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2016 Program: CUNY Becas Recipients 2016-17

In 2016, we received over 200 applications to the CUNY Becas Scholarship Program. We conducted over 40 CUNY Becas Application workshops throughout New York City to aid students in preparing their applications. With the support of our sponsors and donors we were able to extend scholarships to 44 students in total.


Mabel Acosta

Mabel Acosta Mabel was born on February 27, in the city of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She will soon start as an undergraduate at John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a major in Political Science. Since Mabel was very young, she felt that she had a great purpose in life. She arrived to the Unites States in November of 2013 as a 14 year old girl. Without any knowledge about this new culture, or its language, Mabel soon started to work hard in school and within 6 months she was at the top of her class and fluent in English.

In 2015, Mabel participated in the summer program of the Sadie Nash Leadership Institute where she met magical women who taught her how important and valuable women are in our society. Thanks to the amazing experience from Sadie Nash, she developed her deep devotion for equality and justice.
Today Mabel has received help from the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute, in the future she also wants to support those students who are not able to afford an education. The Latino community has given so much to her, so she will eventually give all of that love back. She dreams of representing her country at the United Nations. Mabel believes that education should be reachable and affordable for everyone. From experience, she knows that Latin America children sometimes do not have the opportunity to study as much as they wish. Her biggest goal is to contribute in every way she can to provide an education for every kid around the world, especially for Latinos.

Francisco Aquino

Francisco Aquino I was born in Puebla, Mexico and brought to the United States at the age of two. My memories of my home country are extremely limited due to the young age at which I had to leave, yet I feel extremely proud of my Mexican descent. Currently, I am an undergraduate student at Lehman College. I intend to use my education to become an asset to my community and to make a difference in the life of those close to me, family and colleagues alike.

The oldest of five kids, I quickly learned what having a sense of responsibility meant. I took care of the little ones as my parents did their part in keeping us fed and comfortable. Living in the United States I also came to realize the difference between me as a Hispanic and the rest of society. At the time, I used to run errands and there were numerous times when I felt belittled because of my roots.

There was once an incident that really imprinted itself on my mind: On a public bus, I ran into an old man of Hispanic descent who began to yell at me, telling me to go back to my country because I didn’ t belong in this one. He said that my people were nothing inthis world. At the time, I was thirteen. No one in the bus moved a finger to defend me or to say anything to comfort me as the man ranted on furiously. I will never forget that. I have been discriminated against in many other occasions, but I have never allowed these experiences to put me down. I have had to be strong not only for me, but also for the people that needed my help. Over the years, I have sadly realized that sometimes hate manifests itself regardless of race, gender or age.

Now that I have become the first college student in my family, I will seek to better myself and to be stronger for my family. If the time comes when they depend on me as I once depended on them, I aspire to be able to provide for them while always extending a helping hand to those around me. I wish to support my community and be someone they can be proud of.

Yessenia Benitez

Yessenia BenitezMy name is Yessenia Benitez and I recently graduated from high school. This fall I will be pursuing a career in engineering or business at City College. I was born in Morazan, El Salvador and came to the U.S when I was 4 years old. I am the first person in my family to attend college. I have older cousins and family members who weren't able to continue their education and instead had to start working to support their families. My goal is to become a role model for my younger brother and cousins and to show them that a good education can take them a long way. I wish to be able help my family economically and to assist the Hispanic community in any way I can.

I grew up in a diverse city with a large population of Hispanics. Throughout high school I joined clubs like Key Club and the Student Government Association whose mission is to provide a better high school experience for everyone. Fifty percent of the students in my school were Hispanic and I was able to get involved in their community and help them. I also volunteered as a chaperone at my brother's elementary school where about eighty percent of students are Hispanic.

Thanks to CUNY Becas I am able to continue my education, follow my dreams and continue to help my fellow Hispanic community.

Guadalupe Bermejo

Guadalupe BermejoMy name is Guadalupe Bermejo and I am an undergraduate student and McNair scholar with a focus in psychology and sociology at Hunter College. As a first-generation Latina woman, negative remarks have tended to discourage me from pursuing my career because of my ethnic background.
In order to obtain a PhD in Clinical Psychology, my experiences have helped me realize that a college education will help me open doors that are closed because of my cultural background. As a high school student, I had the opportunity to be part of an early college initiative held at Hostos Community College. Not only did I graduate high school with an advanced regent’ s diploma but, in addition, an Associate’ s degree.
As an intake counselor at The Door, I conducted one-on-one interviews in Spanish and English with teenagers and adults to address communication and identify youth risk. The opportunity to work as an intake counselor provided me with the skills needed to conduct interviews in both English and Spanish with Latino youth. If children and adolescents are placed with a person who is capable of understanding their background and language, the therapist-client relationships can grow since more familiarity of the cultural norms may exist. With this experience, along with the Bachelor’ s Degree I will receive in 2017, I plan to continue taking steps towards a PhD in clinical psychology in order to further understand and improve mental health issues for people of Latino ancestry.

As a McNair scholar, I am confident that my experience and background can contribute to the diversity of CUNY Becas. In turn, the scholarship will help me engage in my field of interest and aid me in preparation for graduate studies.

Hazel Bonilla

Hazel BonillaHazel Bonilla was born in the city of San Salvador, El Salvador. At the early age of six, she migrated to New York as a refugee from the post-civil war and continuing violence of her home country. She currently attends CUNY's Brooklyn College, where she is a BFA theater major in tech and design with the intention of pursuing a career in production management. Her dream is to work in a pro-social-justice theater and produce a play about the struggles faced by the undocumented immigrants living in fear in the United States.
She joined the NYSYLC in 2011 after being tired of living scared as an undocumented immigrant. Thanks to this organization, she learned to be proud of her status and began to advocate and raise awareness about immigration issues. The immigration rights she strives to achieve for all Latinos are gathered from the hauntings of her own childhood; the right to an education, the right to work and the right to reside legally within the United States. Only with these rights obtained, will Hazel - and the rest of the Latino community - go from victims of failed immigration laws to human beings with a brighter future. Nevertheless, she continually thanks the organizations that have given her wonderful opportunities because of her status, from Catholic Charities - allowing her to meet Pope Francis - to the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute for contribut ing this wonderful scholarship!

