I, Cruz Nunez, am an undocumented student at Chapel Hill High who will face financial barriers when the time comes to pay for college. I want to see the problem improved or even solved, for all the students who deserve to get educated and want change. This can happen if HB904 passes because this bill would allow undocumented students like me, who have attended North Carolina high schools to receive in-state tuition rates. I contacted my school system’s Superintendent and convinced him, along with the rest of the school board, to show support for House Bill 904, a tuition equity bill for immigrant students.

I didn’t do it alone and it didn’t happen overnight. Just know that you can do it too. Here’s how.

Follow these guidelines:

  • Find out who the board members of your school system are. Get their contact information which is usually located online. I first emailed the chair of our school board who suggested that we reach out to the Superintendent.
  • Email the Superintendent. The message should be formal, with a salutation/greeting, use of his/her formal name, and a respectful tone. Be clear in getting your message across. Try this: introduce who you are and talk a little about yourself. Introduce the problem of unequal tuition rates and how you are directly affected. Carry a tone of confidence, persistence, and change for the better. Finally, ask for their support and ask to set up a meeting time to discuss the issue.
  • If the Superintendent does not reply or makes communication difficult, send your message to the email address meant for public concerns, to let the whole board know you want change and their support. If the Board members don’t see your issue as important, get anyone and everyone to sign a petition in support of HB 904. Pressure them to meet with you.
  • When the Superintendent responded to my initial email, I scheduled a meeting through his secretary. We met in my school library immediately after school with another student who was a recent graduate.
  • When you meet with one or all of the Board members, be formal and present yourself seriously and intelligently but not aggressive or cocky. Make to state facts on current events, like how there are slightly over a dozen states that have enacted a bill just like this, and how unequal tuition rates are economic walls for immigrant families. Bring facts. It’s hard to be convincing when you have no idea what you are talking about. Remind them that YOU are students in THEIR schools.
  • If there is resistance to show support, pressure them into believing that the people will be disappointed in School Board’s lack of support. Make it clear to them that tuition equity needs to be addressed and fought for.
  • Once on board, our Superintendent asked an ally in the school system to draft up a letter saying that they support undocumented students and the passing of HB904. We helped edit the wording of this letter to reflect our needs and the urgency of our situation. Your superintendent might not write their own letter, provide them with a sample or work with an ally in your district who can draft it for them.
  • We then attended our public School Board meeting to urge the board to approve this letter of support. School board meetings often have space for public comment, sign up ahead of time so they know you are coming!
  • If possible, have immigrant students who are or will be affected by the unfair tuition rates speak out and tell their story in order to show that the issue is not a distant problem, it happens in your own schools! Three of us spoke at our meeting, the school board members were really moved by our stories.
  • After hearing our stories, the school board voted unanimously to approve the letter of support.
  • Be creative and find other ways to get the School Board’s support if the ones mentioned above do not work. Remember, if your plan failed once, don’t trash it. Try it again, it might work next time. Try to improve a plan, or combine it with another to get a more desired result. The point is – do not give up.

Here is the Chapel Hill/Carrboro School Board’s letter of support for HB904: