More than 200 immigrant students of The City University of New York have been awarded scholarships by TheDream.US, valued at more than $5 million. It is the largest amount received by any university in the United States.
The nation’s largest scholarship program for undocumented immigrant youth, TheDream.US, is providing aid to 231 students at CUNY colleges in the five boroughs, more than half of the $10 million in aid the foundation awarded nationally to over 500 students.
The program, the first college scholarship fund created for undocumented immigrant youth, known as DREAMers, awards up to $25,000 for tuition and fees to high school graduates who are first-time college students or community college graduates who seek to complete their bachelor’s degrees.
Students must have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status, or may also qualify under Temporary Protected Status, or TPS.
“Every year I encounter DREAMers who are eager to go to college, serve their community and our country,” says Donald Graham, founder of TheDream.US. “We believe it is the right thing to do to allow DREAMers to get a college degree – but more important it makes our country stronger and our values firmer.”
CUNY began its partnership with TheDream.US in fall 2013 when 30 students received scholarships to attend three community colleges.
Last year, Chancellor James B. Milliken made it a University-wide priority to expand the scholarship opportunity to immigrant students in 19 CUNY colleges – 12 senior colleges and seven community colleges.
In October 2014, 41 percent of the nearly 1,700 scholarship applications submitted nationwide were from CUNY students. In December, TheDream.US announced that 242 scholarships – 50 percent of those awarded nationwide – went to students from CUNY. In early 2015, 231 students accepted their scholarship awards.
Kirssy Martinez, a student at Bronx Community College, is one of the more than 200 CUNY students awarded TheDream.US scholarship.
At 14, she immigrated to New York from the Dominican Republic and hasn’t seen her parents or siblings in 13 years. After graduating from high school, she spent eight years working as a waitress and babysitter to save money for college.
After one semester at Bronx Community College, she was on the verge of dropping out until she learned about TheDream.US scholarship. Martinez was also recently named valedictorian.
“Our current immigration status shouldn’t be an indication of our future success,” she says. “This is not the time to be ashamed of being undocumented. This is just the beginning. You’ve all heard the old saying, ‘The sky is the limit.’ I would add to that, ‘Education is the vehicle.'”
Grace Couch, another CUNY Dream Scholar, moved to the United States from South Korea when she was 8. She graduated from Stuyvesant High School, one of the best public high schools in New York City, but when it was time to apply to colleges, she found she was not eligible for financial aid or student loans because of her status.
After working and saving some money, she enrolled at Queensborough Community College and applied for DACA status. With her scholarship, Couch is pursuing her bachelor’s of science in nursing at Hunter College.
“From a scared undocumented student living in the shadows, I became a confident registered nurse with so many opportunities,” she says.