How to Advocate for Undocumented Students in Your High School [Episode 92]


Here's What to Expect In This Episode:

Each student on your caseload has unique needs. Your DACA and undocumented students face a particular set of challenges, and you have the opportunity to be a beacon of hope for many of them.

We’re going to dive into advocating for undocumented students and exploring ways to meet their needs. I’m sharing three specific ideas for how you can support these students from creating a safe environment, to staying informed about changing policities, to connecting them with valuable resources.

These strategies have the power to make a lifelong impact on our students. Let’s show our undocumented students that they are not alone in their journey!

Don’t forget to download your free editable Starter Scholarship Spreadsheet to keep our students organized and motivated in their pursuit of financial aid for college. 

Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • Examples of roadblocks that your undocumented students face in high school and beyond
  • How you can let your undocumented students know that you’re a safe space for them
  • Why it’s so important to stay up to date on your state’s changing policies 
  • Creating a list of resources for your undocumented students
  • Seeking out opportunities for you and other communities resources to connect with undocumented students
  • How The Hispanic Alliance helped my high school community

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Read the transcript for this episode:

You all are the best at leaving reviews. So here I am back to read another one from a listener named a stack 90. They titled their review school counselor in training, and it says, this podcast has been so helpful for me to listen to during my practicum and internship experiences. I love that it’s high school focused and that there is such a variety of topics covered.

Well, it’s important for me to create a space that is specifically for high school counselors because it’s a one of a kind place to be, and comes with its own challenges that are different from elementary and middle school. So if you’re an intern or a new high school counselor looking for more podcast episodes geared specifically to new high school counselors, go ahead and head over to playlist to get a uniquely curated podcast playlist for the exact season that you’re in. Let’s shift gears into today’s episode.

You got into this profession to make a difference in your students lives, but you’re spread thin by all the things that keep getting added to your to do list. I can’t create more hours in the day. But I can invite you into my counselor clique where you’ll finally catch your breath. Come with me as we unpack creative ideas and effective strategies that will help you be the counselor who leaves a lifelong impact on your students. I’m Lauren Tingle your high school counseling hype girl here to help you energize your school counseling program and remind you of how much you love your job.

There are so many groups of high school students to look out for on your caseload and in your school building. I don’t have to tell you that twice. Chances are you’ve got a pretty decent sized caseload anyway. So how do you make sure you’re meeting the needs of all of your individual students and those small pockets of student needs?

Yeah, I guess that’s the question we’re all wondering. And if we had a magical answer, that’s what this episode would solve in the first minute, I guess. But I figured I’d do an episode on some specific ideas that can get you started on advocating for one particularly niche group and developing programs and systems to best serve that group’s needs. Though undocumented and DACA students are not interchangeable. I want you to consider this group of students as you’re advocating for all students on your caseload.

Each state has its own rules on their policies for undocumented students. I’ll first tell you that I’m located in South Carolina, and it’s known for not being a very friendly place in terms of policies and legislation for undocumented students. I’m not even getting into politics here. I’m just saying undocumented students can’t get driver’s licenses can’t get any state licensing, so think nail tech or cosmetology license, architecture license, teaching license nursing license.

They can’t access public higher education or scholarships. The option for these students is to leave our state or attend a private school like for college I’m talking about both of which can be really costly paths. And then remember what I said about those licenses. Even if they got their college degree somewhere else, they couldn’t come back home and get their licenses in their area of expertise.

Being a school counselor to undocumented students is an opportunity to be a beacon of hope for many of them. In a safe confidential space, you get to be the person who advocates for them and find opportunities for them to pursue, even if it seems to be a lot of roadblocks for them around every corner.

If we get the right resources in their hands or walk alongside them during a pretty scary and uncertain time in their lives. Our influences, as school counselors can be monumental for their trajectory. So first things first, let your students know that you are a safe place for them.

Of course, you will not know who all of your undocumented students are. Every student’s needs are different, but you can be a welcoming place for them to think and to process through their needs and their stressors. Remind them that your services are confidential and that you are on their team. Your trustworthiness will be a huge motivation for your students who know your safe place to turn to.

Honestly, your trustworthiness will become known among those students. And it will be a quality that permeates in the school culture as something that they want to know and that they want to be a part of an experience.

