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Lehman College

Becas Scholarship Program

General Information

Becas is a program that offers scholarships that range from $4500 to $6030 to CUNY undergraduate and graduate students who meet three criteria: academic excellence, financial need, and commitment to service in the Mexican community. Currently, the scholarship can only be used for tuition.

Funding for the program has come from the Mexican government’s Instituto de Mexicanos en el Exterior (Inst. of Mexicans Abroad, or IME) and private donors. In 2012, we were awarded $72,000 from IME, and obtained $2567 in private donations and $6000 in matching funds. For 2013, we were awarded $60,000 from IME and received $18,520 in private donations, especially Mr. Jaime Lucero who donated three full scholarships, as well as $10,000 in matching funds. For 2014, we received $30,000 from IME and $30,000 from Mr. Lucero, and an additional $43,200 in private donations, many thanks to a partnership with APEM. To sustain the current number of scholarships, we need additional funds. Donate today. 100% of donations to the scholarship fund are dedicated to scholarships (no overhead fees).

Scholarship recipients join the Becari@s Network of current and past Becas recipients. They participate in a monthly professionalization seminar and are expected to complete internships for a total of 200 hours in an affiliated nonprofit institution. Students are matched to an internship that suits their interests, professional goals and scheduling constraints. The Institute works closely with “Becari@s,” scholarship winners, and internship sites to ensure a positive experience on both sides.

The scholarship primarily aids students with little or no access to other funding sources. Because of the emphasis on financial need and the fact that the program does not discriminate based on immigration status, this program has been particularly successful in aiding undocumented students. Several of the students have told us they would have been unable to enroll in school without the scholarship. Others have said they had never been able to complete an internship due to work obligations necessary for paying tuition. We believe this program has a tremendous impact in achieving its goals and enabling future leaders to develop the skills and networks they need while lifting some of the tremendous burden of affording school with little or no access to financial aid.

FAQs

Frequently asked questions:

Do I have to be currently enrolled in CUNY to apply?

No. As a matter of fact, many of our applicants are high school seniors, GED students or students who are not currently enrolled in college. You MUST enroll in CUNY to receive the scholarship, but not to apply.

Do I have to be Mexican?

No, but you must demonstrate a record of service in the Mexican immigrant community as well as commitment to future service with the Mexican community..

Does my immigration status matter?

No, many of our scholarship winners are undocumented. We do not ask about your immigration status and we do not discriminate.

Does it matter which CUNY I attend?

No, scholarship winners may enroll in any CUNY campus and receive this funding.

Does the scholarship cover all of my educational expenses?

No, while the scholarship funding will cover most or all of your tuition for one year if you are an undergraduate (depending on whether you enroll in a community college or senior college) or one semester if you are a graduate student, it will not cover fees, transportation expenses, books, or other expenses.

What if I work and cannot commit to an internship program?

Maybe this is not the scholarship for you. Becas seeks to foster the development of future leaders. We will give you a lot of support and a lot of opportunities for growth and professional development along with an internship placement. These elements require time and commitment and the scholarship is intended to enable you to worry less about tuition and have more time/energy for school and your growth as a leader. We require students to commit to these opportunities.

Have more questions? Drop us an email mexican.studies@lehman.cuny.edu

Learn More:

CUNY TV Profile of two Becari@s

ABC News Report, November 25, 2013 Section 1 and 2

Video Testimonies of Becari@s

2014 Program: Becas Recipients 2013-14

In 2014, we received 129 applications to the Becas Scholarship Program. We served approximately 134 students at a series of two workshops to aid students in preparing their applications. We initially had sufficient funding for seventeen students, but due to additional donations, we were able to extend scholarships to twenty-one students in total.

Profiles

Marili Muñoz

Life is a series of punches that come in the form of challenges and hardships, but those who take those punches and are still able to move forward are those who succeed. My life has not been easy; every day I go through the struggle of overcoming the obstacles presented to me. Of all the circumstances that have happened to me, it has been two specific events that drastically changed my life forever. When I was eleven years old I went through a difficult time of grieving with the loss of my parents and my grandparents. I am grateful for my siblings for being there for me through the hardest time in my life. At the age of sixteen years old I took my first step in the United States and I am proud to say that these have been the best years of my life. My name is Marili Muñoz, an undocumented Mexican student currently attending Kingsborough Community College and pursuing an Associate’s Degree of Science in Biology-Physician Assistantship. Medicine has become a passion of mine and I am planning to dedicate my life to helping others by improving the health field, especially for the Mexican immigrant community. During my time as a volunteer in the Emergency Department, I have come to realize how much immigrants struggle to understand the medical terminology. It is due to this language barrier that many Hispanic don’t receive the correct medical attention. As a result, I have dedicated my life to continue my studies so that in the future I can have the opportunity to help the Hispanic community by focusing on the obstacles that have caused many Hispanics to neglect their health.

