Empowering undocumented young people in their pursuit of college, career and citizenship
NEW AMERICAN SCHOLARS PROGRAM 2011 SCHOLARS Overview
2011, we received applications from 176 talented immigrant students,
representing 64 high schools, 33 colleges, and 20 countries of origin. We invited 14 extraordinary students to be part of our 2011 New American Scholars
Program, awarding them $60,000 in scholarships. Our 2011 Scholars hail
from Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand. They are
attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, De Anza Community College, Mills College, San Francisco State University, Sonoma State University, and UC
Denia Ms. Perez's status as a struggling student without legal papers has profoundly shaped her outlook on life. Refusing to be confined - or defined - by the difficulties imposed on her by the State, or by the public pressures to remain silent and in the shadows, Ms. Perez bravely organizes to draw upon and build upon the wealth that lies at the heart of undocumented youth's collective experience and to create a more socially just society. In the best tradition of San Francisco State University, Ms. Perez is committed to using her education to 'serve the people.' -- Dr. Jason M. Ferreira, Assistant Professor
Denia will be a senior at San Francisco State University majoring in Women and Gender Studies. Through her experiences as a teen court "attorney," an assistant in a law firm, a member of E4FC's Legal Case Analysis Team, and, unfortunately, through her parents' own deportation case, Denia has a strong foundation in Civil Rights Law. She is also an integral part of E4FC's Student Outreach Team, where she is currently leading the development of a new Bay Area phone hotline for undocumented students. She is also a member of Improving Dreams, Equity, Access and Success (IDEAS), the undocumented student support group in San Francisco State. "Because of the perpetual efforts to keep us in line and oppressed, undocumented students are stronger and more determined than ever to demand our rights as a people," Denia believes. She is a model of determination for other students and will only continue to get stronger.
New 'Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.' This statement by Albert Einstein represents a crucial turning point in my life that has led to much liberation and empowerment. Since the age of nine, my number one priority was to do my best in academics. But in 2010, I strolled into my Human Endocrinology class on the UC Walkout Day of Action, which meant that I had chosen to abstain from participating. Much to my surprise, student activism was that day's topic. As my African American professor told his life story and reminded the class of the importance of education, I reflected on the parallels that were being revealed to me: it's not enough to gain knowledge and be content. I need to use the knowledge and opportunities given to me and turn them into action. From that day forward, I have poured all my efforts into getting the DREAM Act passed. I am only one person in this larger movement, but if I simply sit still then that is one fewer voice we would have and everything that everyone has invested in me would be put to waste.
Four years after graduating number two in his high school class, New will be graduating with a major in Molecular and Cell Biology and a strong interest in Public Health. He envisions himself practicing in different medical positions: physician, public health official, and a health or hospital administrator. New has grown as a student leader through college. He presented twice at San Francisco's Angel Island Immigration station as a way to empower himself and others, telling his story as a nine-year old immigrant from Thailand who has built a community here. He was the first co-Chair of ASPIRE (Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education), and volunteers with low income and homeless people at the Suitcase Clinic and at the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. New's academic record will make him eligible for distinction at graduation. There's little doubt that he'll be able to achieve his career goals.
Jessica In defining a citizen, we must also define the non-citizen. This dichotomy is problematic, because life is not so simple as to allow for such a line to be drawn. I live in the spaces in-between. Stuck in the conundrum of a non-citizen but yet an American at heart, the lack of legal citizenship aims to erase my very real existence from the American map, yet my efforts to continue to extend opportunities for myself and others shows the importance and legitimacy of my embodied citizenship.
Jessica entered the United States at just eight months old. In less than a year she will graduate from UC Berkeley with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Applied Language Studies. As an intern at the Presidio Archaeology Lab and in collaboration with the Presidio Community YMCA, Jessica developed an afterschool program focused on Native Californian fishing technologies for middle school students. She was a partner in the YMCA's afterschool program focused on Native Californian fishing technologies at the Presidio Archaeology Lab. As part of her internship within the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Jessica translated legal documents and court-declarations for asylum seekers. Jessica is fluent in Spanish and proficient in French, which will allow her to fulfill her career goals as a translator, ambassador or linguist. This summer, Jessica designed and conducted an ethnographic study in East Los Angeles, and presented her research at UC Berkeley's Summer Undergraduate Research Conference.
Catherine Since my admission to UC Berkeley, I've chosen classes that would equip me with a thorough understanding of American politics. As an Asian American undocumented female, the culture of silence in my community has pushed me to stand up and speak. I've learned how global economic forces encourage the development of Filipino diasporas, including my own family's unlawful presence in America. Not only have my courses been rewarding in their rigor, but I've valued them for what I have learned about myself and about the world.
Catherine will complete her final semester at UC Berkeley this fall. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. During her time at Cal, Catherine has become increasingly active in her advocacy for Asian American immigrant students. She has served on the UC Berkeley Chancellor's Task Force representing all undocumented Asian students on campus; conducted presentations and recruitment for students through the Pilipino Academic Student Services of UC Berkeley; written about the Dream Act for hardboiled, an Asian American newsmagazine; and is a student organizer with Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education (ASPIRE), where she is spearheading the first ever Asian-American AB540 Conference. In the future, Catherine is interested in a career as a community advocate.
