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From the students in the Southeast High School Latino Club, a lesson in perseverance: When someone says no, find a path to yes.

That’s the approach they took earlier this year when administrators told them they couldn’t put up posters supporting Dreamers.

And on Thursday and Friday they stood behind a table in the lunchroom handing out Dreamers and “Defend DACA” buttons, sharing information sheets and encouraging questions on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program they feel so strongly about.

“We still wanted to get people educated,” said Frida Aguilera, a senior. “We wanted to get (the information) out as soon as possible.”

Things are happening every day with the DACA program that people need to know, she said, including that Nebraska is part of a lawsuit to end it.

And it's important they understand that DACA recipients include their fellow students at Southeast. 

To that end, the students had asked to put up posters letting Dreamers know they were welcome at school after President Donald Trump began talking about ending the DACA program.

District officials nixed the idea, saying the posters violated LPS policies prohibiting teachers and schools from taking positions on hotly debated political topics. They said having posters on school walls could lead to the misinterpretation that LPS condones a certain position.

The Latino Club members had objected but then let it go, until last month, when the school newspaper printed a series of student comments — from both sides of the political aisle — about Trump’s first year in office. One of the questions was about DACA. One of the answers — a student who said illegal immigrants should get their citizenship or “get out” — upset the Latino Club students.

They couldn't understand allowing a statement like that — and not their posters.

That led to meetings with the principal, a visit from a district executive to explain the policies, more meetings with administrators and an invitation from the newspaper staff for column space so the students could explain their views.

The students chose to let several students write their stories of being immigrants, or the children of immigrants for the upcoming issue, said senior Nikolai Jaramillo-Ramirez.

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“It’s our way to share with the rest of the school how we deal with discrimination at Southeast, how our parents deal with it, how we deal with it in the community,” Aguilera said.

Principal Brent Toalson said the information booth wasn’t overly political, more of a way to educate fellow students.

“The important thing is they worked through the process and they’re able to raise awareness about issues that are important to them,” he said.

The information desk was adorned with a sign that identified it as a Latino Club information booth, one that said “we are all dreamers,” one that spelled out what DACA means and one with a list of instructions.

Visitors had to take an information sheet, ask two questions or share two concerns, grab a button and put their name into a box for the chance to win a $10 gift certificate to a Mexican ice cream place in Lincoln.

Aguilera said they’d gotten only positive feedback, and lots of questions about DACA, including one she was particularly happy to hear.

“What can we do to help?"

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or

On Twitter @LJSreist.


Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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