Undocumented Initiatives can provide your campus with the tools to implement the Mariposas Poderosas program.
Mariposas Poderosas is a support group for the undocumented community and their allies. It was introduced at WSU Pullman in 2017 by Undocumented Initiatives, along with partners in the Department of Psychology. The program guides students through strategies and conversations that help them build resilience in the face of systemic and everyday challenges.
The program meets on a weekly basis for eight weeks during the fall and spring semesters. For one hour, around 15 students are guided through a workbook by two facilitators—one who is experienced in psychotherapy and one student ambassador with previous Mariposas Poderosas experience. Participants evaluated the program when it was piloted and found that it effectively addressed their needs.
The goal of Mariposas Poderosas is to help students thrive—not just survive. This program recognizes that undocumented students are already strong and resourceful individuals who have overcome challenges that their peers are not familiar with. It is this program’s intention to identify the skills and power that students already have and build on them together.
As a result, students will have a support system that can assist them in tending to their mental health, navigating the college system, and maintaining and gaining resilience. Ultimately, this program creates a community that improves students’ quality of life. Additionally, it supports students’ academic success, increasing university retention and graduation rates.
Essential Components: The workbook and group setting
The Mariposas Poderosas program wouldn’t be what it is without the framework provided by the “Making DREAMs Come True” workbook. The workbook was designed with the goal of helping students to thrive, not just survive, and focuses on three resilience factors: social support, hope, and emotional openness. The workbook contains strategies based on research in the field of psychology and is guided by practical experience.
The group setting is indispensable to the effectiveness of the workbook. Past and present Mariposas Poderosas students have found that the social support reinforced the importance of the strategies highlighted in the workbook. A study implemented by Kwan et al. in 2017 found that Mariposas Poderosas’ combination of a self-help workbook and supplementary group meetings was well received by undocumented students and was significantly more useful than using the workbook on its own.
Completing the workbook within the group setting has been identified by one student, Yessenia Rios, as incredibly beneficial*. Rios said, “the interactive workbook allows us to openly discuss our thoughts and feelings, which is often difficult to do and discouraged in our culture…without the group guidance it wouldn’t be complete.”
The Mariposas Poderosas program has been incredibly well received by students and is creating a very real community and sense of support between students. The workbook and group provide tools that ensure students can keep hold of their sense of self and can tap into their individual strengths and talents.
*Please note that all names have been provided by the students themselves. Rios states “we embrace our status, our struggles, and identities, grow wings and fly above it all with resilience and love.”
Mariposas Poderosas is guided by two facilitators, one with expertise in psychology and another who has experience with undocumented issues. These two facilitators are vital to the program’s success.
The facilitator with expertise in psychology ensures that if any emotional issues arise for students when discussing difficult topics, students receive assistance in managing emotional distress. This facilitator’s technical expertise and knowledge greatly benefits the students.
The second facilitator is not only a peer to the participants, but also a leader through which they can see a future for themselves. The facilitator may be undocumented or have a family member who is undocumented. They experience the same challenges and inequalities that their students do and face it with them side-by-side. As a result, the participants can feel comfortable in a space guided by someone who knows what they are going through.
Student Mayra Angel has said that it is “easy to communicate with my peers and group facilitators because we have created a family.” Yessenia agrees and expresses her thanks for “all the encouragement offered by the book, our leaders, and other members of the group.”*
*Please note that all names have been provided by the students themselves.
The setting for Mariposas Poderosas is crucial. This setting should be a safe space for participants, where they feel comfortable communicating with each other and with their facilitators. This space may look different at each campus or institution, but some potential spaces could include a classroom, or a space specifically designed for student inclusivity and affirmation. This space should be suitable for Mariposas Poderosas activities, such as sharing a meal. It may also be beneficial if the space has access to a computer.
Sharing a meal is also an important feature of Mariposas Poderosas. The act of serving and sharing food fosters the sense of community that the program strives to create. Considering that college students are increasingly facing food insecurity, the fact that they can count on a meal at Mariposas Poderosas is incredibly valuable.
Estimated Program Costs
Workbook: $25.99 per workbook. Workbooks can be purchased at this link.
Facilitators: We estimate that facilitators spend 3-4 hours working on Mariposas Poderosas each week. This includes official session time, post-session discussion time, and planning. Employing two facilitators for a fifteen-week semester would cost between $1,680 and $1,800 ($14 or $15 per hour).
Meals: Undocumented Initiatives spends on average between $10 - $20 on the Mariposas Poderosas meal each week. In total, this costs between $150 - $300 per semester.
Our UndocuAlly Training highlights best practices to support undocumented students. This training will familiarize participants with the following topics:
- Narratives of undocumented students and their families
- The experiences of first-generation students
- An overview of the history, policies, and current issues impacting this student population
- Why and how to be an ally to be undocumented students
- Strategies and models to support undocumented students
- Recommendations for how to personalize and adapt best practices
*UndocuAlly Training Session Costs for an off-WSU Pullman campus location $150/hr and cost of travel.