Empowering undocumented young people to achieve educational and career goals
NEW AMERICAN SCHOLARS PROGRAM
In 2017, we invited ten extraordinary students to be a part of our 2017 New American Scholars Program. Their areas of study are Chemistry, Biomedical Engineering, International Relations, Sociology, Ethnic Studies, Civil Engineering, Nursing, Social Sciences and Business Administration. They will be attending UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, Santa Clara University, Cal Poly Pomona, San Francisco State University, Cal State East Bay and Goucher College.
We are awed by these scholars' unflinching grit and courage. Despite extraordinary obstacles, they are achieving their dreams of higher education. We proudly welcome them into our E4FC family!
Alejandro was born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico. As a result of financial problems, the drug cartel war, and the excessive violence in his hometown, Alejandra and his family moved to Long Beach, California when he was 13 years old.
Navigating school with limited English was scary and stressful. Alejandro struggled academically while his family struggled financially. His father was the only provider to their family of seven. Alejandro became the first one in his family to graduate from high school. College, however, seemed like a distant possibility.
When Alejandro learned that he could go to college even though he wasn’t a U.S. citizen, he enrolled in Cerritos Community College as a full-time student-athlete. He also started working in a restaurant as a dishwasher to pay for college and help his family. In the process, he discovered a great passion for chemistry.
Alejandro participated in an internship program at USC, where chemistry graduate students mentored him to conduct research in organic solar cells. Thanks to the support of his mentors and his family, he will be attending UC Berkeley in the Fall to pursue his B.S. in Chemistry.
His goal is to do well at UC Berkeley and one day attend the California Institute of Technology to focus on the development of solar fuels and other green technologies.
“Knowledge became the fuel for more learning. I learned to never give up and always work hard for what you want.” Alejandro
Alice is the daughter of Japanese immigrants who came to Brazil. She moved from Brazil to the U.S with her mother at the age of 17.
Together, they started a house cleaning business. They drove around upscale San Francisco neighborhoods and copied addresses. They mailed flyers with their picture on it, mother and daughter. They started receiving calls. Alice guided her mother around San Francisco because her mom had a driver’s license and Alice had a map.
Since she does not benefit from DACA or qualify for in-state tuition, she has kept her own business cleaning homes as a way to support her career dreams.
She is currently taking classes at community college, but soon will be at Santa Clara University to complete her degree in Bioengineering. A problem solver by nature, Alice chose bioengineering to improve the quality of life for all human beings. She is excited to learn about stem cell treatments and tissue engineering, and to contribute to future advances in medicine.
She believes in a selfless commitment to work for the welfare of the most vulnerable.
“I’m committed to rise to any occasion and bring my intelligence, dedication, passion, and creativity to everything I do.” Alice
Ana Sofia was born in Nicaragua. She came to the U.S. with her family when she was 11 years old. To learn English, she spent hours reading at the public library. By the time she graduated middle school, she could read the same books as her classmates.
Ana Sofia loves challenges. In high school, she took rigorous AP and Honors classes and participated in several clubs such as the Free the Children and the Ambassadors, which is a club to welcome transfer students. She attended Foothill College while she was in high school by taking a few classes each summer. She also became a member of the Spanish Honor Society in order to do community service in Spanish.
This year, Ana Sofia founded her own club, the American Nicaraguan Foundation club. She helps raise money to donate supplies to schools in Nicaragua. Ana Sofia is excited to attend Cal Poly Pomona this Fall, where she will major in International Business.
“I hope to found my own nonprofit to help children in developing countries get an education. I also hope to have my own business someday.” Ana Sofia
Fernando was born in Oaxaca, Mexico. His mother brought him to the U.S. when he was six months old. Growing up in Sonoma County was not easy: constantly hearing the term “illegal alien” took a toll on his self-esteem and, as he says, his overall development.
By age 17, Fernando was entirely devoted to life on the streets. A turning point came when he lost his brother in a gang confrontation. Fernando began to question his place in society and the contributions he wanted to make.