I often found that students were protective of their or their family status, rightfully so. I don’t think it’s super easy to have those conversations or to be the one that brings it up. I did feel like when students knew that my office was a safe place, it would eventually come up in conversations about things like getting a driver’s license or applying to colleges or getting money for college.

We could walk hand in hand with a student and find a place that’s a good fit for them if they’re wanting to pursue higher education and their options seem limited. Instead of being one more dead end, we can be that light and that hope that says it’s okay, I’m going to help you and we’re going to do it together.

I wanted to let you know about my free editable starter scholarships spreadsheet to keep your high school student organized and motivated while pursuing financial aid for college. There’s an entire tab dedicated to the undocumented student resources as well as schools that meet 100% need for students.

Students and counselors can stay organized with this spreadsheet and upcoming scholarship deadlines with a month by month tabs. If you already own this head back and redownload it because it’s been updated for this school year. Download your copy for free today by going to counselorclique/scholarship. Now back to the show.

Next, stay up to date on your state’s policies. Stay knowledgeable about changing policies and advocate for your students. This is tough because laws and policies are always changing. But I was always trying to attend webinars or in person trainings if I felt like there was something I could do to learn more about a community that was not my own world. Does that make sense?

The more I could immerse myself in another culture to figure out how I could provide more helpful and meaningful services to serve my student population, the more inclusive services I could potentially provide, the better I know and care for my students, then.

We probably naturally want to protect and advocate for our students. That’s why we’re counselors. But it takes real work to stay up to date on those changing policies in our state and in our nation. It can be really tricky and really complicated and really messy, but it’s important to our students, so it should be important to us as high school counselors. It’s definitely worth it to put in the work to understand.

Lastly, have a list of resources ready to give to your students. Check in with your students, they may be scared or anxious about their status or their rights, and then the implications that these have on their future or their higher education. Like they might have had these goals for a long time to pursue higher education. And now they’re feeling like that’s an impossible dream. It’s an impossible goal.

Seek out opportunities to connect with these students yourself, and then also connect them with other safe and valuable community resources. You don’t have to have all the answers and you definitely won’t have all the answers. We’re working with humans who have messy lives and situations. And we don’t have all the answers to that.

Like even if that was you and you were in a similar situation, it’s not going to be the exact same. In my area, we have an amazing nonprofit community organization called the Hispanic Alliance, and I hope that you have something like that near you.

We would set up Lunch and Learn opportunities about once a quarter to let this group come in and speak on a variety of topics. They bring pizza, we’d reserved the conference room, then we’d invite the students to give them a pass to come during their lunch with our third block to hear from the speakers.

Sometimes they speak in English, sometimes in Spanish, but it was such a warm environment. Students got to be in a room where they felt seen and heard and acknowledged. The speakers would speak on things like college access, legal assistance, college fairs, and so much more.

Their sort of pillars that they would consider for their topics always revolved around health, legal education and financial stability. If I ever had a question about who to turn to you, for a resource for this community, specifically, Hispanic Alliance was my go to, I felt like I had them on speed dial.

This group’s entire goal was to foster collaboration between communities. So I’m certain that they were doing this and they were accomplishing this by bringing their community resources to our school community.

I hope these three ideas gave you somewhere to start as you’re thinking about how to support your undocumented students. Remember that you are a safe place for them. Try and stay up to date on your state or the nation’s policies for them. And then lastly, have a list of resources to give to your students. Have some community resources or college and scholarship resources.

Be thinking in the back of your mind how you can have something even just to hand to your students to support them with something physical or somewhere that they can do some further research for themselves.

Remember, if you’re a new high school counselor or your practicum, or internship student, grab my new high school counselor playlist with curated podcast episodes specifically relating to your new adventure. Go to And whether you’re a brand new counselor or a veteran counselor who knows the ropes, head over to Apple podcasts and leave a five star review of high school counseling conversations and have your review read on the show. I’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode of high school counseling conversations. All the links I talked about today can be found in the show notes and also at Be sure to hit follow wherever you listen to your podcasts so that you never miss a new episode. Connect with me over on Instagram. Feel free to send me a DM @counselorclique. That’s C-L-I-Q-U-E. I’ll see you next week.

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Cheers + Happy Listening!

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