Adriana Garcia

My name is Adriana Garcia. I’m an undergraduate at Queensborough Community College. My major is nursing and my main goal and dream in life is to become a doctor. Since my mom was sick for about two years, I used to spend a lot of time in the hospital. During that time I noticed that I felt happy providing comfort to other patients. It also made me realize that we need more Spanish-speaking doctors who can be able to understand Spanish-speaking patients who, in turn, can feel free to ask anything. As an immigrant, I think it’s important to help each other; that’s why I’m a volunteer at the “CUNY Citizenship Now” to help Latinos become citizens and have a stronger voice to help immigrants like us.

Arianna Flores

Arianna Flores Perez will be graduating high school this year and she is filled with many hopes and dreams for the future. Arianna will be the first in her family to go to college and she hopes to help pave the way to college for her ten-year-old brother. Arianna is a young woman who believes that education is the key to success. Her academic achievements and commitment to her studies are proof of this. She is planning to pursue a double major in Political Science and Latino Studies, which will allow her to study both the historical and the contemporary experiences of individuals of Latin American origin, as well as the government’s relationships with marginalized groups. Furthermore, her aspirations and goals have been shaped by her involvement with non-profit organizations like Atlas: DIY, a youth cooperative dedicated to helping undocumented youth, and the Arab American Association, whose mission is to support and empower the Arab immigrant community by providing services that will help them adjust to their new home and become active members of society. Having witnessed the injustices that immigrants go through in their everyday lives, Arianna is dedicated to advocating and fighting for their rights. Arianna’s ultimate goal is to provide a voice for the Mexican community, who she thinks deserves to be heard and taken under consideration by the government.

Jazmin Cruz

Jazmin Cruz is currently an undergraduate student at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Political Science and a minor in Sociology. Jazmin has been advocating for the New York State Dream Act, and has been involved in the push for dignity and respect of all people. Jazmin is part of the Dreamers Campaign at Make The Road New York and currently serves as the Vice President of the John Jay Dreamers Club. She wants to keep giving back to the community that saw her grow. Her biggest role model is her father. Her father has been the foundation and the ultimate supporter for her college career. She believes in the strong impact of college and is helping the recent high school graduates in her old high school to transition from high school into college.

Jesus Benitez

My name is Jesus Benitez. I was born and raised in the Bronx. I am a single parent to a wonderful son. I am part of an amazing family from Puebla, Mexico. After years of struggle, I am now fighting for a better future, not only for myself but for my family as well. My sister and brothers consider me their role model and I feel honored to be that. I am also honored to receive the CUNY Becas scholarship. After participating in and receiving my GED through the CUNY Fatherhood Academy at LaGuardia Community College, I have seriously committed to continuing my education. They gave me the push I needed to dream of getting a Ph.D. in Computer Science. Once I obtain my Ph.D., I want to give back to CUNY Fatherhood Academy by helping them expand. I have an opportunity to mentor other young fathers who will be participating in the Academy. I also want to be a tutor in order to help the current CUNY Start students prepare for their assessment exams. I want to be able to give back to the community as much as possible. I want to help support new opportunities for immigrants that will change the whole perspective regarding immigrants in America. I also volunteer in another organization called the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA). I am going to help MOIA distribute free citizenship application assistance flyers throughout the city. I am a dedicated student and the CUNY Becas Scholarship will make my dream a reality. Furthermore, I will remain dedicated until I am able to achieve my long-term goals, which are giving back to the community and helping others. It goes beyond only helping my son and me; it is much bigger than that. It's about making a change in the world, even if it's small; it’s about being able to give people a second chance like I’ve had to better their lives.

