|McALLEN, February 5 - A new scholarship program for DREAMers will finally give them the path they need to reach the American Dream, and contribute to the future of Texas and the nation, according to leaders in the Rio Grande Valley’s higher education institutions.
DREAMers, those undocumented students looking for a better life through education, will now be supported through the first ever national scholarship designed to assist them reach their academic goals.
“This opportunity is a Godsend for our DREAMers who want to attend South Texas College as a pathway for a better life for themselves and their families,” said South Texas College President Dr. Shirley Reed.
“These Dreamers find themselves in difficult circumstances through no fault of their own and are not eligible for federal Pell awards to help fund their college education. The Dream.US scholarship program will provide a pathway to the American Dream so these students can contribute to the future of Texas and the nation.”
Graham Holdings CEO Don Graham, activist Henry Muñoz and former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez have announced the national effort to help DREAMers obtain what they call a “career-ready” college education.
The national movement, called TheDREAM.US, has raised more than $25 million in scholarships, and plans to distribute them to more than 2,000 low-income DREAMers over the next decade.
The program targets undocumented immigrant students who, because of their status, are not eligible to maintain a college education. The motivation, according to TheDREAM.US founders, is that they are not content to wait as the futures of young Americans hang in the balance.
“The DREAMers I know are very highly motivated, they want an education, and many want the chance to be of service to others,” said TheDREAM.US co-founder Graham in a statement. “They often face countless roadblocks to college achievement. With support from our partner institutions and from civic leaders across the country, TheDREAM.US is building a new movement to remove these roadblocks, and make higher education a reality for thousands of undocumented immigrants.”
To be eligible for the scholarship from TheDREAM.US, applicants must qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood program (DACA), must have graduated from a U.S.-based high school with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher, or similarly a GED equivalent to 2.5 or higher. Students must demonstrate financial need, and must show a strong motivation to succeed in a career-ready associates or bachelor’s degree program.
“Absent the passage of the DREAM Act, or other breakthrough in immigration policy, thousands of eager young people will unable to achieve their academic dreams,” said co-founder Gutierrez. “We are not waiting for Washington to solve these challenges. We believe that college access is vital to DREAMers’ ability to contribute to their families, their communities and the future of this nation.”
Co-founders Graham, Munoz and Gutierrez have announced that 12 institutions of higher learning have signed on as partners. STC and the University of Texas-Pan American are among those institutions. Others in the mix are the University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College.
More than 39 scholarships have already been awarded. The initial class of scholars has an average GPA of 3.5, and average age of 21.
UTPA president Dr. Robert Nelsen traveled to Washington for the announcement. The creation of TheDREAM.US is an exciting development that will greatly benefit worthy UTPA students, he said.
“We were chosen because of the articles I have done urging support of the DREAM Act, and for our DREAM Act students,” Nelsen said. “(It’s) our Rio Grande Valley focus, collective impact and their (co-founders) awareness…of the number or DREAM Act students at UTPA and throughout the Rio Grande Valley, and because of the programs we have to facilitate the success of those students.”
UTPA enrolled 734 undocumented students in fall 2013, an increase of 14 percent over the same time period the year prior. There are an estimated 1.1 to 1.4 million undocumented students nationwide.
“Education is key,” said Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. “TheDREAM.US initiative is a unique opportunity to allow DREAMers to pursue their academic goals and contribute to the future successes for our communities, our state and our country.”