Freedom U + Artist Yehimi Cambrón in Off the Wall Mural Project!

Freedom University is thrilled to collaborate with artist Yehimi Cambrón Álvarez for her mural in the Off the Wall project!

We welcomed Yehimi to our classroom just two weeks ago to interview and take photographs of our students, and we are excited to see her creative genius translate into a beautiful mural that captures the power and dignity of undocumented youth in Georgia. 

We will post updates as Yehimi Cambron embarks on the installation process and brings the stories of undocumented immigrants to the streets of Atlanta!


Laura Soltis
Read Our Op-Ed in the Huffington Post!

Freedom University Executive Director, Dr. Laura Emiko Soltis, joined forces with immigrant detention expert Azadeh Shahshahani of Project South, to write this powerful Op-Ed in the Huffington Post "When Undocumented Youth Are Banned From College, The Entire Nation Fails."

Here are some highlights:

"Over the last 25 years, immigrants who helped the city of Atlanta prepare for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games have made Georgia their home. Yet Georgia’s notorious late-night home raids, deadly immigrant detention facilities and high rate of deportations tears thousands of families apart every year.

Georgia’s targeting of undocumented immigrants reached fever pitch in 2010, when many of the 1990s childhood arrivals reached college age. That year, the Georgia Board of Regents passed two policies to ban undocumented students from enrolling in its top public universities and deny them the right to pay in-state tuition rates throughout the state. In doing so, Georgia became one of only three states in the country, along with South Carolina and Alabama, to implement an admissions ban against undocumented students in public higher education.


Georgia is missing out on $10 million in tax revenue per year by disqualifying academically eligible Georgians from in-state tuition rates. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that the 1.3 million young undocumented immigrants enrolled in or immediately eligible for DACA contribute an estimated $1.7 billion a year in state and local taxes nationally.

In Georgia alone, if DACA recipients were to lose their status, the state would lose an estimated $23.6 million in state and local taxes. To put this in perspective, $24 million in state coffers could pay for 310 new school buses or the salaries of 704 new public school teachers in Georgia, improving school safety and educational quality for everyone. Alternatively, if undocumented immigrants in Georgia were to receive legal status, they could contribute an additional $100 million in state and local taxes annually, which could cover the entire cost of Georgia’s 2019 budget line item to repair and replace bridges across the state.


States across the country can learn from the grievous mistakes of Georgia. Restricting undocumented student access to higher education harms all of us: It targets and punishes our youth, wastes taxpayers dollars and undermines our international credibility. Everyone benefits when the best minds and the most qualified students receive a college education."

Laura Soltis
Freedom University and Project South Release Report "A Dream Deferred"

Freedom University and Project South Release Report “A Dream Deferred: The Devastating Consequences of Restricting Undocumented Student Access to Higher Education in Georgia.”


A PDF copy of the report is available at


Today, on the steps of the Georgia Board of Regents, undocumented student leaders, teachers, and community leaders held a press conference to mark the release of the report "A Dream Deferred." The 75-page report documents the consequences of Georgia Board of Regents’ Policy 4.1.6, which bans undocumented students from the top public universities in Georgia, and Policy 4.3.4, which bars undocumented students from in-state tuition rates. The report details how Georgia came to pass the harshest laws and policies toward undocumented immigrants in the country, and how Georgia’s restriction of undocumented student access to higher education 1) causes serious health problems and psychological trauma among undocumented youth, 2) harms all Georgians by weakening the state economy and sending its brightest students out of state, and 3) violates international human rights law.


Speakers included undocumented youth leaders Raymond Partolan, Arizbeth Sanchez, and Mamadou Diakite; Charles Black, civil rights veteran; Dr. Laura Emiko Soltis, Executive Director of Freedom University; and Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal and Advocacy Director of Project South.


Raymond Partolan, an immigration paralegal and DACA recipient originally from the Philippines, shared his experience growing up undocumented in Georgia. “Around the age of ten, the federal government denied my family’s application for a green card because my dad couldn’t pass one section of an English test that he took over and over. Our family was plunged into undocumented status. My family had to make a very difficult decision – do we stay or do we return to the Philippines? We decided to stay. Being undocumented for most of my life has been tough to say the least. The fact that Georgia has one of the most restrictive set of policies in regards to undocumented students having access to colleges and universities made it even worse. You see, growing up, my mom always instilled the value of education in me. She told me it was the only thing that no one could ever take away.”