CUNY TV: CUNY Fatherhood Academy

Breaking The Cycle

CUNY Fatherhood Academy at Laguardia Community College

Personal Blog: Interpreting the World With Our Unconscious Mind

Amalia Rojas

Amalia Rojas is an artist, activist and student who is fully committed to making the world a better place. Rojas is currently a junior at the City University of New York. She is pursing a double Major in Theater and Linguistics with a Minor in Mexican-American Studies. Rojas began writing at a very young age. Her interest in theater arose when she was ten years old and her mother took her to see her first Broadway musical, “Mamma Mia". In 2009, as a sophomore in High School and after being a finalist at the Young Latino play writing competition, she participated in an Internship Program at the Latino international Theater Festival of New York, an organization that produced TeatroStageFest (2007-2013) featuring groundbreaking theater from Latin America, the Caribbean and Spain side by side with local companies and individual artists. In 2010, she won the tri-state Fidelity future stage play writing competition and was published by Samuel French and produced on a Broadway stage. Her credits include various plays at the Spanish Repertory of theater, and other off-Broadway stage readings. In 2012, Rojas represented La Guardia Community College as one of the thirty students chosen nationwide to participate in The Exploring Transfer program at Vassar College. In 2013, Rojas also represented La Guardia as a Keynote Speaker at The National Association of Colleges and Universities Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. She is currently a mentor for the Hispanic Federation CREAR Futuros program and a Cultural Programs coordinator at Adelante Alliance, a non-profit organization servicing the Mexican community in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, through educational services. Amalia is planning on using her education to give back to her community and hopes to establish a literacy campaign through theater.

Nancy Lopez Ramirez

Graduating from high school this year and continuing my education by attending college in the fall, I am on an ongoing journey of pursuing a career that will help me to continue advocating for individual rights. By continuing to be engaged in programs that will help future Mexican generations, I will be the voice that carries the words of thousands. As an undocumented student, I have learned that education and support go hand in hand and that power becomes a source of hope when it is connected to and shared by a community that is also fighting for their rights and waiting to be heard. Throughout my education, I continue to be motivated by my family, friends and community. My brothers once told me, “Ad Astra Per Aspera”, to the stars through difficulties. My goal to help other people will be a difficult journey. However, I will be defiant of all the struggles that I will face and I will use the strength yielded by my beloved family and friends in order to overcome future obstacles. My words will be like the heat of a forge and my message will ring powerful and true like a hammer against an anvil.

Vanessa Tlachi

Vanessa was born in Puebla, Mexico, where she grew up in an unstable home environment. At the age of four she emigrated to the United States. Always cognizant of her undocumented status, she knew her journey would be different from that of her peers and that she would face certain restrictions. With this stress in the back of her mind, along with her history as a victim of domestic abuse, she chose to look at her unfortunate circumstances as a motivation to a never give up. Despite  all of these hurdles, she obtained a green card on July 1, 2013. 
Vanessa is a third year theater major at City College focusing on acting and playwriting. Vanessa first got involved with the arts in high school, where she advocated for the reinstitution of a drama program through a petition signed by over 100 staff members and students. Through acting, she become aware of the resentment she had towards her family history, the shame she carried for being Mexican, and her fear of an uncertain future without proper documentation. As she explored these feelings through performance, she came to realize that the arts were not only a universal language and cathartic medium, but also a powerful tool that can be used as a platform to address injustice and inequality.
Vanessa is currently part of the program New York Needs You, a two-year career development and mentorship program that helps low-income, first-generation college students fulfill their academic and career aspirations. She is also an intern with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), a student activist group on campus that fights for policy reforms. Both New York Needs You and NYPIRG served to strengthen her interest in non-profit organizations and activism. Through her unique experience as a former undocumented student and her newfound passion for merging activism and nonprofit work with theatre, Vanessa knows now that her purpose in life is to use theatre as a vehicle for socio-political change, especially for the Mexican community. She hopes to start her own nonprofit theater company in the future, where artists will focus on birthing political plays and productions that will in turn affect policy and law.