Denisse It wasn't until the day my family and I were detained that I truly understood the meaning of Maya Angelou's poem, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Looking through the barred windows of the ICE vehicle, I realized that the caged bird sings because his freedom has been taken away from him and there is nothing he can do but let his voice be heard. He sings because he cannot fly and he longs for the things he cannot have. Many of my dreams were put on hold that day, but like the caged bird I, too, sing. Being an undocumented student doesn't have to be a handicap. I have learned to stand up and be heard.
Denisse is finishing her last year at UC Berkeley where she is double majoring in Sociology and Integrative Biology. She has a 3.6 GPA and was recently placed on the Dean's Honor List. Robert Fischer, professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, rates Denisse among the top 5% of UC Berkeley undergraduates in the Biological Sciences. Denisse currently works in Professor Fischer's lab, where she researches epigenetic processes in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Because plants and humans share common epigenetic mechanisms, her research will have an impact on human health research. She is active in the Biology Scholars Program and is a mentor to high school students through UC Berkeley's Prepare to Achieve a College Education (P.A.C.E.). She intends to pursue a career in medicine and education.
Grace My decision to pursue animation springs partly from my desire to share with the world the feelings and impressions I have acquired as an immigrant. I've always felt the need to communicate, whether it be through drawing and painting, playing the piano, writing personal narratives, or creating animation. I believe that animation, like all art, can pose questions, provoke thought, open new doorways to hope and inspiration, and ultimately deepen our connections to other peoples' lives and struggles.
Grace intends to graduate next spring with a BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from UC Berkeley. Last year, she developed her skills in Computer Science by working with the Advanced Digital Animation group to produce a short animation called "Fruitful." Outside of UC Berkeley, Grace has interned with the Interaction Lab at the University of Southern California, where she contributed to research efforts to simulate human-robot interaction in 3D visualization environments, and most recently at Pixar Animation Studios. The countless hours in labs as an intern and with her groups and professors are leading Grace to a career as an animator. With her skills, she aims to "tell stories that inspire and make people happy."
Silvia Because of her financial situation, Silvia is never sure whether she will have the resources for the next term or next year at Cal Poly. For this reason, she enrolls in almost exclusively science, mathematics, and engineering classes realizing that if her money runs out, she can take general education at a community college back home but not her engineering classes. This is a difficult schedule, one that we generally would not recommend to students. But she does well. In Fall 2009, she made the Dean's Honor List. -- Philip S. Bailey, Dean, College of Science and Mathematics, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Silvia was seven years old when she emigrated to the US from Mexico with her mother and two siblings. She graduated from high school in the top 1% of her class and continues to excel as a fourth-year Mechanical Engineering major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She is known as a team player and is active with Cal Poly's Engineering Student Council, the Engineering Ambassadors, and the Society of Women Engineers' Team Tech Design Group. With Team Tech, Silva is designing a prosthetic knee that will aid amputees in climbing up stairs. She is particularly proud of her work with Team Tech because she has been able to apply her engineering knowledge to help out a triple amputee. Silvia is determined to live her life with joy and an openness to adventure. "I want to experience the world as a playground to explore in," she says. After undergraduate work, Silvia aspires to a Master's Degree, and ultimately, to develop alternative energy for cars.
Luis With a medical degree as a neurosurgeon or a pathologist, I hope to change my community or even the world. One of my biggest dreams is to join Doctors without Borders, so that I can help people who are suffering hopelessly just because they lack healthcare and resources.
At five years old, Luis emigrated with his family from Mexico to the United States. Now Luis will begin his second year at UC Berkeley. Although his first year was difficult, Luis is determined to earn his undergraduate degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology or Integrative Biology. He has volunteered for ten years in local hospitals and at a senior home, and he continues to tutor students at his alma mater in Oakland. His will to become a neurosurgeon or general surgeon was nurtured through his high school training at the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program and through his research with the Stanford Institute of Medical Research where he received hands-on experience with surgery and cancer research. At UC Berkeley, Luis is a member of MEChA and the Biology Scholars Program.
Fabiola This past summer I decided that I was never going to let a stone in my path get in the way of my dreams; instead I was going to use that stone to build the path that would lead to my dreams. Therefore, I will continue fighting for my dream of attaining citizenship, something that will not only help me reach my goal of obtaining a college degree but also help me get a job where I can utilize that degree and help my community.
Fabiola was valedictorian of her high school, graduating with a G.P.A. above 4.0. This fall, she begins her college education at UC Berkeley where she intends to major in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Neurobiology. While still in high school she served as Student Government Treasurer, participated in a Department of Agriculture student program, interned with Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, was a member of the Silicon Valley Hispanic Youth Symposium at Santa Clara University, and most recently has volunteered with the Kaiser Hospital Volunteer Services. She describes growing up in Richmond as a constant battle, and consistency in academia and community work has helped her win this battle. "My environment has taught me that when opportunities do not come easily, every single opportunity becomes significant," Fabiola observes. In the future, Fabiola hopes to become a pediatrician to help her community.
