DACA supporters take on snowfall in stride for 5K fundraiser

Runners jogging along the 5k trail during the DACA 5k on Iowa State’s campus. 

Talon Delaney

Around 250 Iowa State students and other community members endured a sudden and harsh snowfall to participate in the DACA 5K fundraiser.

Participants helped raise nearly $6,000 in scholarship money for undocumented students.

DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era program which allowed undocumented children 16 years old or younger to qualify for a work permit and remain in the United States in two-year periods.

However, the program’s future has been uncertain under the Trump Administration.

“The DACA program is kind of in limbo right now,” said Daniela Flores, Ph.D. candidate in ecology, evolution and organismal biology. “It’s being used as leverage on both sides. Hopefully there’s enough support for DACA in our community and across the country so it will be too hard for them to get rid of it.”

Flores is the president of ISU SACNAS, the Society for Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science.  She earned a position on a board of directors this winter.

“SACNAS is a national organization that was created to advance the careers of underrepresented scientists around the country,” Flores said. This is her third year serving as the ISU chapter president.

Plans for the 5K began over a year ago. The event was organized through coordination with SACNAS, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the Latinx Student Leaders Council.

“With the impending changes to DACA and other policy, we wanted to have an event that showed support for our community members with uncertain futures,” Flores said.

Participants met under the Campanile at 8 a.m. Runners followed a route along central campus after a brief registration process and some words from the event’s organizers.

Most of the runners were Iowa State students. They all shared a common passion: supporting the education of underprivileged peoples. Contrary to certain misconceptions, DACA recipients aren’t eligible for any government aid.

“I’m out here because it’s a good cause,” said Estefany Argueta, senior in animal ecology. “We’re helping people who don’t have access to financial aid get money for school.”

Argueta also used the event as training for the upcoming Mountain Man Memorial March marathon in Tennessee.

“One day, I want to be that old lady that’s still running marathons,” Argueta said.

Many of the students were science, technology, engineering and math majors, like Andrea Fondren, senior in biology, and David Delaney, graduate student in ecology, evolution and organismal biology.

“Daniela is our labmate, we’re out here to support her and DACA,” said Fondren.

She continued, “It’s important to show support right now, there’s a lot of ignorance in today’s climate [about DACA students].”

Delaney has a done his share of running, but this is his first time taking stride for DACA recipients.

“I do a fair bit of running,” Delaney said. “Last year I did the Nearly Naked Mile and it was a lot of fun. It’s going to be interesting running in all this snow.”

The runners weren’t all students, however. Among the many supporters was Marshalltown resident and marathon veteran Rafael Bedolla.

“You know, when you’re a runner the weather is no problem,” Bodella said. “I’ve done more than 100 races in the last 35 years, and I support DACA 100 percent.”

The event had a focus on education among DACA students, but many runners voiced their support for immigrants in general.

“I’m from Ottumwa, where there’s lots of immigrant families,” said Wendy McVay, junior in family and consumer science education and studies. “They’re part of our community, so I think educating immigrants is a good cause to support.”

Flores also shared her thoughts on why immigration should be embraced rather than restricted.

“Immigration in general is a huge asset to our country and to the development of ideas and problem solving,” Flores said. “The greater diversity and thought we have, the better we can address different issues. These students who are coming from different places have a wealth of knowledge and experiences that aren’t being recognized, but they have valuable opinions.”

The 5K also attracted people from NextGen America, the climate-focused activism group. Activists were there, clipboards in hand, helping runners register to vote before and after the run.

“I did the run, caught my breath and immediately came back to get people to register,” said Raul Anguiano, senior in civil engineering and NextGen member. “I understand the fight immigrants face. They deserve access to education and a fair shot at the American dream.”

All participants completed the 5K by 10:30 a.m. The snowfall hadn’t let up one bit.

“I think it was really successful, especially considering the weather,” Flores said. “We were all pretty cold and very very wet, but we showed up and everybody crossed the finish line with a smile across their face.”

Flores said she and other event organizers hope to make this an annual event.

“Hopefully we can keep this up in the years to come and have an even bigger event next year,” Flores said. “And maybe we can even pick a better weekend,” she added with a laugh.