Yohan Garcia

Yohan Garcia is an immigrant student from Puebla, Mexico. He earned an Associate’s Degree in Business Management from the Borough of Manhattan Community College with a concentration on Travel and Tourism. He is now a senior student at Hunter College and is studying Political Science and pursuing a career in public service and in politics. He served as Treasurer and President of BMCC’s Travel & Tourism Club, as BMCC Student Government Senator, as BMCC Student Ambassador at the CUNY Leadership Academy and as BMCC Model Senator at the CUNY Model Senate Project. Yohan is also a former member of the Hunter College Student Advisory Council and a current member of the Hunter College Model UN Team. His leadership and community service have earned him recognition and he he has received various awards including the Peter Jennings Laurel Award, the BMCC’s Marks of Excellence Award, the Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Leadership Award, the Dream Fellowship Award, and the 2013 Amelia Ottinger Award for Excellence in the Art of Debate. He has also sought out opportunities in public service and has interned at the Mayor’s Office of Adult Education, at the City Hall Office of Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, and the NYC Office of United States Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand. Moreover, he has worked closely with several non-profits and community organizations such as the New York State Youth Leadership Council, the New York Immigration Coalition, La Fuente, The League of United Latin American Citizen (LULAC), United We Dream, CUNY DREAMers among others. Yohan has many goals, aspirations and interests. He is one of the authors of a research project entitled “Do Term Limits Effect Women's Representation? Evidence from 1979-2013,” which was presented at the Second Undergraduate Research Conference at Hunter College and at this year’s National Conference of the Midwestern Political Science Association (MPSA) in Chicago and it is on its way for publication at the MPSA. He is considering future research projects on women’s representation and democracy. Further, Yohan is also working on another research project on how to increase naturalization rates of legal Mexican immigrants and is eager to work with the Mexican community and the government to enhance Mexican immigrant’s representation in both the public and private sector. In addition, Yohan has been a fierce advocate on immigrant rights, higher education for all regardless of legal status and a supporter of continuing education for adult immigrants. Yohan earned his GED in 2008 at Lehman College, therefore, he values the importance of adult education and the necessity of such programs. Since 2010, Yohan has also been involved in rallies, press conferences, marches among other actions calling for the passage of the New York State Dream Act, the Federal Dream Act and a comprehensive immigration reform. Moreover, Yohan is also well known to the press and media. He often collaborates with Univision, Telemundo, NTN24, El Diario among other Latino sources on topics related to immigration and higher education. He has been featured twice in the New York Times and has been invited to participate in several TV and Radio segments. Through his involvement with the media, he aspires to be the voice of his community demanding change and consideration. And, last but not least, Yohan believes that the sky is the limit, so he aims at becoming a diplomat and eventually a United States senator.

Yohan's Public Facebook Page

Mi gran sueño es convertirme en senador de Estados Unidos

El Pte. Obama me dio esperanzas, espero lo mismo de Cuomo

Edgar Morales

“The smart man learns from his own mistakes, the wise learn from the mistakes of others.” - Arturo Adasme Vásquez

It is a phrase my dad has taught me since I graduated from middle school because some of my former classmates and some friends had decided that they had had enough of studying and had decided to work rather than keep going to school. This is where my dad’s phrase comes into play: he feared I would follow their path and he reminded me of the importance of studying and the suffering of working full time. Since then, I have been trying to be more analytical and observant on most of the decisions I make. My name is Edgar Morales, an undergraduate student at Lehman College majoring in computer science. I was born and raised in Tehuacán, Puebla, Mexico. I moved to the Bronx when I was about to turn sixteen and I have been living here for four years now with my family as an undocumented immigrant. One of the biggest challenges I faced when I arrived to New York was the language; since I had no basic knowledge of English and communication was a crucial aspect that I had to struggle with every day of my life. Keeping in mind what my dad says, and witnessing how some of my classmates from high school were giving up on learning English, I decided to avoid their mistake and I learned, from a classmate who learned her mistake, that "a steep path lies ahead for some who gives up on a goal without even trying”. I have many dreams and goals; I also have a strong determination and passion for education. I am determined to break the stereotype that Mexicans come across the border only to take on low-paying jobs. My current academic achievements are proof of and testimony to my character and dedication towards my education. I know that an education will provide me with the essential tools I need to create a better life for my family, my community and myself. Furthermore, I have joined Raza Youth Collective where I am growing as an individual and also creating a political conscience for myself. I am interested in the past and in current sociopolitical movements that have helped to generate new opportunities for the Latino community. As a student I will do whatever it takes to advance myself and make my parents and the migrant community proud.

Luciano Contreras

Luciano Contreras is an undergraduate student at Queens College. He is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. After graduating from Queens College he plans to attend Law School at Yale University.

Luciano obtained his first job at the age of 15 waiting tables at a restaurant; the hours were long and the money wasn’t all that great. But all of that helped to shape the person he is today. Right from the start Luciano saw how restaurant workers were underpaid and treated unjustly. So he began volunteering with the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC), where he worked alongside the policy committee to draft a bill that would ensure paid sick days for workers in the hospitality industry. The battle was long and hard fought, but on March 20th 2014, with the help of ROC-NY and many right-workers advocates, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a watered-down version of the original bill into Law.