Belinda Buceta

Belinda BucetaMy name is Belinda Buceta and I am 22 years old. I was born in Puebla and crossed the border with my mom when I was 7 years old. I am the oldest of six siblings, 3 other brothers and 2 sisters and the only one who wasn't born here. After being temporarily homeless we lived in the projects of Southside Jamaica for a little more than 10 years. It means a lot to me to be able to say that. I remember the embarrassment I would often feel at the mention of where I lived. I’ ve come a long way from the shy, insecure and angry girl I was at the age of 16. I have been living on my own since I was 18 and working full time. Thought I never forgot my mom’ s biggest desire for me, she constantly stressed the importance of education and the doors that it would open towards a better life.

My interests are broad but they reflect a part of me. I love math, art, biking, photography, wildlife, science, music and food. My main interest in life are to inspire others to look past all the labels that divide us and work together towards the good of our planet and its people. I aspire to be involved in the conservation efforts of both nature and wildlife.
This is why I have decided to pursue an Associate’ s Degree in environmental science at La Guardia Community College. Recently, I have become recipient of all the help that is out there for dreamers like myself. I am grateful because without DACA and the support provided by some of the organizations we all know, I don’ t know where I’ d be. My community work begins with myself. I have worked hard to allow myself the confidence to be myself and in the process inspire others to do the same. Volunteering at Mixteca Inc has been quite an experience as well. I’ m currently a math instructor and there’ s something about giving help to those who sought it that is very rewarding. This newfound sense of pride in my heritage and where I am from is my inspiration to give back and help better my community and its people as well as continue to grow as an individual and an academic.

Daniela Castillo Munoz

Daniela Castillo MunozMy name is Daniela Castillo Munoz, I was born in Usulutan El Salvador July 6, 1998. I was raised by my grandmother since an early age. This led me to have a poor education due to the fact that my grandmother never pushed me to do my best because she didn't have any education. Unfortunately my mom had to work far away from our home in order to give us a sustainable life.
Because of this I was also poorly educated and I was never thought to care about school. My mom came to the United States in 2004 and five years later in 2009 I was brought here.

It was a struggle to understand why things had to change from one day to another. As the years went by it became even harder to get a handle of life while going through anxiety and personal struggles. In 2014 when I was in my junior year of High School I join my school's Dream Team, which opened up many opportunities. It also helped me understand that my status wasn't going to determine my future. As senior year got closer, I was open to many opportunities and got to meet awesome people that helped me build up my confidence in education and showed me that being undocumented wasn't going to stop me from graduating from High School and going to college. As a young adult, I was never interested in going to college or making something out of myself. However, joining Dream Team taught me to strive for greatness and never settle for less. Now I am a Sunset Park High School graduate who will be starting a new chapter at York College in the fall of 2016 perusing a psychology major.
Thanks to CUNY BECAS I will be able to start my first year of college and become the first member of my family to ever go to college. Thanks to this scholarship I’ ll be allowing myself to pursue my dreams and education while serving the community and learning new things as the year goes on.

Nayelly Campos

Nayelly CamposMy name is Nayelly Campos, I am currently attending Lehman College, majoring in Biology with a minor in Business. I was born and raised in the Bronx, NY, but I am a proud Chicana!
My parents immigrated to the U.S when they were 14 years old and since then my mom has done everything she could to get me through school despite my father leaving my family. At such a young age my mom worked days and nights so that I am able to have a bright future and become someone. I was her motivation to do better and for that she is my motivation to help others. I want to go into the medical field because I have a passion for science and wish to open up my own practice one day so that I am able to help my community.

Throughout my whole life I knew I wanted to give back, which is why I volunteered at different agencies along the way, such as M.A.S.A and Whedco. I wanted to be the change I see in the world and become an advocate for the Mexican community. I am honored to be a part of the CUNY Becari@s of 2016 because I know it will help me get one step closer to where I want to be and to achieve my goals. I want to be the change and motivate other Latinos that dreams do come true and that anything is possible if you just set your mind to it!

Dulce Cebada Hernadez

Dulce Cebada HernadezMy name is Dulce Cebada Hernandez. I was born in Tlaxcala, Mexico. My mother raised me as a single mother and she brought me to the United States at the age of twelve. Growing up, with my mom and my stepfather was difficult because my grandparents took care of me since I was a baby.
I consider that my grandparents are my parents because they saw me grow and they were there when my mom left me with them. My mom immigrated to United States, when I was one year old. She wanted to give me a better life. Coming to United States was not easy because I miss my grandparents and learning a new language was a struggle because I did not have an older sibling to help me.

Even though I went through many obstacles I had the courage to graduate from High School with an excellent GPA, and after a one year, I attended Kingsborough Community College. It took me almost three years to graduate because the tuition was high, but I made it, I got my Associate's degree in Accounting. I dropped out school for two years because of my financial need. I started to volunteer in my community to help kids with their homework. My goal is to achieve my Bachelor’ s degree in Accounting and Bilingual Education. I have faith that I will achieve my goals to support more Mexican students to continue their education.

Gabriela Ceja

Gabriela CejaI was born and raised in Mexico City. I have dedicated my artistic and pedagogical practice to portray and amplify the faces, voices and circumstances of low wage workers. Many of them are indigenous people who out of need move into cities to work in construction or domestic activities in the process facing a lifetime of classism, racism and exploitation.
I believe art and education are tools for social change that should support the least privileged. I create multidisciplinary programs and socially engaged art practices looking to empower and motivate people to take back the possibility of learning, self-expression and self-development. Together we can find ways to positively transform and delineate time, space and relationships.
I initially moved to NYC as the Artist in Residence of the Diego de la Vega Coffee Co-op art project and I am now thrilled to be part of the Labor Studies MA program at CUNY. I feel absolutely proud and grateful for being supported by the Mexican studies community, which will be a great source of knowledge, inspiration and nutritious collaborations.

