Hector, who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by his parents when he was a year old, is among the first to benefit from the CPS Dream Fund – a scholarship fund for talented students who are undocumented, and therefore have limited access to college aid.
Undocumented students are ineligible for federal financial aid. Because of their immigration status, many private scholarship opportunities are out of reach as well, leaving these students with few options when it comes to paying for college.
“It’s heartbreaking when you see your friends getting scholarships and financial aid that you can’t qualify for,” said Hector. “Opportunities like the Dream Fund are what kept me motivated to keep trying.”
Launched in 2013, the CPS Dream Fund reflects the passion and generosity of District employees. It required two years of research and development by the Office of College and Career Success, and is funded almost exclusively by donations from CPS staff.
“At the end of every school year, I would always see outstanding students struggling to enroll in college because they were Dreamers,” said Marcia Boyd, Scholarship Coordinator for CPS. “So we figured it was time for CPS to begin taking care of our own.”
The Dream Fund’s first recipients were Hector, who now attends Harold Washington College, Maham A., a student at Lake Forrest College, Carla B., who attends Dominican University, and Amairani L., a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology. All four graduated from CPS high schools last June and all are the first in their families to attend college.
“I’d started to think college was unattainable for me,” said Maham, a Canadian immigrant whose parents were born in Pakistan. “I wanted to go, but was so discouraged about how I would pay for it when I wasn’t eligible for loans or financial aid. This scholarship lifted a huge burden off my shoulders.”
All of the scholarship winners are grateful to the college and career counselors who told them about the Dream Fund and made sure they completed the application fully and on time.
“I sometimes waited until the last minute on some of the deadlines,” said Carla, “but my counselor kept on me to make sure I got it done.”
Almost as valuable as the scholarship are the strides these students have made in the eyes of their immigrant parents.
“Growing up, I saw my dad go from job to job, struggling because he didn’t have an education,” said Hector. “He always wanted me to do better, and I’m so grateful that I will have that opportunity.”
They are excited too for what scholarships like this will mean for future students who face the same obstacles.
“The Dream Fund raises awareness about students like us who have untapped potential and can do great things if given the resources,” said Maham. “Without scholarships like this, a lot of kids like us would just be lost.”
To make a donation to the CPS Dream Fund, visit www.helpcps.org.