In 2012, when hurricane Sandy hit New York, Luciano provided all his spare time to helping immigrant families affected by the storm, especially those who lived in the Coney Island and Brighton Beach areas. He worked in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) and the Federal Protestant Welfare Association (FPWA) to identify and survey Spanish-speaking immigrant families and help connect them with organizations that would provide them with resources. A little while after that he was offered a position as an Emergency Outreach Worker (EOW) at YM-YWHA Shorefront-Y. As an EOW he organized and worked at several community supply and survey events in local community centers and churches, as well as canvassing over 50 households months after the storm to follow up on victims of the storm.

On May 15, 2013 Luciano co-started a non-profit organization with St. Joseph’s church as its sponsor. The organization, Building Skyscrapers, was created to help increase the chances of immigrant and minority students of being accepted into Ivy League colleges and universities. Luciano understands the current demand for minority students at America’s top school; he believes minorities can do just as well as anyone else. It is not the name of the school or its reputation that will guarantee the success of our students, but the amount of effort they are willing to put into their studies. Building Skyscrapers is also about second chances; many minority students are sometimes forced to work in order to pay for their studies and, because of this, their grades can suffer. This one of the main reasons Luciano created Building Skyscrapers, so that just like a building, one day our students can be concrete examples to follow.

Diego A. Hernandez

My name is Diego A. Hernandez and I was imported from Distrito Federal, México at the age of 2. Now 22, and with a rocky educational background, I am starting my first year this fall at Lehman College after having graduated from LaGuardia Community College in 2013. At Lehman I plan on majoring in Latin American Studies with a minor in Political Science.

Outside of the academic world, I work with a group called Raza Youth Collective (RYC) which focuses on educating politically and organizing youth from all around the city through workshops and cultural events. We have done events on forced migration, policing, immigration enforcement as well as fundraisers and book studies.

I used to intern, and now volunteer, at a Human Rights organization called Families For Freedom that focuses on the intersection between the Criminal Legal System and Immigration. I have facilitated presentations on Know Your Rights, Deportation 101 and various other workshops involving migration as well as providing support to the families of those undergoing deportation proceedings.

Jennifer Martinez

“Coming to this country is a battle for everyone, but a battle many choose to face for the sake of their family. Once we arrive to this country we are aware that the battle isn’t over and our desire to avoid the mistakes of past generations gives us strength. We are fighters.” Jennifer Martinez’s CUNY Becas Scholarship essay, in which she shares her story of overcoming adversity, highlights the constant risks and challenges all immigrants face.

Jennifer Martinez is a graduating senior at Gorton High School in Yonkers, New York, and has been a part of the Fordham University Academic Talent Search Program since her freshman year. She has taken the most challenging curriculum offered by her school, which included many Honors and AP classes. She has followed her passion for science by being a part of Gorton’s Medical Magnet Program. As a member she has taken a cluster of challenging science classes that will prepare her for collegiate science work. To complement her Medical Magnet classes, she has been involved with the Gorton’s Wellness Center Organization through which she has completed science-related community service. This community service has allowed her to apply the  knowledge she gained inside the classroom to the outside world, thereby making her community a better place.

Jennifer has also demonstrated her commitment to making quality education accessible to all by founding the “104 Movement.” This club provides free tutoring services to Gorton seniors that are at risk of not graduating and works to change the school’s academic culture. Jennifer plans to continue this kind of work in college, where she will advocate for the rights of undocumented students and their families. In the fall of 2014 Jennifer will be attending the Honors Program at Lehman College. She plans to complete a major in biology and a minor in education.

Yonkers’ Best & Brightest: Gorton High School

Comedy legend Bill Cosby speaks in Tarrytown

Areli Morales

Areli Morales Romero was born and raised in Puebla, Mexico. At the age of five she migrated to the United States and has lived in Brooklyn ever since. She is an undocumented student and will be attending Brooklyn College pursing a Bachelor degree in Business Administration. She hopes to be the first one in her family to graduate from college and she is ready to take on a career that she is truly passionate about. She became interested in business during her senior year of high school while being part of a selective Virtual Enterprise program. This stimulated business practice gave her a real life working experience within a classroom environment. As she starts a new chapter in her life, Areli hopes to use her knowledge, abilities and passion to help out the Mexican community with finance and business related issue. She aspires to provide job readiness training, finance workshops, individual coaching and job opportunities that match the talents and interests of the young empowered individuals that are eager to make a difference in the world. She believes that if individuals are given the right resources and strong support they will flourish and will become great leaders in their communities.  