Another turning point came when Fernando enrolled in a Sociology course at Santa Rosa Junior College and, for the first time in this life, he began to reflect about the systematic oppression that affects communities of color. With the support of his mentor, Rafael Vasquez, Fernando discovered the value of higher education. Fernando began attending weekly therapy sessions and, with mental and physical self-care, began to realize his self-worth.
In 2016, Fernando decided to become a full time student. In his addition to his studies, he participated in student government, contributed to the creation of a DREAM Center for undocumented students, and developed a pilot program that provides meals and resources to students with significant financial need.
This spring Fernando was accepted to UC Berkeley and has already been conducting research about the mass incarceration of undocumented people in connection to crime rates and for-profit corporations through the George A. Miller Scholars Program.
Outside of school, Fernando is committed to helping his siblings with their homework and meets with their school counselors to prepare them for a four-year university. On the weekends, he works as a gardener.
Learning and giving back to his community are Fernando’s two lifelong goals. He is committed to being a role model to his siblings, and to reversing the school-to-prison pipeline by helping formerly incarcerated students transfer to college.
“Regardless of the barriers that may present themselves, I will continue to give back to my community in positive and meaningful ways.” Fernando
Jonathan was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and was brought to San Francisco when he was five years old. Upon his arrival, Jonathan was placed into first grade even though he had not attended kindergarten in Mexico. He did not even know how to hold a pencil. Thanks to the support of his parents and teachers, Jonathan caught up to his classmates and gained a special interest in his education.
At the age of 13, Jonathan's dad was improperly removed from the country. Jonathan and his family went back to Mexico. He attended middle school there but could not continue on to high school due to his family’s financial struggles and fell into depression.
Jonathan’s family decided to move back to the U.S. He and his father would be the first to attempt to get back. It took Jonathan eight tries before he succeeded but his father did not get in. Jonathan was now alone in the United States and had to work full-time to pay off debts and to help his family back in Mexico. A year later, his parents and his four siblings joined him and supported his return to school.
In 2016, Jonathan graduated from high school at June Jordan School for Equity, where he worked hard to make up for the years he had spent out of school. In the fall of 2016, he began attending San Francisco State University and worked with a student-led organization called "Undocumented, Unafraid and United Students Resolution" to notify the district about the lack of support for undocumented students in the San Francisco Unified School District. After nine months, the resolution was passed.
Jonathan is currently working towards a minor in Race and Resistance at SFSU. He is passionate about the education of students of color and under-resourced students.
“As an undocumented, low-income, young man of color I feel the need to educate myself to help fight for a much needed change in our black and brown communities.” Jonathan
Jose was born and raised in Mexico near Leon, Guanajuato. He is the fourth son out of nine kids. Jose finished middle school but he and his three older siblings had to drop out of school due to their family’s financial struggles.
Jose worked full time at a factory in Mexico getting a paycheck of 700 pesos. When he was 16 years old, he immigrated to the U.S. along with two of his older siblings to work and help his family in Mexico.
Jose attended Richmond High School and began his studies in ESL level one. He was an active member at Alma Latina, a student club that supports immigrant students. Valerie Jameson, his writing coach, says Jose “stood out amongst his peers in the program for his attentiveness, dedication and willingness to take risks.”
This Fall, Jose will become the first student in Richmond High history to have gone through the entire English Learning Development program (ELD), completed the A-G coursework and transferred to a four-year university straight out of high school. Jose was recently admitted to San Francisco State University, where he wants to pursue a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering.
“Our society will continue to be unequal until people understand other’s hardships and backgrounds. I want to go to college to fight ignorance, including my own. I want to do what is right, not just for me, but society as a whole.” Jose
Maura was born in Mexico and at the age of seven, she and her mother moved to the United States. Translating her mother’s pains to medical professionals has been the norm growing up. Phrases like “her head hurts” and “no insurance” were very common for her.
Growing up with a lack of affordable health care meant home remedies were the cure for everything, resulting in delayed care. Maura states “Late at night, my mom would go out to our neighbors’ garden to get some hierbabuena, mint for my upset stomachs and my dad’s back pain from his flea market job. It was difficult to translate for ER doctors who kept asking why my parents did not seek care earlier. I felt ashamed, as they would chuckle when I reported that the hierbabuena did not work.”
