Nine local soon-to-be high school graduates received scholarships Tuesday from The Dream.us, a scholarship fund organized by several philanthropists with the goal of making it easier for young immigrants without legal status to attend college.
The scholarships were awarded at Los Angeles City Hall to recipients like Brandon Gonzales, a 17-year-old about to graduate from Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach. Like the others who received the scholarships, he was brought to U.S. illegally as a child, and now has temporary legal status through the federal program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Also like others there, he talked about big ambitions.
"I hope to major in business administration, but my main dream is to hopefully become a financial analyst for a big company like Nintendo," said Gonzales, who obtained a reprieve from deportation and a work permit through deferred action last year.
He said he learned about the scholarship fund - which awarded him $25,000 for his forthcoming studies at Cal State Long Beach - after his mother saw an announcement on Spanish-language television.
Dream.us founders include former Washington Post CEO Don Graham and other philanthropists, among them Democratic fundraiser and activist Henry Muñoz and Carlos Gutierrez, former Secretary of Commerce under the second Bush administration.
The scholarship fund has worked with students in California, New York, Texas and Florida, channeling them to participating schools, so far a dozen four-year and community colleges that include Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach.
Fund president Candy Marshall said that even in California, where state law allows financial aid and in-state tuition for unauthorized immigrants, there are funding gaps that keep many of these students – known as “Dreamers” - out of college.
“There are still obstacles, because they cannot access federal aid," Marshall said. "California is very much a hallmark across this nation in what we can do for Dreamers. It offers them Cal Grants, they can get institutional aid. But it still doesn’t cover the federal aid they would be able to get if they were a U.S. citizen.”
Marshall said the fund has handed out 264 scholarships so far, and that applications from more hopeful winners are still being processed.