"I was educated in Georgia, and I loved every single second that I sat in a classroom," said Arizbeth Sanchez, a Freedom University staff member. "I took nine Advanced Placement classes and graduated with honors with a 3.5 GPA. I studied French for seven years and discovered that learning new languages fulfills me. I am currently learning my fourth language, Korean, and will be pursuing Mandarin when I go to college. I love learning. So when I realized that I couldn't go to college in Georgia, I was crushed. How does stopping youth who actively want to pursue higher education help Georgia?"


Mamadou Diakite, a Freedom University student leader, arrived in the United States from Mali when he was 11 months old. “For the last seven years, I have worked in road construction, specializing in asphalt, concrete, and line striping: in other words, I have built the roads that make all other industries in Georgia possible. As black people, and as immigrants, our society labels us as criminals. This criminal status is meant to cause other people to fear us, to make us hate ourselves, and to justify our incarceration, our detention, and our exclusion. By calling us criminals, we are not meant to succeed in this world. But despite these barriers, we are persisting and we are succeeding. I am proof of this. Through the help of Freedom University, I was recently awarded a full scholarship to a college in Delaware and I will start my studies there in January to pursue my interest in sustainable urban agriculture.”


Dr. Laura Emiko Soltis, Executive Director of Freedom University and editor of the report, said, “As a teacher at Freedom University, I am one of the few teachers in the world who can say that every single one of my students is undocumented. As a teacher, I can tell you that undocumented young people are brilliant, they are bilingual, they are entrepreneurs, and they are funny, creative, generous, and kind. But as a result of Georgia’s discriminatory policies, they are also battling depression, they are overworked in low-wage jobs, and they are overwhelmed by uncertainty and fear. As a teacher, I am outraged by what I see and what this report also finds: that Georgia’s policies are harming our young people.”


She continued, “As a U.S. citizen and taxpayer, I am outraged that these policies are wasting our tax dollars and harming our economy. Undocumented students and their families are also taxpayers and contributed more than $352 million in state and local taxes in 2012 alone. They are, in effect, funding the universities they are not allowed to attend. By banning undocumented students from admission and in-state tuition rates in Georgia, the report details how we are failing to capitalize on our investment in undocumented students’ constitutionally mandated K-12 education, how we are missing out on $10 million in tax revenue per year, and how we are decreasing the number of highly educated people that we need in Georgia to fill jobs and pay higher taxes.”


Legal expert Azadeh Shahshahani detailed how Georgia Board of Regents’ Policy 4.1.6 and 4.3.4 violate international human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


The speakers then articulated their demands: that the Georgia Board of Regents consider the negative consequences of restricting undocumented student access to higher education on both undocumented students and citizens alike, and vote to repeal Policy 4.1.6 and 4.3.4.


Charles Black, the former Chairman of the Atlanta Student Movement, closed the press conference with a powerful reading of the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes.


What happens to a dream deferred?


      Does it dry up

      like a raisin in the sun?

      Or fester like a sore—

      And then run?

      Does it stink like rotten meat?

      Or crust and sugar over—

      like a syrupy sweet?


      Maybe it just sags

      like a heavy load.


      Or does it explode?




A Dream Deferred Cover.png
Laura Soltis

We need your help today.

Meet our student Gabriela and her son Miguel, the youngest member of our Freedom University family! Gabriela arrived in the United States when she was five years old, and attended K-12 in Georgia public schools. Gabriela is one of Georgia's 26,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. With this program, she has received a driver's license, a federal work permit, and a temporary reprieve from deportation. 

On September 5, 2017, the Trump Administration announced the termination of the DACA program. Several lawsuits were filed against the administration for terminating the program unlawfully. Two nationwide injunctions in New York and California have allowed DACA recipients to renew their status. However, there are still legal threats to the program, and it is anticipated that USCIS could be ordered to stop accepting renewal applications as early as August 8, 2018. 