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts’’ these are the wise words once spoken by Winston Churchill. Although these powerful words were spoken many years ago, they have become a source of motivation and have shaped Areli’s way of thinking and her actions in moving forward. 

Jatziri Gallegos

I came to the USA with the dream of using my voice as a guide to make this world a better place. I am an artist, a musician, an educator. I believe Arts are for everyone and should be part of everybody's life."
I was born in Mexico City, my hometown. I came to New York to expand my opportunities and here I found a new home full of amazing, diverse and creative people who inspire me every single day. I realized that through music and arts we can make a stronger and more sensible community. The Hispanic community living in New York is tremendously talented; we have children who have talents that we would have never imagined. I finished my BFA program at The City College of New York and will start my Masters Program in Performing Arts (Music) at Queen College CUNY with the hope of accomplishing more goals and becoming a better professional. We have a great responsibility to encourage the people in our society to be better human beings, to make our Hispanic community stronger and to represent our country as professionals. My commitment is to myself as an artist, to the Hispanic community as an educator, to my hometown and to this country which has given us the best opportunities as professionals. 
"Una sociedad sin Arte está condenada al fracaso"

SoundCloud

YouTube

Salvador Garcia-Sanchez

My name is Salvador Garcia-Sanchez and I will be attending college at the New York City College of Technology. I will be majoring in graphic design, which will help me express my feelings through art. I was born and raised in the Bronx, NY, along with my two brothers and two sisters. I come from a family of food vendors who have dedicated their lives to giving my siblings and me a better future. My parents have worked hard to make sure my siblings and I succeed in life and don’t have to go through the same struggles they faced. I strongly believe in working as a team and striving for success as a whole. In the past, I have volunteered with an organization called Vamos Unidos by making phone calls to make sure everyone would attend the meetings to discuss different topics/situations that food vendors are going through.
“Through hard work and determination, you can make your dreams and goals come true”. I heard about the Institute of Mexican Studies from a former 2013 Becari@, Clementina Garcia. She told me about the scholarship they were offering and told me it would be a great opportunity for me. I was honored and thankful of becoming a 2014 Becari@. Through this scholarship, I was able to meet the 2014 Becari@s, who have become my second family. I believe that through our teamwork and support for each other, we can make a positive change in society.

Irma Karina Cruz Velez

My name is Irma Karina Cruz Velez. I was born in Mexico City and arrived in the United States in 2001 at the age of 7. I have lived in Staten Island with my mom and two younger siblings ever since. From the time we arrived, I have kept in mind what my mom once told me, “I may not be able to leave you much when I die, but be sure I will help you get a great education.” Therefore, I have dedicated myself to obtaining the best education available to me, not only to prove my mother is right but also to prove to others that a college education is possible regardless of your legal status. Currently, I’m an undergraduate majoring in Spanish Education and Social Work at the College of Staten Island. I am the first member of my family to enroll in college. Being an undocumented student has been one of my greatest struggles. Yet the adversities I have faced have made me stronger as an advocate, a leader, and a role model to my younger siblings and to so many undocumented youth like myself who are trying to reach their dreams. In the pursuit of empowering undocumented youth I was able to volunteer at Project Hospitality, a non-profit organization on Staten Island and then intern there after being awarded the Becas Scholarship for two consecutive years. In Project Hospitality, I have been able to intern at the yearly Summer Youth Leadership Institute, where the Mexican immigrant community studies civil rights, civic participation and community organization skills in the hopes of enacting the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), a federal legislation that would create a pathway to U.S. citizenship for undocumented youth. I have also worked with Project Hospitality to lead workshops for advocating as well as educate the community about The DREAM Act and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). In addition, since October 2012, I have spent every available day helping families who are victims of Hurricane Sandy, especially people in the Mexican community who lost their homes, by providing referrals to meet their needs. Another organization I have been vey much involved with is El Centro del Inmigrante, where I have become the food pantry coordinator every Thursday, making sure everyone, regardless of their legal status, receives enough food and is well informed of the center’s services. Also, I am happy to say that I have been able to be the Early Childhood Spanish Educator at the Staten Island Children’s Harbor Montessori School; in this role I have been helping as many students as possible preserve the Spanish language and customs. Many stop me and ask “how do you find the time for all that you do?” I respond by saying “how can I not?” If I had more time, I would do this and much more for my community. There is nothing more rewarding than meeting the needs of individuals and families so they too can reach their dreams and make a difference their lives. To conclude, I thank the Becas Scholarship program for giving me the opportunity to meet undocumented individuals like myself who want to continue their education and who inspire others to do the same and become great leaders in their communities.