Leticia I am the first one in my entire family to graduate from high school and will be the first woman from my hometown in Mexico to obtain a college degree. It is my duty to teach the next generation -- in Mexico and here in the United States -- that with determination, dedication and devotion even the wildest dreams can become reality.
Leticia grew up speaking Zapotec, an indigenous language of Mexico, and learned Spanish in elementary school. Just seven years ago, she came to the United States and learned her third language, English. Her community work includes supporting senior citizens, cleaning local beaches, mentoring indigenous youth, and tutoring peers in mathematics and physics. But her greatest passion lies in Civil Engineering. Inspired by watching her father build their home in Mexico with his bare hands, Leticia wants to design buildings, roads and bridges, and to give back to her community through building low-income housing. Continuing her path toward a doctorate, Leticia will be transferring from Oxnard College to UC Berkeley this fall.
Yoshi I have seen the impact a great counselor can have on her students. I want to use my education as a way to help women, especially those who, like me, did not have family support. I want to inspire them to pursue their dreams just as I am doing right now. Too many women have fathers like mine, fathers who told us that educating women is just a waste of time. Those fathers slammed doors. I want to be there to open new ones.
At 15 years old, Yoshi left her rural community in Mexico and began a new life in California. After high school she attended Skyline Community College where she was an E4FC Immigrant Student Ambassador, gaining the knowledge and confidence she needed to resurrect P.O.D.E.R. (emPower Ourselves to Demand Educational Rights), the campus immigrant student support group. She then transferred to UC Berkeley as a Sociology major. She is now a leader of Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA), a liaison to Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALSC, Women Active in Letters and Social Change), and an ambassador of the Chicana Latina Foundation Broadband Project. This summer Yoshi was selected as a Marco Firebaugh Scholar (named in honor of the late CA Assembly member who authored AB 540), where she collected field research for the first time. Ultimately, Yoshi wants to obtain a PhD in Counselor Education so she can motivate other students to pursue higher education.
Cristhian I have come a long way from Peru -- in more ways than one. Literally, I moved over 3,000 miles away from home. But unlike migrating birds who flee the winter for survival, I fled towards it in March of 2002. Since then, with the support of family and new friends, I have worked to become the best student, athlete, and role model possible.
At nine years old, Cristhian left Peru for the United States. In high school, he was a near 4.0 GPA student, captain of both the Cross Country and the Track and Field teams, and treasurer of the Optimist Club. As a Key Club member, he frequently volunteered, revamping the Sunnyvale Baylands Park Ropes Course, preparing food for the community at Our Daily Bread, and distributing election ballots. Cristhian began his college career at UC Davis, where he maintained a 4.0 GPA in the challenging Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior major. Unfortunately, he was forced to withdraw after one year due to finances. He is continuing his studies at De Anza Community College. But Cristhian is resilient and determined to turn disappointment into an opportunity "to study like never before, and to be on a more reliable academic path to medical school." He is a member of De Anza's Cross Country team, and plans to return to UC Davis next fall, and ultimately pursue a career as a medical doctor.
Isabel My motivation to be an advocate of domestic violence victims comes from my experience working at El Centro Legal de La Raza. Unfortunately, when undocumented women report their abuse, they are often deported. I hope to change their lives, support their desire for justice, and challenge laws that penalize them because of their immigration status. I stand firm on the belief that one day, I will assist domestic violence victims and represent them in courts. However, before I can do that, I must complete my undergraduate studies at Mills College because I have the right to a secondary education and I am convinced that the contributions made towards my education are contributions made to my family, my community, and the greater society.
At nine years old, Isabel migrated from an indigenous Oaxaqueño community in Mexico to the United States. She is in her fourth year at Mills College, majoring in Political, Legal & Economic Analysis and Ethnic Studies. She is committed to becoming a human rights attorney, general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and a United States Ambassador in Latin America. These are only a few of the careers she sees as vehicles to fight systemic discrimination against women, children and immigrants. She already acts as an intern with Centro Legal De La Raza, an Ambassador with the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO), and was a member of Mills Leadership Action for Tomorrow - an organization that supports immigrant students. Isabel has been awarded the Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony Award for her community involvement and academic success.
Anayeli When I think of citizenship, the first thing that comes to mind is an American flag filled with words like opportunity, freedom, equality and justice. Citizenship is something I have learned to value without having it myself, a barrier that has isolated me from many opportunities but also made me into the person I am now. Once I become a citizen, I will do my best to serve this county in any way I can. I will be able to participate as a full American in a country I consider my own.
Anayeli spent her childhood in Mexico before immigrating to the United States when she was 10. Now, as a young woman, she forges ties between the two cultures she was raised in: she translates for the Spanish speaking community at the yearly Napa County Bi-National Health Fair; dedicates many hours to student organizations like MEChA and United by Struggles at Sonoma State University; and encourages immigrant students to pursue higher education by organizing workshops and conferences and serving on E4FC's Student Outreach Program. Next spring, Anayeli will be graduating as a double major in Chicano and Latino Studies and Spanish. She looks forward to acceptance letters from graduate schools so she can prepare for a career in teaching and motivating other immigrant students like herself.