Jazmin Cruz

Jazmin CruzNow a senior at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Jazmin majors in Political Science and double minors in Economics and Latinx studies. She was elected president of the John Jay Youth Justice Club, a club that focuses on the way the criminal justice system has impacted black and latinx youth both at city and state wide while keeping updated on country wide policies.
Through the Youth Justice Club, Jazmin also focuses on undocumented youth, formerly incarcerated, LGBTQ+ and many other identities and intersectionalities shared by her and her peers at John Jay. Over her final year at John Jay, Jazmin will be working under the CUNY Service corps at a non profit organization that will enable her to further help her community as she has been doing through her internship at College Access: Research and Action (CARA). Here Jazmin works with the director and co­director to train and advise current college students to go back to their alum high schools and help the seniors apply and matriculate into college. Similarly, Jazmin has been interning at the Window of Educational Opportunities housed at the General Consulate of Mexico in NYC to attend the consulate goers on ESL and GED/TASC classes, plazas comunitarias and one on one consultations on CUNY and financial aid/scholarship resources to help them apply and pay for college. Jazmin will graduate at the end of the Spring semester and will to continue fight and advocate for human and social justice.

Daniela Dejesus Umana

Daniela Dejesus UmanaHello, my name is Daniela Dejesus Umana, I’ m Salvadorian- American and I will be attending Brooklyn College. I have pursed art throughout my middle school and high school years, but I’ ve decided to be the change I want to see in my family. I want to be a veterinarian and help support my family and influence as many people as possible that you can be anything you want to be. This scholarship will help my family and me because we don’ t come from much and knowing that I won’ t be paying school for a year is very relaxing. Being the first ever doctor will mean so much to my family, friends and neighbors.
Being the president of Fuerza Latina, a community service based club definitely opened my eyes more and helped me realize my true passion to help people. My culture has also shaped me to be the best person I can possibly be because we all love and care for one another, and we only want to see the best in people even if people have bumps on the road. I hope to inspire more people because I didn’ t think I was smart enough to go to college and become a doctor. With hard work and determination, anything is possible.

Jessenia Guapisaca

Jessenia GuapisacaMy name is Jessenia Guapisaca and I born in Cuenca, Ecuador. I arrived to United States three years ago. I will be attending Borough of Manhattan Community College as a freshman this fall. I do not have a solid set mind, but I am planning to major in communications/journalism and minor in computer sciences. I have acted upon my role in my co mmunities by being involved in New York State Youth Leadership Council, GoLEAD Program, Citizens’ Committee for Children, Sadie Nash Leadership Program, and Immigrant Youth Peer Educator Program at Atlas:DIY. I am also currently part of the first job posit ion offered to a group of undocumented students at Atlas with eight other young people.
We are helping our community dominantly Mexican immigrants, fill out D.A.C.A application, D.A.C.A renewal application, Citizenship forms, different visa types including T-Visa, U-Visa, asylum, and SIJS status. We also help the community to make sure if they might be eligible for D.A.P.A they are ready to apply. My life is defined in two words flux and adaptation, since very young age to the present date. Now that I am getting more knowledge about what it realistically means to be undocumented and understand that although my hard efforts to change society’ s mind about me, I might not actually be able to change how I am viewed through their eyes. Despite of these difficulties, I believe issues like immigration and educational injustices affects our entire range of immigrants across Central and South America as a whole. Therefore, we should come together to create a space such as the Mexican Studies community, where we dare to dream regardless of our financial hardships and encourage each one’ s voice to scream ‘ Si se puede’ in a world of ‘ You can’ t.

Brenda Hernandez

Brenda HernandezMy name is Brenda Hernandez. I was born in Mexico City and raised in Queens, New York. I just graduated from LaGuardia Community College and will be transferring to John Jay College in the Fall to pursue a bachelor's degree in Political Science. Afterwards, I plan to take the LSAT and go to law school. Thanks to the Institute (CUNY BECAS) I was able to complete my last year at LaGuardia Community College and get closer to my community. I interned at New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) and learned ways immigrants are taken advantage of and the different struggles they face. This is also what reinforced the idea of becoming an attorney in the future to give back to my community and advocate for social change. My ultimate goal is to become a role model for my sisters, my community and myself. It has been an honor to be a part of this group. I have met awesome people and I have gotten close to my community and roots.

Dulce Hernandez

Dulce HernandezDulce Hernandez was born in Veracruz, Mexico, and was raised in Queens since she was 1 year old. She is currently a Rising Senior studying Graphic Design at Queens College. She transferred to Queens College after graduating with her Associate's degree of Science in Performing and Visual Arts from Queensborough Community College.
The creative field has always been her sanctuary and she enjoys photography, drawing, writing, dance, and design. Dulce has also shown interest in helping her community and has participated in various non-profit organizations including Fiver Children's Foundation, which was a 10-year program that allowed students to attend a camp in upstate New York every summer and teaches children about being a friend, individual, valuable team player, environmentalist, and risk-taker. On her off-time Dulce volunteers at their office in Manhattan.

She was also a part of Goodwill Industries of New York, where she worked as a Group Leader at her elementary school, teaching children about painting and ballroom dancing. In Queens College, she is currently the President of Queens College Dream Team, a club that raises awareness about the issues concerning undocumented students and provides a safe space that allows these students to express themselves, judgement-free. She is also Treasurer for Hakuna Matata Club at Queens College, which is a club that focuses on an Anti-Bullying, Stress-Free, Self-Awareness Environment. Dulce believes that being empowered, and empowering others has made a difference in her life and she is excited to be a recipient ofCUNY BECAS. She dreams of starting her own printing and design business or opening up an Art Gallery when she is older. She wants her business to help organizations who are working to help families in poverty, reducing violence in the world, and supporting the natural-environment. She thanks CUNY BECAS for believing in her and being an exhilarating support in her life.