This news has caused Gabriela, and DACA recipients like her across the country, to scramble to renew their DACA status. Freedom University has partnered with several community partners to host a DACA Renewal Clinic, and provide DACA recipients pro-bono legal services. The cost of each DACA Renewal Fee is $495. 

We need your help today to meet this urgent cost. 

Can you, your family, or a group of friends contribute $495 today? This donation will potentially help a Freedom University student leader like Gabriela gain two years of protection from deportation, authorization to work and drive in the United States, and help keep her family together. While DACA renewals are not a permanent solution, we will continue to fight for fair and comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth and their families. 

To donate today, please visit

Emiko Gaby Miguel
Laura Soltis
Freedom University Publishes Infographic!

Did you know that 1 in 13 children in Georgia live with at least one undocumented family member?

Did you know that DACA students in Georgia contributed $72 million in state and local taxes in 2016, but are banned from attending the state's top public universities that their taxes fund?

Learn more about Georgia's immigrant community with Freedom University's infographic on immigration statistics in the state - and be sure to share it widely!

Laura Soltis
Brotherly Love

At Freedom University, we often highlight the importance of women in movements and in our organization. Freedom University was founded largely by women, 75% of our students are women, and the majority of our staff, faculty, and volunteers are women. 

However, the men of Freedom University are pretty dope too. We create a learning environment in which we welcome and nourish the development of everyone's full human potential and personality, free of homophobia, transphobia, and all other fears based on difference. Men are encouraged to respect and trust women, unlearn patriarchy, and open themselves emotionally to the world in order to take on equal emotional labor in all of their relationships. And our male teachers take their responsibility as mentors and role models seriously: as sons, brothers, husbands, partners, fathers, and educators. Yesterday, for example, Professor James taught an entire College Prep class on careers in the Biomedical Sciences with his 8-month old infant in his arms. 

Gender equity is not only about lifting up women. It is also about liberating men from narrow and oppressive gender roles, and allowing them to know and express their full selves. 

This is what freedom looks like at Freedom University.

Laura Soltis
"Off the Wall" and the Freedom University Mural Project

This week, Freedom University joined Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, WonderRoot, and the NFL Atlanta Host Committee in the launch of "Off the Wall," a community-based social justice mural project that will unveil more than 30 murals in conjunction with Atlanta's hosting of the 2019 Superbowl. 

Meanwhile, at Freedom University's Summer Arts Program, students in the Mural Project class worked on their painting skills with renowned local artists Fahamu Pecou and Charmaine Minniefield in preparation for the mural installation later this summer. 

We are honored to be partnering with our friends and longtime supporters at WonderRoot. Through community dialogues and the arts, we hope to make raise consciousness about the undocumented student movement and portray the dignity and contributions of Atlanta's immigrant community. 

From the New York Times: "Atlanta to Bring Human Rights Murals to City for Super Bowl"

Although the Super Bowl is a one-time event in Atlanta, those involved with Off the Wall hope the event leaves an enduring legacy. In recent years, street art has popped up throughout the city. By focusing on human and civil rights as the content of the murals, Off the Wall hopes to create lasting conversations about issues affecting the city.

The artwork will begin appearing in the city this fall. A subcommittee is scouting locations and talent to produce the work, but officials said some of the murals will be downtown. Freedom University, an initiative that provides college prep and other services for [undocumented students], will help in both the creation and installation of the art.

"Young people in this city have been leading the way for human rights," Freedom University executive director Laura Emiko Soltis said. She said they were "standing on the shoulders of giants," referencing leaders such as Lewis.

NFL players have sparked controversy and drawn criticism from President Donald Trump and some members of the public for kneeling during the national anthem. Although inspired by the way people are using their spotlight to promote human rights, Off the Wall was in the works before the anthem protests, Appleton said. The project has the support of the NFL, according to Daniels.

"This project was inspired by the way artists and other activists struggle for justice and equality for all," Appleton said, calling protests a powerful way to transform communities.…/28/us/ap-us-super-bowl-murals.html

Sheila Press Conference Original (1).jpg
Mural Class June 2018.jpg
Laura Soltis
Our First Office!

