WASHINGTON – A new program will allow thousands of young immigrants to go to college without having to worry about money.
Donald Graham introduced TheDream.US, a new scholarship fund, at a press conference Tuesday. It will give full-ride scholarships to more than 2,000 DREAMers over the next decade.
“It will be terrible for them and for our country if we don’t help them,” Graham said. “There is no telling what many of them will achieve in their lives.”
Young people described as DREAMers are those brought to the United States when they were children. They would qualify for legal residency if Congress passes the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. DREAMers cannot receive federal financial aid for college, although some states provide aid and charge in-state tuition.
TheDream.US has raised more than $25 million. Donors include the Graham family, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Inter-American Development Bank. The program was also funded by Henry Munoz, an activist and philanthropist, and former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.
Graham, CEO of Graham Holdings, and his family recently sold The Washington Post to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
“This is a bipartisan effort. There are Republicans, Democrats and independents,” Gutierrez said. “Everyone sees the power of this effort. This is right for our country, our economy and our society. … We want these DREAMers to succeed.”
Manuel Luna, a DREAMer and one of the scholarship recipients, came into the U.S. at the age of 3 from Mexico and grew up in Brooklyn.
Luna, 18, a liberal arts major at Kingsborough College in New York, said he was taking only two classes at a time since more classes would have been a burden on his family, but he didn’t want to put his dreams on hold.
After going to his college counselor to seek financial help, he was able to submit a TheDream.US application.
“I got approved two days before Christmas,” Luna said. “It was the best Christmas present ever. It was the best feeling I have ever had.”
Luna said he wants to be a lawyer and eventually give back to his community by focusing his career on helping immigrants.
Gabby Pacheco, DREAMer and program director for TheDream.US said it’s an obligation for her to help others have their dreams come true.
“My commitment and my promise that I made to myself when I graduated from college was that I was going to ensure that other people had the opportunity I had,” Pacheco said. “It’s just amazing to see your dreams come true. We are going to be impacting the lives of so many people. It’s really fulfilling.”
Pacheco said she is thankful for all the support TheDream.US has had. The founders had expected to raise $1 million and they surpassed the amount by millions.
“It’s a testament of what it is to dream, it’s a testament of what it’s like to fight, and it’s a testament of humanity,” Pacheco said.
“When people come together we are able to move forward.”
Pacheco said that 400 full-ride scholarships will be awarded this year. The program has already given 39 scholarships.
Applicants must meet the minimum 2.5 grade point average and be eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
DACA allows young immigrants to remain in the country, go to school and hold jobs.
Twelve colleges and universities partnered with TheDream.US. These schools are located in California, D.C., Florida, New York and Texas. They include Trinity Washington University, the University of Texas at El Paso and the City University of New York.
Editor’s note: This story was previously published on Scripps Howard Foundation Wire.