Gloria Hernandez

Gloria HernandezMy name is Gloria Hernandez and I will be attending City College. Also, I am first-generation college student. Along with my parents, I immigrated to America from Mexico at the age of two, and since I have been determined to excel in my studies and pursue the career of my choice - civil engineering. For a long time. I have been giving back to my community through volunteerism. This has given me the opportunity to work with a diverse population of people, such as senior citizens, children, and people with special needs. It has also helped me learn about a variety of social issues within New York City. I gave back not only to my community, but to my city as well, which shows the integrity and positive things Hispanic teenagers can do.

Luis Carbajal

Luis CarbajalLuis Carbajal is a 2015 Becario and a current student at New York City College of Technology. He is following his passion by working on a bachelor degree in Computer Science. Luis holds an associates degree in Computer Information Systems. He has been volunteering in several non-profit organizations helping them with IT related problems and web development. Luis was born in Toluca Mexico; at fifteen he immigrated to USA to support his family. In 2007, he was awarded a scholarship by his teachers at Lutheran Church in Delaware to take an intensive English class at the University of Delaware. In 2010, Luis was awarded with the Peter Jennings scholarship to go to college, that year Luis was also accept in BMCC community college where he took English, Math and science. Today, Luis is in his third year of Computer Science Program, and he has been nominated twice for the National Honor Society. He is also on the Dean’ s list, and a member of the Honors Program at NYCCT, as well as an active member of the computer club at NYCCT..

Raul Margarito

Raul Margarito
My name is Raul Margarito, I come from a small town in Oaxaca, Mexico. This town is isolated from society and a place where people think dreams or goals are impossible to attain. I lived in a culture where everything repeated like a circle. Women grow up to get married at a very young age without completing their education. Men grow to take care of their families and farm animals. Most of the time everyone gives up without trying any further because they know they are doomed to live like their ancestors. I came from a culture where people didn't know how to write or read because we spoke an indigenous dialect. I overcame many obstacles in my life, which can be exemplified by me getting into the International Baccalaureate program despite my background. I began high school as an English as Second Language student.

Not only did I overcome the language barrier that was present, but I went a step further and worked hard to demonstrate my potential. Soon enough, I was able to apply for the rigorous International Baccalaureate program. Not only did I focused on my education, but I became aware how important is to help your community. During my junior year in high school, I joined the Dreamers Club, which informs undocumented people about their rights and assists them. In my senior year, I joined an organization called Make the Road New York.

In March 2016, with this organization, I went to Manhattan to protest because the governor cut state funding to the City University of New York. If I had to choose a word to describe myself, it would be a “Dreamer.” I’ m always willing to try something new to gain more knowledge and different perspectives. I’ m a big believer that failure only makes you strong and giving up is never an option in life. Thanks to CUNY Becas I'll be the first generation to attend the College of Staten Island. The fact that I got this scholarship, it reflects my determination to make the most out of my education. A quote that always gets to me is, “A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.” Louis Zamperini

Jose Angel Mejia-Martinez

Jose Angel Mejia-MartinezThe name is Jose Angel Mejia-Martinez, born in Mexico City on October 3, 1994. At the age of two my mother carried me across the Mexican border. Thus, I arrived as an undocumented immigrant to Staten Island, New York on September of 1997. My father had already immigrated to New York the same year I was born. The rest of my siblings came years after that with the help of family and close friends. I had no control over the conditions in my home country that forced my parents to come to America for a better life. I come from a family of eleven; four sisters, four brothers, including me and my two parents. I am the seventh youngest child and only my two younger sisters are American citizens. I never returned to Mexico, all I have known is life in America.

Since 2004 I have been a consistent activist of the Eye Openers Youth Against Violence. Being a part of the Eye Openers I was able to improve relations across all social barriers and proactively organize for social change. As a community leader and an undocumented student I have taken an active role in advocating for a compassionate Immigration Reform. I have empowered youth to join the immigration movement by becoming politically involved. I have over six years of experience mobilizing and organizing my community for various youth empowerment summits, protesting, lobbying our New York Senators and our Congressman. I have also educated and advocated for the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), and DACA/DAPA (Deferred Action for Childhood/Parenthood Arrivals). I made it my mission to show the value of education and to transform the lives of undocumented students into leaders and role models within their communities. The workshop events that I have organized and participated in include the following: know your rights if stopped by police, as a worker, undocumented immigrant, and as a resident living in New York. I have also organized workshops with youth, which include getting prepared for college, resume and cover letter building, how to make yourself more marketable for employers, professional networking, educational programs, how to find the right job, internships and much more. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, I partnered with Project Hospitality and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs to bring relief to impacted neighbors in the Midland Beach area of Staten Island. At first I handled food and clothing donations for Project Hospitality’s warehouse. A month later I began to work at the New York Sandy Restoration Center and FEMA Disaster Recovery Center as a consultant for the Department of Consumer Affairs. I was personally responsible for a large caseload of clients. My duties involved negotiating with insurance companies on clients behalf, fight for consumers rights, file complaints, to where to get access to financial help, food, clothing, housing and legal services. Currently I am an intern with Make The Road New York’s adult education English literacy program. As a teacher, I'm responsible for keeping 3 classes of 20 to 25 students, focused, motivated and productive. I teach basic computer skills and English literature to ESL adult students.

