Advocacy is important to sustain students


Marcela Pattinson, an immigrant from Colombia, supports all students, especially first-generation students struggling to figure out college.

MADISON JACKSON, Evergreen editor-in-chief

Marcela Pattinson advocates for students fighting for their right to an education.

Pattinson is the assistant director of the Multicultural Student Services Community Relations and Outreach. She works with first-generation and undocumented students at WSU and law services at the Immigration Clinic at the University of Idaho (UI).

She is originally from Columbia and was an exchange student at Moscow High School in 1988. School became too expensive, so she studied psychology in Columbia. She studied again at UI and afterward worked at WSU. It cost her $8,000 and took about eight years to get a green card.

“They have to compete all the time,” she said, “but they have to do advocacy, be an activist, they have to be a student, they have to be a friend, they have to be a son or a daughter … and they’re so thirsty to be successful.”

Every undocumented case is different, a spectrum with unique obstacles, she said.

“My job is to create a safe space, a loving space, and connect [students] with the people in programs that will help them,” she said. “At the same time, continue the development of initiates to help them and help our community to learn to be loving and respectful.”

She created a system of outreach, retention and sustainability and collaborates with colleges like the University of Washington, Eastern, Central, Western, Southern Seattle and Everett community colleges and many more.

Pattinson raises awareness of HB-1079, the bill that allows eligible undocumented students to attend state colleges for in-state tuition, and available resources. There are statewide and campus conferences, a Spanish-speaking Alive! session called La Bienvenida, and programs on campus for all students.

Pattinson created the first undocumented group website in the state with three students two years ago. Now, the Crimson Group Facebook has 266 followers.

“I will work with the students that need me,” she said. “But immigration cannot define you.”