school community.

  • Closure: i.e.  One word wish for the week!

Possible Activities:

(Especially if your group is mixed status):

  • Great video links to watch with students:
  • “Lists” : Thinking about what it means to be invisible.
    •  List the 5 most important people in your life, list the 5 most important memories you have, list your 5 places you go most often.
    • Get in pairs. You have two minutes to introduce yourself to your partner, but you cannot mention any of the people/words you’ve written down. If you do, something really bad will happen.
    • Debrief what it felt like to hide those important parts of yourself. Discuss what strategies people developed to get around it (staying silent, saying strange things, making up lies/identities)
    • Reflect on connections to different parts of people’s identity (immigration status, gender/sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, etc)
  • If your Dream Team is a SAFE space for students: Share your family story (Watch ‘where are you from from? and discuss to get started). 
  • Share the story of your name

2. Dream Campus Network

The Dream Campus Network is the network of all high school and college based groups in the state of New York that are committed to fighting for the rights of undocumented youth, spreading awareness about the New York and federal DREAM Act and creating a safe space for immigrant students in their schools.

The following schools have Dream Teams:






3. Advocating outside of the classroom (because “the struggle for justice does not end when the school bell rings!”)

  • Refer to the NY Fact Sheet at the beginning of this guide

  • Resource organizations for in-school Dream Teams:

  • The Beyond Deferred Action Guide is a good starting topic for students who are interested in learning more about their option/non options. Suggestion: Give students time to flip through, ask which legal status they’d like to discuss first; you can create a pro/con chart of each pathway or talk about who it applies to and who it leaves out: http://www.e4fc.org/images/E4FC_BDAGuide.pdf

Resource organizations for out-of-school comprehensive and Dream immigration reform advocacy



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