I graduated from Port Richmond High School on June of 2012. Following my commencement, on August 2012 I graduated from the New York Police Law Enforcement Explorer Academy. On May 2013 my life changed positively when I received DACA, a work authorization card that provided me with a social security number. This great achievement opened various opportunities for me and I immediately took action. On August 2013 I graduated from the New Millennium training center as a Certified Nursing Assistant. On June 2015 I successfully completed the intensive Pipeline to Justice Pre-Law Summer Program at the CUNY School of Law, which empowered me with the legal field knowledge, giving me the skills to be a sufficient legal writer, how to fight social injustice, and what it takes to advocate for my community. On May 2016 I was given the honor of being 1 out of 18 people throughout the United States, to be offered a position as an Advocacy Corps Organizer with the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington D.C. I will be mobilizing my community to develop relationships with members of Congress and encourage them to act on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

New York State and local taxpayers have invested in my education from Prekindergarten through high school, but now undocumented students like me are being denied financial aid to help pay for our college tuition. This legal issue did not stop me from pursuing a higher education. I began my college education at the CUNY College of Staten Island (CSI) in the Spring of 2013, I saved up enough money to pay for two semesters on my own. My hard work, leadership, and dedication to community service was recognized and I was given the honor of being a 2015 and 2016 Becario recipient. I have so much to be grateful for because of the CUNY Becas program, since it has helped me continue with my education, grow a professional network, and effectively make a difference in the Mexican undocumented community. I am currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science with a minor in Legal Studies and I’m expected to graduate in the Spring of 2018. My goal after college is to go to law school to obtain my Juris Doctor Degree to become an attorney at law. I have the experience and training to maintain great projects effectively. Throughout my journey of life I have acquired skills and overcame numerous obstacles, which has magnified the level of success that I have achieved. I have grown to become a strong undocumented student who will keep fighting until my community achieves dignity, equity, and justice.

Edgar Morales

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 taught me when I graduated from middle school because some of my former classmates and friends had decided that they had had enough of studying and 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 and I'm currently a senior 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 six 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, 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 resolved to learn English on my own. I learned, from a classmate who learned from her mistake, that "a steep path lies ahead for those who give 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 joined Raza Youth Collective where I was growing as an individual and also created 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.

Solange Ortega

Solange OrtegaMy name is Solange Ortega and I am currently a junior at the City College of New York majoring in Applied Mathematics. My father came to the United States of America in 2001 and was planning to stay only to work for one or two years. His goal was to accumulate enough funds to finish paying for the construction of our dream house back in Mendoza, Argentina.

He settled in Queens, New York along with my uncle and his cousin. In December of that same year, my mother, along with my two siblings and myself, arrived to New York to finally reunite with my father after months of being apart. My parents soon realized that there were more opportunities for our family in America than in Argentina. Because I was only five years old upon arrival, I was able to complete my entire pre-college education in the United States. My current goal is to graduate with a bachelor’ s of science in hopes of later acquiring a Master's Degree as well as a PhD.
As an undocumented student, I do not qualify to receive Federal Student Aid and am also unable to enroll in various internships and programs based on my major. Thanks to the CUNY Becas Scholarship, I will be able to continue my education and thus be a step closer to fulfilling my goal and dream of graduating college with a bachelor's degree.

Mariana del Carmen Osorio Adame

Mariana del Carmen Osorio AdameMusic and art have transformed my being and my consciousness. When sculpting, my hands have finally found their true purpose as creation tools. My violin is not an inanimate object anymore, it has become an extension of my arm, of my fingers and of my body. Most importantly, my art is becoming a reflection of my soul. I do not own it, it possessed me. We are the same resonance, the same interpretative body that transforms noise into sound, experiences into music and dead objects into sculptures to be enjoyed. My name is Mariana del Carmen Osorio Adame and I was born in Chilpancingo, Guerrero.

I am studying a double major in Music and Arts. The moment when I found music as the disposition of my life, I was only ten years old. It was a sensitive displacement, an artistic explosion from inside out that would transform me in ways that I could not imagine. Since then, my passion and love for music have led me to perform as a soloist in professional orchestras and obtain scholarships and awards in my country and overseas.
Later, I discovered a passion for sculpture and photography. There is something truly indescribable about creating something that didn’ t exist before. It is a deep satisfaction that goes well beyond the joy of interpretation. It is a transcending feeling that once experienced will continue to haunt us and demand the very best from us. Whether in the form of a musical composition or a work of art, I have truly found my inspiration in creating. I feel a deep gratitude towards the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute for allowing me to bring my dreams closer and closer every day. I pledge to continue working hard, creating music and art, and contributing with my knowledge and actions for a better future.

Laura Pamplona

Laura Pamplona

My name is Laura Pamplona. I was born in Bogota, Colombia. My family moved to New York City when I was 13. It was then when I entered the education system as an ESL student. Since then I’ ve become very passionate about languages and language education. During my time in high school, I started to notice the gap between ESL students and the rest of the community at school.

This detail motivated me to become the president of ASPIRA, an organization that creates bilingual education in New York City schools. As a president of ASPIRA, I was able to help my peers learn more English and strive for college. I was very fortunate to have teachers that inspired me. I decided to become an ESL teacher and in time, I hope to inspire students who struggled like me. Currently I am a rising senior at Queens College, and I am pursuing a bachelor’ s degree in Linguistics TESOL.
In addition, I am currently working for Queens Library at their Corona branch. This job has given me the opportunity to create programs from early childhood literacy to English conversation groups. Of course, all the programs are bilingual to better serve the Hispanic community. I am very thankful to the CUNY Becas program for giving me the opportunity to finish my career. I am confident that the support of their staff will help me achieve my dreams while building a better community.

Nuno Pereira

Nuno PereiraI was born April 10, 1995 in Yonkers, New York to an impoverished family in which both parents are undocumented immigrants, with only high school and middle school educations.
Work opportunities were limited and the fear of deportation and separation prevented us to advance a great deal. Due to multiple circumstances, I went through a crucible at just the age of four, being battered and abused by my caretakers as my parents had to focus on finding any work at any hour. However, there was still a piece of me that believed the world was a beautiful place where change could bring about justice. As I got older and saw that society was not perfect, I felt an urge growing inside of me; one to not only accept my past and learn from it, but to become a "hero" and bring change to the world. I realized that higher education is the catalyst for becoming an effective and influential agent of change. For this reason, I chose to begin my journey in Union County College in Cranford, New Jersey as a Criminal Justice major. My course work in criminal justice highlighted the need for reforms, and revealed to me a significant, but often unaddressed, flaw in our system: eyewitness misidentification. After serving my community in a plethora of active positions and graduating with my A.S, I was awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which enabled me to be accepted to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where I currently study Forensic Psychology and research memory.
My research seeks to address the flaw in eyewitness testimony and identify cross-cultural differences in the quality of testimony as a means to improve police procedures and protocol. As a means to prepare for change, I am also currently the Founder and President of Educate the Future, a local educational movement to provide free school supplies, tutoring and mentoring services to all low-income families regardless of economic and social background. My future goal is to continue studying and not only be the first in family to receive a four year college degree, but also to continue on to receive a PhD in social psychology.

Diana Perez

Diana PerezMy name is Diana Perez and I'm an undocumented student. I was born and raised in México City. At the age of fifteen, I immigrated to this country with my mother and my brother after my father abandoned us. Since I arrived in this country in 2010, I was always encouraged to take advantage of the all the opportunities available in the country. We live in an environment that highly values education and where school is our only opportunity to succeed. Therefore, I am determined to succeed, never give up, and make the most of the opportunities that are given to me. In high school, I graduated as the Valedictorian of my class. However, once I graduated I was forced to face the reality that as undocumented student I had to work twice as hard in order to achieve my career goals.

Educational attainment is crucial to the socioeconomic progress of individuals and being undocumented represents a significant life barrier that impedes this educational attainment. Currently there are very limited scholarship opportunities for undocumented students who do not qualify for DACA. Nevertheless, once in a while you are lucky enough to find a great opportunity. That’ s the case of the CUNY Becas Program, a scholarship that breaks these barriers and not only gives the opportunity to continue your education, but also to contribute to our community. It is an honor to be part of this program for the second time because the program provides me with the experience and brings me closer to fulfilling my goals and future life aspirations. I am currently an undergraduate student at The City College of New York majoring in Economics. My greatest aspiration is to one day create my own business and help our community through education. I especially admire Don Jaime Lucero and his noble vision of helping the Mexican Community through education. Don Jaime’ s own experience is an aspiration for me to continue helping the Mexican community. The CUNY Becas Scholarship is an invaluable opportunity that gives us the hope and motivation to keep pursuing our career goals.

Jazmin Perez

Jazmin PerezMy name is Jazmin Perez and I was born in a little town in Puebla, Mexico. I was brought to the United States at the age of 13. At that age, I never thought I would be struggling on a daily basis. Despite the constant struggles, from language barriers, discrimination, and financial difficulties due to my status, I will not give up until I reach my goal.
These are challenges that inspire me to work harder because there is a spark within that keeps my dream alive. I am an undergraduate at Borough of Manhattan Community College majoring in Community Health Education. I am very passionate for making a change in the Mexican Community, especially among immigrant women.

This is the first time I am receiving a scholarship, thanks to CUNY BECAS I will achieve one of my biggest goal, get a college degree. Most importantly I will be more active in the Mexican Community. After being a part-time student for over 3 years, I will finally be a full-time student. It will allow me to concentrate in my studies and be more dedicate to my community. In the future I want to pursue a bachelor’ s in Latino Studies. These majors will allow me to gain both historical, the health perspective of Latinos, and the genetic relationship between health and our backgrounds. After getting my Bachelor’ s, I want to become a health educator. I want to help my community through a health approach. This is one of my passions that I hope to fulfill one day.

Maria Pimentel

Maria PimentelMy name is Maria Pimentel and I’ m an undocumented student. I’ m 18 years old, I was born and raised in Tlaxcala, Mexico. At the age of five, my dad immigrated to the United States, and my mom immigrated to the United States one year later. My grandmother took care of my little brother and me. During that time he was two year old and I was 6 years old. After spending five years without my parents, my brother and I immigrate to the United States with the purpose of meeting my parents again.
Coming to this country wasn't easy, but my brother and I had chosen to face all obstacles that keep us from succeeding. One of them was to be comfortable with our parents, after being without them for five year and then meeting with them, it was like being with strangers. When I arrived to this country I realize how important education is. The five years that I spend without my parents I wasn’ t focus on my education because I was worry more about my little brother education. It was hard being in school because the teacher speak in a language that I didn’ t understand. I start learning the language by reading, It was hard because I didn’ t even knew how to read in my own native language. I put all my effort and I learned to read in my own language. I knew it was going to be hard, but I also knew that with effort we can achieve whatever we want, and my first short term goal was to be the student of the month in middle school. When I become the student of the month for 3 months I knew that could achieve my goals. Being the student of the month inspire me to move forward. In high School I was in honor role all the time. In my senior year I decided to challenge myself and run for the spot of the president of 2016. I became the president and the voice of of all my classmates. Which made me a leader.

This year I will start my classes in college. I’ m still not sure what to major in, but I will follow my passions and my talents. I feel that I have the potential to be someone in life that can make a change. Starting from my family. I’ m encouraging my siblings to be educated and follow their dreams. I’ m the first member in my family to attend college. Thanks to CUNY becas I will meet my goal. It is an honor to be part of CUNY Becari@as of 2016, because they help students like me. Students that want to continue with their education but don’ t have the money. CUNY Becas will give me the opportunity to develop myself, by motivating me to keep working hard to achieve my goal. I hope one day I will pay this opportunity by helping someone in the future. Someone who will be in the same situation as me.

Michelle Puma

Michelle PumaMy name is Michelle Puma. I am Ecuadorian, but Mexico has adopted me because my own country has denied me support when I needed it. I am first generation in college. My parents and I were separated for 11 years and since I was 15 they have been my main support to get to this point. Now I am 20 and I’ m going to attend the last year of my undergraduate degree.
I have come a long way that I am even impressed. I earned my Associates Degree in Business Administration at Stella and Charles Guttman Community College. This new community college opened doors to me whenever I knocked. I grew personally and professionally with all the professor’ s and staff’ s attention. Thanks Manny! I met great people and the most important mentors and friends. I currently attend Lehman College studying an undergraduate degree in Business Administration in Economics.