Thanks to the generosity of a donor from New England, Freedom University is opening its first office in Atlanta! With a modest office furniture budget, students and staff went to a certain Swedish ready-to-assemble furniture store to select our new desks and chairs.

In classic Freedom University style, we turned a chore into a celebration, and had a furniture building party :) The students love working and laughing together, so within a couple hours, we were up and running!

With all of the trauma and triggers in the news, it's easy to retreat into isolation. And perhaps that is the intended result. But as one student recently said, "We can either cry alone or we can build something together."

And even if it's just a tiny office with a funny green rug that looks like grass, we are building our own little sanctuary.

Thank you for your continued love and support, from all of us.

Laura Soltis
Freedom University Goes to Washington!

This week, five of us from Freedom University drove from Atlanta to Washington, DC to meet new friends and visit welcoming colleges in the nation's capital. Our representatives included Cecilia, Irene, and Mamadou, three Freedom University student leaders; Raymond Partolan, a Freedom University board member and DACA recipient; and Laura Emiko Soltis, Freedom University's Executive Director, van driver, and photographer.

On Monday, we were greeted with open arms by fearless undocumented students and activists from Georgetown and the University of Maryland, and immediately engaged in lively discussions on the revolutionary potential of collaborating across racial identities and state lines in the fight for equal access to higher education. We were able to share a meal together and deepen our friendships, and parted with warm hugs and commitments to work together in the coming years. 

On Tuesday, we visited the offices of our friends at United We Dream, a national immigrant rights organization working to advance the rights of undocumented youth and their families. Within minutes, we were sharing our stories and finding common ground, strategizing on how we could work together to strengthen the undocumented student movement in Georgia, and discussing what national organizations can learn from students on the ground in the most restrictive states. We were then welcomed by incredible professors and admissions staff at Howard University, where we discussed the experience of undocumented black youth and opportunities for HBCUs to welcome and support undocumented students. 

On Wednesday, we toured the campus of Trinity Washington University, where one of our students will be attending college this fall! Students took good notes and asked hundreds of questions to come back to Georgia and share their knowledge with fellow students at Freedom University. We put on our walking shoes and visited the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, the United States Botanic Garden, the Museum of the American Indian, and the National Gallery of Art! We shared in too many laughs to count, but also took several moments of silence at the steps of the Supreme Court, reflecting on the words "Equal Justice Under Law" above its majestic columns. One day, they will inherit the robes of justice and halls of congress, and their experience learning and shaping U.S. history and advocating for equal justice now - even in the shadow of uncertainty and fear - is determining the kind of leaders they will be. 

On Thursday, we made the long drive back to Atlanta. Our bodies were exhausted, but our hearts were soaring. Cecilia shared how she feels like she is part of a much larger family of undocumented youth and supporters, and Irene feels more confident in the resources and support she will have when she starts college in Washington DC this fall. Mamadou shared that he feels a new fire within him to fight for the rights of undocumented immigrants everywhere, and serve as a vital bridge between Atlanta's Black community and its immigrant rights community. 

We are grateful beyond words for the warmth we felt in the welcoming arms of so many friends in Washington, DC. We are bringing back the strength and knowledge they shared with us to continue to nourish and empower undocumented youth in Georgia. 


The Fantastic Four
Georgetown Dinner
Irene and Cecilia
Art and Cecilia
Visiting Trinity
Supreme Court
Light and Tunnel
Laura Soltis
Nuria Wins a Full Scholarship to Middlebury College!

This year, nearly 1 in 3 of our students earned full scholarships to college this fall! We are excited to celebrate each of these students, whose courage and determination - along with the support of hundreds of family members, friends, and professors and staff at Freedom University - helped them achieve their dream of going to college.

This week, we celebrate Nuria, who received a full scholarship to attend Middlebury College in Vermont! Nuria is deeply loved and respected by her classmates at Freedom University, where she is known for her generous mentorship of new students, her principled leadership on the student committee, her unmistakable laugh in dance class, and her mad pancake making skills at student retreats. Nuria has overcome immeasurable obstacles on her journey to college. She graduated summa cum laude from high school despite having a learning disability. She excelled in her studies at Freedom University despite working a full-time job to support her single-parent household. And when her greatest fear became a reality when her mother was detained by ICE, Nuria reached out to Freedom University staff and worked with community allies for months to secure her release. Nuria exemplifies what makes many Freedom University students so remarkable: that despite the fear and uncertainty she faces as an undocumented student, and the cruelty she has endured in the country she calls home, she is able to find the courage to lead with compassion in the fight for undocumented students’ human right to education.

