Two local undocumented students will have an easier time paying for school next year, thanks to a new scholarship fund created by the student organizations Dreamers of UW-Madison.
Yesterday the group announced that it would begin accepting applications for two scholarships of $1,000 each, one for a current high school senior and one for a continuing college student. Applicants must be undocumented immigrants and attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Edgewood College or Madison College in the fall.
The scholarships are especially important for UW students, because undocumented students must pay out-of-state tuition, even if they’ve lived in Wisconsin since childhood. State and federal financial aid programs and many private scholarships are also only available to citizens and documented immigrants.
“That plays a big role in whether or not undocumented students can go to college,” says Selina Armenta, one of the founders of Dreamers of UW-Madison who has since graduated with a degree in legal studies and plans to attend law school. “We have to rely on private scholarships and our own savings to get through college. It’s important to have these private scholarships available and accessible to undocumented students.”
And going to college, affordably, is as important to undocumented students as to anyone else, Armenta says.
“Undocumented students are very similar if not identical to documented students,” she says. “The only thing that’s missing for us is proof of citizenship on paper. We have the goals, we have the aspirations, we want to go to college, we want to get careers. We want to raise families and give back to the state and give back to the country. For a lot of us, this is where we were raised, this is where we grew up. We just want to be contributors.”
The scholarships have been in the works for nearly two years, virtually since the founding of the organization. They’ve been funded through little more than the efforts of the students themselves, who have held fundraising events and sold t-shirts with messages like “Undocumented and Unafraid” and “I Support Undocumented Students.”
Armenta says the group has enough money on hand to offer two scholarships of $1,000 each this year, and a little extra to put toward next year’s scholarships.
Other eligibility requirements for the scholarships include a 3.25 grade point average for high school students or 3.0 for college students, as well answers to essay questions related to the student’s commitment to their community.
“We want to make sure recipients of these scholarships are contributing on a local level,” Armenta says. “We want to get to know what their passions are.”
In addition to funding these scholarships — which has been a large part of the group’s focus — Dreamers of UW-Madison has taken part in panel discussions and other events.
“We want to be a support group for undocumented students, but we also help educate the Madison community, especially educators and people working in schools,” Armenta says.
Scholarship applications are due May 31. Anyone who wishes to buy a t-shirt or make a donation to support the scholarships can email [email protected] or connect with the group on Facebook. Anyone who wishes to apply for a scholarship can download a form here.