Three years ago I never thought about going to college. Pursuing higher education was never a topic of interest for me and my family back in Ecuador. Like past generations in my family; females marry to a man to depend on him for the rest of her life, no matter the circumstances. That is the way I grew up, knowing that females must be obedient and dedicated to their husbands. Not knowing anything better, when I was a teenager I decided that I should do the same.
Once I immigrated here, I have been blessed with people along my journey that see my potential and believe in me. When I was little I thought I was a failure. Now when I meet young people and I tell them my story, it motivates them. If I got this far, there is no reason for you to go even further. I am building a new path for females in my family and will keep educating myself as long as I can with the help of organizations like this. I am very thankful to CUNY Becas and like said before, I will prove that I deserved this opportunity. Thank you for all the support and great memories to we will create together.

Noah Quezada

Noah QuezadaPeople used to call me Lisseth, but I changed that in 2015. I chose to go by the name Noah when I came out as a trans-man. Undergoing this change was crucial. It took a lot of courage. Noah is who I truly am.

Since I was a child I have always been a dreamer. I had the dream that one day I would leave my hometown and go out into the world to become a successful individual, free of stigma and injustice. Living in my town, San Miguel, was not easy because I had to deal with homophobic people who harshly judged and criticized me for my sexual orientation. However, the small mindedness of those people did not stop me from coming out as a trans-male in my community. I was the first trans person in the town. I wanted to spread the message that being trans is okay and make people realize that I was not a monster.
I struggled with this for years, but I felt that no progress was happening. Soon, I realized that the only way to actualize my dreams would be to immigrate to the United States, like my mother had done. When I was 3, my mom had to leave me. My mom crossed the border in 2001, running away from a man who abused her physically and verbally. Without options and having been denied protection from the authorities, she took out loans from coyotes and risked her life to travel to the United States. My mom is my role model and my Hero. With hard work and dedication, she was able to make a new life for herself. My mom gives me the strength and courage to be a leader in my community and encourage others to fight for justice.

I knew that in America, I would find the freedom to be who I am. There I would find better opportunities for education and life beyond school. The U.S. is known as a country full of opportunities and acceptance, but that turned out not to be the case for me when I came in 2012. Being trans and undocumented created many barriers. Nevertheless, this situation did not break my spirit. I sought out help and found hope in community organizations that support people like me. I started participating in various programs such as Lulac, Aspira, LGBT Alliance, Explorers, and Make the Road New York to continue my mission of bringing awareness to my community. I am a strong believer that education is a unique treasure that can be acquired through life. Education is something that you will have forever and that no one can take away from you. Education is a tool you can use to help others. The knowledge you have gives you power that can destroy barriers. I want to be the first one in my family to go to college. I want to show all the people in San Miguel who judged me that they were wrong and that I will be successful. I want to lead by example and support all others in my situation who dream about living in a society that values equality and justice. By awarding me the CUNY Becas they have lightened my financial burden, which allows me to focus more on the most important aspect of school, learning. Your generosity has inspired me to help others and give back to the community. I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goal as just they helped me.

Katherine Quishpe

Katherine QuishpeI came from a beautiful country, full of flora and fauna. If you look closer on the inside you would fine that poverty child abuse and gossip are the daily bread. However, you can also see the friendship and the family is most value. The respect of children for the parents, solidarity and the desire to help is what unites my country. I was born and raise in Ecuador, during my childhood I lived with my father’ s family where I was tread as a maid. They judge me for the error that my mom made when she was a teenager. despite this negativity I never stop fighting for my dreams.

Been the older sister had made me stronger since I have to be a role model. Sadly I have to live my country and my sisters in order to take a better life. I arrive to United State almost three years ago, one of the biggest challenge is learn English. However it haven stop me for helping the community. I enjoy be productive and be part of the change for a better world “Poniendo un granito de arena”.
Working at masa (non profit organization) I get a successful experience helping the latino Immigrant community, specially with dreamers that have the hope to be qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and obtain a worker permission to protect their right in this Country. Thanks to CUNY Becas I will continue my studies at LaGuardia Community College as a full time student, that mean i can still help the community without financial worries. I am very enthusiastic to start this new journey in may life. Aunque me falte mucho por aprender voy a dar lo mejor de mi “even thoung I have a lot to learn I will give it my best".

Julia Ramirez

Julia RamirezMy name is Julia Ramirez I am part of the BS/MA Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I am pursuing a Bachelors in Criminal Justice Management with a minor in economics and a Masters in Public Administration. I am a first generation college student. Both my parents are from Puebla, Mexico and immigrated to the United States twenty-one years ago. Helping my parents with their immigration case has been one of the most challenging and eye-opening experiences I have encountered. Through their case, I learned about law and the different issues that the Mexican community encounters. My parent’ s case has motivated me to continue helping the Mexican community and explore law and its different aspects.

My time at John Jay has been nothing short of amazing. With the help of the CUNY Becas scholarship and the John Jay community I have been fortunate enough to participate in various internship sites and programs that have helped me connect my love for my community as well as my passion for law and criminal justice, such as the Pinkerton Fellowship where I work at College Initiative, Hudson Valley Community Coalition where I worked as a Case Manager, the John Jay Honors Program and the Paula Howell Anderson Scholars Program at John Jay. I am fortunate to enough to be able to continue my studies and fulfill my dream of attending law school and serve my community.

When I am not in school, work or an internship site I enjoy reading, writing and running. My favorite book is Pride and Prejudice and my favorite thing to eat is takis. I can only cook tamales rojos, but read and save recipes for salsas as if I am a professional chef. I also enjoy spoiling my two younger brothers with time and love a little more than I should. My most important goal in life is to make a difference in my community and to one day be as supportive and positive as my parents have been throughout my life.