Maura gained relief through organizing for immigrant, women, and workers' rights. As an advocate for health equity, she gained a new perspective on the stress and cultural factors that limit her community from accessing care.
Last year Maura graduated cum laude with a Bachelor's of Science in Biology and is currently enrolled the Master’s Entry Level Program in Nursing at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) with a specialty in the field of Family Nurse Practitioner.
Motivated by her experience as an uninsured low-income student, Maura’s mission is to continue her advocacy efforts and be at the forefront of providing healthcare to her community where no member is excluded from the fundamental right of healthcare.
“My goal is to assist in underserved settings, be at the forefront of making primary care readily accessible, and treat patients with respect, dignity, and care.” Maura
Shur was born in Bayankhongor, Mongolia. When she was six years old, her mother was selected for a fellowship to study in the U.S. for her master's degree in education. Shur and the rest of her family followed a few months later.
Her parents have worked hard to put her through school. Her mom works as a housekeeper and her dad has been a pizza deliverer, a taxi driver, and most recently, a car transporter. Shur has also worked in various part-time jobs since her sophomore year of high school. At some point, the prospect of graduating from a university did not seem like a viable option, but her mother’s words guided Shur through times of uncertainty, “We will figure it out. Things tend to work out,” Shur’s mother assured her.
Shur will be graduating from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley in December 2017. She volunteers for the Mongolia Foundation and the Latino Business Student Association. She loves connecting with students who, like herself, have felt “inside and outside” of America. She currently works at the Oakland Ice Center, where she is an avid figure skater.
“When people see the photo set as my cell phone wallpaper of a chubby-cheeked baby, sitting amongst a herd of wild horses in the grassy steppes of Mongolia, they usually ask, ‘Did you get that photo from National Geographic?’ I simply chuckle and respond proudly, ‘No, that’s me, and that’s where I came from.'" Shur
Veronica was born in a small town in Guanajuato, Mexico. She was the sixth of eight siblings. When she was eight, she started working in the fields growing crops during summer time and after school. She studied until ninth grade, which was the highest education level that one could obtain there. Eventually, she registered in a “Preparatoria” (High School) but had to drop out since her family could not afford it. Veronica migrated to the U.S. when she was 23.
For several years, she worked selling natural products but she had to stop after her firstborn was diagnosed with severe asthma. She gave birth to three more children and spent time taking care of her family. However, her desire to continue her education remained and with her husband’s support she went back to school.
Veronica took English as Second Language (ESL) classes for two years. The principal of the program encouraged her to attend an adult high school and insisted she should take the admission test. She passed on her first attempt and began taking high school classes. She graduated with honors.
Veronica was admitted into the nursing program at Chabot College. However, she was removed from the program due to her immigration status. She then decided to apply to California State University East Bay and major in Health Science. She is transferring this winter.
“To have a better world, action is needed. I want to be part of this action. With persistence, discipline and unity we can accomplish it.” Veronica
Zahir was born and raised in Azerbaijan, formerly one of the countries in Soviet Union. When he was 16, he chose to move away to gain a wider perspective in life, learn without censorship, and change the system for others.
Speaking little English, he came to the US on a tourist visa with his mother on February 18, 2015. She promised to help him, but she changed her mind and returned to Azerbaijan. Zahir stayed with his sister and brother-in-law. He was told to be invisible and was filled with fear. Dealing with so much anxiety led him to reach out to people he could trust: teachers, counselors, and friends.
Thanks to their support, Zahir became excited about his dream of higher education. He started to stay awake during the night and research immigration policies. He learned that he did have legal options. He asked one of his teachers to be his guardian, and he agreed.
Zahir attended Galileo Academy of Science and Technology and took leadership positions in many clubs such as Peace in the Middle East, SUMMERFUNd, Galileo Connection, and College Ambassadors. This January, he earned the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists Award of Excellence for his academic achievement, leadership potential and determination.
“Having Zahir in my life has made me a better person. I am amazed at the number of students he greets, bumps fists with, or stops to share a quick word with (usually in that person’s native language). His kindness knows no limits.” Kevin Fanning, Zahir’s mentor and legal guardian