Somos DREAMers

"Soñadores" de Nueva York piden al gobernador que les ayude con sus estudios

American Association of University Women's (AAUW) Scholarship dinner

Young Staten Islander is energetic and driven to help

Suleyma Cuellar

My name is Suleyma Cuellar; I am a sophomore in John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I am the first in my family to attend college. I am the role model for my three younger siblings, which has placed on me the responsibility of making a path for them so they won’t have to struggle as much as I did. Just like my parents, I also believe that education is the most important thing someone can have. However, growing up as an undocumented woman, receiving an education was and still is a struggle. I hope to have a career as a social worker. My biggest goal is to change people’s point of view about Mexicans through my writing. I am determined to be the voice of immigrants who struggle every day for a better tomorrow. I also started an organization to help the Mexican community of young adults go to college so that the cycle of dropping out of school is broken. Through writing I plan to change the way society sees Mexicans and one day make this organization be known so that undocumented children can have more resources to attend college.

Flor Reyes-Silvestre

My name is Flor Reyes-Silvestre and I am an undocumented student. I was born in the city of flowers, Atlixco, Puebla, and was brought to the U.S. at the age of 2. I have lived in New York City ever since. As I grew older, I slowly realized that I was excluded from certain opportunities because of my immigration status. At the age of fifteen, I had to take on the role of the “second mom” when my father left my family. This is when the future became less assured than ever before. My mother, also an undocumented immigrant, did her best to support her six kids by working all mornings as a street vendor. I learned then that my mom's opportunities were limited as were my own. 
This reality hit me especially hard when I began applying to college during my senior year of high school. Paying for college isn't easy for anyone, but coming from an impoverished, undocumented family, it is much more difficult to do so. Confronted with this truth, I sought out resources that could help me on my path to college. Fortunately, I did get help and that's how I was able to make it to college. 
In high school, I was involved in many extracurricular activities like the soccer club, plays and musicals and I was the President of my high school's Student Government Association. Outside of school I became an active member of the Robin Hood Foundation where I completed an internship. I also became a member of the Make the Road New York organization, and a member of the Dream Team at the Options Center. 
As an undergraduate, I plan to pursue social work and early childhood education. By doing so I hope to give back to my community, especially the Mexican immigrant community by educating young minds so that in the future they will be educated and be able to break stereotypes. I also plan to aid families who have very little so that they can continue to support their immigrant families despite their status.

Janeth Ortega

"Decide what it is you want. Write it down. Make a plan and work on it every day"

My name is Janeth Ortega. I was born in Mexico D.F. but my family and I are originally from Cualac, Guerrero. When I was two years old my parents decided to immigrate to the United States in search of a better life. Since I can remember, it has always been clear to me that I am an undocumented student. I have become used to the struggles that come attached to being an undocumented student but I have not accepted them as an impediment to reaching my goals and become a professional. I am currently an undergraduate student at Lehman College. I plan to major in Social Work and minor in Psychology. As a social worker I will like to work mainly with the immigrant community and victims of domestic violence. From personal experience I have struggled with both of these issues and would like to not only facilitate different services to those who need it, but also create a safe space for them.

I am currently enrolled in a medical interpreter training program in which I aim to be certificated to interpret in hospitals for those who are Spanish speakers and do not understand English. I have worked with Masa, a nonprofit organization located in the South Bronx doing community outreach about different programs open to the community. I have especially worked doing community outreach for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). In addition, I have also worked with Fresh Air Funds, a nonprofit organization that provides free summer vacations to city kids. After working in these organizations I have realized that I really enjoy working with people and look forward to continue doing it.

I am honored to be part of the CUNY Becari@s of 2014. Not only do I get to meet CUNY students with whom I have a lot in common, but it also empowers and motivates me to keep working hard to achieve my goals. Thanks to everyone who has made this possible!

2013 Program: Becas Recipients 2013-14

2012 Program: Becas Recipients 2012-13

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