Zuckerberg’s Undocumented High School Students Sparked His Immigration Reform Passion

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In addition to leading one of the most ambitious businesses of the 21st century, billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is also an occasional high school teacher. After Zuckerberg decided to give part of his substantial wealth to education, his wife decided that he shouldn’t be another armchair check writer.

“Pretty quickly, she decided that I wasn’t going to be someone who just contributed to education projects without having any direct involvement,” he said at a San Francisco screening of the immigrant reform documentary, ‘Documented‘. “She decided that I actually needed to teach myself.”

Zuckerberg set up a part-time gig teaching entrepreneurship in the underprivileged district East Menlo Park (the same school district that inspired the 1995 film Dangerous Minds). During one class discussion about their futures, one student raised his hand and admitted, “I’m not sure I’m going to be able to go to college, because I’m undocumented”.

After surveying his class, Zuckerberg found that a disturbing number — about half — of the students were undocumented immigrants (so-called “DREAMers”).

“This really touched me,” recalls Zuckerberg. “It was impossible to tell the difference between them; there was no difference between them.”

After the class, a student approached him and said, “I really hope that someone does something to rally this community.” The plea was apparently enough to move Zuckerberg to focus his soon-to-be controversial political lobby, FWD.us, on not just high-skilled reform, but comprehensive reform.

In front of San Francisco’s elite last night, Zuckerberg contended that the difference between high- and low-skilled immigration reform is a false dichotomy.

“Anyone who knows a DREAMer knows they’re not,” he argued. “The students — no matter where they were born — coming in to this country are going to be tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.”

While there is no shortage of opinions about Zuckerberg’s, or any powerful person’s, political goals, it is fascinating to see how the world’s elite get involved in attempting to make an impact.