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They voted on a $2.50 per semester fee to help immigrant students. The results are in.

Why the students of Loyola University Chicago are exactly who the world needs.

They voted on a $2.50 per semester fee to help immigrant students. The results are in.

There are roughly 1.8 million young people who were brought to the United States as children and who continue to live here as undocumented citizens.

They call themselves DREAMers — a shout-out to the DREAM Act, a bill that if enacted would allow them to apply for legal status and, eventually, citizenship if they went to college or served in the military. Supporters have been trying to get the DREAM Act passed since 2001.


The students of Loyola University Chicago got tired of waiting for Congress to act.

So they decided to step up. If their undocumented peers wanted a Loyola education, they didn't want anything to stand in the way. In spring 2013, they passed a declaration that basically said just that:

It was a great start. But then they were all...

They wanted a way to deliver that support. Sure, it would cost money (more on that below), but they had some pretty great reasons to go for it.

1. Loyola University Chicago is a Jesuit school.

That means they're of the Society of Jesus, whose mission is “the service of faith and the promotion of justice." And Jesuit schools have a "storied history" of not being jerks to immigrants. Denying education to someone who can't afford it? Not the way of the Jesuit.

2. Loyola's staff — including the president — already agrees the university should do more for undocumented students.

In fact, Loyola Chicago's president, Rev. Michael Garanzini, co-signed a letter in support of the DREAM Act with a whole group of university heads in Illinois.

3) Nationally, only 5%-10% of undocumented high school graduates go to college.

Certainly it's not helpful that the federal government refuses them student aid, which is pretty low when you consider education is a globally recognized human right.

Again, remember that DREAMers were brought to the U.S. as children, and for all intents and purposes, the U.S. to them is home. It's just not a very welcoming one ... for now.

Gaby Pacheco, program director for TheDream.US, a scholarship program for undocumented youth, knows first hand how uncertain a higher education is for undocumented students:

"I'm a DREAMer. I went through high school preparing for college but knowing I might not be able to go."

Pacheco was lucky enough to attend college, but she knows a lot of folks who never got a fair chance at it. And she wants others who aren't undocumented to understand why this is also their challenge to overcome. "College is not cheap," Pacheco says, "not just for the undocumented, but for everyone."

The Action

Organizers with the Latin American Student Organization and the student government hustled all over campus giving dozens of classroom presentations. They also gathered over 750 signatures to get a question on their student government elections ballot that would make the anti-immigrant wing of Congress cringe (you know who you are):

“Do you approve of the addition of $2.50 each semester to the Student Development fee to support undocumented Loyola undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need but do not qualify for federal financial aid (FAFSA)?" (Read the full resolution.)

Wait ... only $2.50 per student per semester!?

According to Flavio Bravo, former student body president of Loyola Chicago, the fee is "essentially the equivalent of bus fare in Chicago." How could the cost of bus fare possibly make a difference?

Well, when you have 10,000 students chipping in, it can make a big difference. In one academic year, the fee alone would generate $50,000 in scholarship funds. And with donations from faculty, alumni, and other good-hearted people with money to give, the possibilities would be even greater.

The Outcome

On the day of the vote, the measure passed with 70% approval from student voters.

70%! (Holy geez, right?)

"Magis" (pronounced mey-jis) is Latin for "more" or "better."

This was an entirely student-led effort.

These young people prove to us that compassion can translate into meaningful change. It all started with just 15 students who believe human lives shouldn't be left in political limbo. And frankly, they give zero sh*ts about "citizenship" when it comes to doing the right thing.

"The Loyola students have done something amazing," says Don Graham, CEO of Graham Holdings Company and co-founder of TheDream.US. "DREAMers will be benefiting from their work for years. We hope other college students will be inspired to help DREAMers as well. The payoff will be huge."

So what's next?

Bravo says the fight's not over. They hope their work can help build momentum for smart immigration reform at the highest levels of government.

In the meanwhile, they want to replicate this initiative on campuses around the country. Adriana Robles, president of Loyola's Latin American Student Organization, is optimistic because she knows you don't have to be undocumented to identify with the struggle:

"Other students — particularly non-immigrant students — should work to model this initiative at their own schools. In one way or another, we all come from an immigrant background. It is up to us to advocate for our undocumented sisters and brothers who are more than deserving of a university education."

Like what you just read?

If you really like it, share this with a college kid. And if you really, really like it, feel free to make a donation to the Magis Scholarship Fund. Every little bit helps.

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

Keep Reading Show less

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."