At Middlebury, Nuria looks forward to taking classes in Political Science and Sociology, participating in immigrant rights student groups, and taking advantage of all of the new learning opportunities a small liberal arts college has to offer. After growing up in Georgia, Nuria is a bit nervous for the cold New England winters, but all of us at Freedom University will make sure she has the right parka and boots to keep her warm!

Congratulations, Nuria! We are so proud of all you have already accomplished and look forward to watching you as you continue to learn and grow at Middlebury College!

To support Freedom University's educational programs, please visit:

Laura Soltis
WE NEED YOUR HELP: Donate Supplies for our Summer 2018 Classes!

Freedom University is the one true sanctuary campus in the world, where all of our students are undocumented. This summer, our students are participating in an intensive 10-week SAT Bootcamp and taking Arts and Activism courses in Latin Dance and Mural Painting. Our seven students who earned full-scholarships to college in the fall are also taking a College Prep 101 class to arm themselves with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive during their freshman year as first generation college students. But we need you to help our students succeed. 

Many of our students do not have computers, which make completing written assignments and online college applications nearly impossible. If you have the means, could you donate an affordable Chromebook to an aspiring scholar? If you have less means, could you donate a Passion Planner to help them take notes and master time-management skills? If you don't have the means right now, could you share this post with a friend who does? If so, please visit and share our Amazon Wishlist, which contains up-to-date information on the classroom supplies we need.

Our freedom school doors remain open to undocumented students with the hard work of hundreds of people on the ground in Atlanta, and thousands of supporters around the world.

Thank you for your generosity and unwavering commitment to undocumented youth during these uncertain times. 

Professor Esquivel Suarez
Freedom U 2017 Graduation
Laura Soltis
Freedom University Goes to the Beach!

This past weekend, Freedom University staff and students participated in our first Leadership Retreat in Florida. For several students, it was their first time out of the state of Georgia since they arrived in the United States. One had never been to a beach. But we decided that after a difficult year marked by uncertainty and fear, we deserved to take a short break from our daily jobs and responsibilities, and spend some time dedicated to healing and rest. 

The weekend was filled with laughter, and we grew in our love and respect for one another. In addition to strategy sessions and organizing training for the upcoming year, students also spent time making pancakes together, playing with little clams on the beach, and swimming after schools of fish in the ocean. For a few days, we ignored the news headlines, and were able to focus on taking care of each other as a beloved community. 

We wish to express our sincere gratitude to the hundreds of individual donors who sustain our work through recurring monthly donations. 

Click here to become a monthly donor, or to make a one-time donation. Every dollar helps us continue our important work educating, empowering, and caring for undocumented youth in Georgia.

Group Beach Retreat
Group Breakfast
Seashells on the beach
Leadership Training
Smiles on the beach
Laura Soltis
Meet the inspiring undocumented leaders of Freedom University's Student Committee!

Rafael Aragón is originally from Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico. He attended Dunwoody High School and graduated in 2015. Since joining Freedom University in January 2017, Rafael has been an active student leader, participating in numerous direct actions and speaking on various college tours and panels across the country. Rafael shines in many of his courses at Freedom University, and especially enjoys Creative Writing, Drawing and Painting, and Spanish Literature. He loves Freedom University because it instills hope in students who might feel like there is no opportunity for academic growth available to them due to their immigration status. Rafael received a full scholarship to Eastern Connecticut State University and plans on studying cognitive behavioral psychology.

Laura Soltis
Welcome to our new website!


Based in Atlanta, Freedom University is inspired by the legacy of the Southern freedom school tradition. We provide tuition-free education, college application and scholarship assistance, and social movement leadership training to undocumented students banned from public higher education in Georgia.

Laura Soltis