Roswell Ramos

Roswell RamosMy name is Roswell Ramos and I am currently a rising junior at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. My focus is Criminal Justice with a minor in Latino Studies. I work hard whether it is at school or at work. Both of my parents did not finish school because of financial hardship back in Mexico. They had to leave their country and start from nothing. Day to day I see their struggle, unspoken, but I see it. Either seeing my mother with her battle with cancer or my father having a rough day at work.
These experiences are my motivation to continue working towards my dreams. Throughout my academic years, criminal justice and Latino studies have always interested me the most. Becoming a NYPD Police Officer fits perfectly into my field of interest. My overall goal is to become a homicide detective after finishing my three years as a starting officer. Another subject that I enjoy and I am interested in continue pursuing is Latino Studies. I’ ve always been very connected to my Mexican roots and as a student, I think the knowledge that I am receiving in class is immense. I also enjoy the arts and the culture diversity. I enjoy the visual arts because it helps me clear off my mind from difficult situations. Since age five, I have played the Vihuela, a Mexican instrument that consist of 5 strings, very similar to the guitar.

I started working in a Mariachi band at age 14. I have had the honor to present in the Gracie Mansion in NYC, Carnegie Hall, the Martha Stewart show, and at the Univision TV network offices. Mariachi Music has definitely been a gift of my parent’ s heritage. I proudly put on my Mariachi suit and smile to perform for the people. Although my parents have always struggled to make ends meet, becoming a Mariachi musician on the side allows me to assist with home expenses and save some money for college. I would like to thank the CUNY Becas Scholarship as well for giving me the financial and educational support that will help my long-term goals to work in the criminal justice field.

Giovanny Sandoval

Giovanny SandovalInformation changes the situation. Be the best version of yourself.If you know you are not, you got to ask the question of yourself, ‘ Why am I not what I should be?’”Same old ...just a different day, out here tryna get it , each and every way ,momma need a house, baby need some shoes, times are getting hard ,guess what I'ma do (what's that?),hustle, hustle, hustle, hard (Ace Hood).”” Aztec in my blood vessels...don’ t really talk too much, Mexico momma came from, immigrants ill name some, my momma, my daddy, my sister, my uncle, my grandma, but I’ m the main one...don’ t call la migra, la migra, why would you call la migra?cause you aliens, oh no, now you believing the media, you believing the.... that you see on t.v., cross the border to live the American Dream...”

My name is Giovanny Sandoval and I will be attending The College of Staten Island. When I go out there, whether it’ s the classroom, or not, I like to always keep in mind that there are numerous people counting on me that I can’ t let down and failure is not an option.
I always like to take pride in what I do because I’ m not just representing me, my family, but most importantly, a country, Mexico. It’ s an honor to receive this scholarship because I’ m looking forward to trying to put Mexico at the apogee and setting the example for all these young Hispanic kids out there, some of my countless goals. Having immigrant siblings, parents, family members, and friends, is what pushes me more because they don’ t have the chance to go to school, have the desired job they want, desired wage, all because of their legal status. I have the interminable amount of possibilities of things I can do because I was born here, which is something that I’ m constantly reminded by from my family. I here this and that about Mexicans, but I use that as motivation and know that I have to go out there and prove those naysayers wrong. I see them working in construction, restaurants, mowing the lawn, waiting to get picked up by random trucks in hope of receiving work and it gets to me. This is something that I’ m doing for my people as well.

Mary Lou Retton once said,”Each one of us has a fire in our heart for something. It’ s our goal in life to find it and keep it lit.” It all started in the 8th grade when my computer teacher put on the film Freedom Writers, which would then change my whole life forever. Reality hit me at that moment and made me realize that this world needed teachers like Miss Gruwell(English teacher) and I wanted to become like her. She was zealous, caring, motivating, vocal, and intrepid.
She was the ideal teacher I would have wished I had in any subject, but what I loved from her the most was that she always put her students first all the time over everyone, which showed how much she cared for their future, families, and dreams. Throughout my whole life I have bit the dust, weathered the storm, but I always keep in mind that every cloud has a silver lining.

When I began high school I had nobody to go and tell my problems, nobody to tell what I was going through inside and outside of class, was in need of advice in many areas, had so many wonders, was lost, perplexed, dejected, full of jittery, etc. Throughout my high school years I started to appreciate of what I had been going through, like they say, everything happens for a reason. I had found my fire, since English was already my favorite subject; the desire to emulate Miss Gruwell was there. From that moment I told myself that I wanted to be more than just a teacher, but a mentor outside and inside of the class, serve as a parent, role model, brother figure, be a vocal leader, be supportive at all times to the students. Some of my goals are making a positive impact in that student’ s life, family, pushing the students to the best of their ability, try to make them the best version of themselves, create a family oriented environment. If that means me going to that student’ s house everyday to check on him, talk to him privately along with his family, stay afterschool to assist students with questions and problems, then that’ s what I’ m willing to do. Nothing in life is promised and I know I will have to work hard to reach my dreams. I don’ t know if I’ ll be here next year, but I can only hope for the best.

Carmen Santos

Carmen Santos I’ m very thankful to The Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute for giving me the opportunity to participate and become one of the recipients of this program. This program will give me the opportunity to continue to pursue my career goals while I work hard to help and push for improvements within my community. My name is Carmen Santos. I am from Oaxaca, Mexico and I came to New York City at the age of 17.

The biggest challenges I faced when I arrived were language barriers and the chaotic daily life. However, after a few years in the city, I realized that challenges in life make people strong and persevering. I'm currently attending York College, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Health Education. I am the first person in my family graduating from college. This motivates me to continue with my education and demonstrate my siblings and other family members that everything is possible when you set goals and go for them. Perseverance has its rewards. My career plan is to finish my bachelor's degree and then pursue a master's degree in counseling to help students in need. I’ m a hardworking and dedicated student who cares about the community. I have served my community by volunteering with a nonprofit organization, such as Make the Road to New York. Working with the community was very interesting, fulfilling and had a lot of pleasant experiences. It would be a pleasure for me to work assisting people again. In the future, I plan to go back to Mexico to advice and help my community in overcoming obstacles that will help them lead a happier and more productive life.

Lorena Solis

Lorena SolisLorena Solis is a current recipient for the CUNY Becas 2016. She is also a current graduate student at CUNY Brooklyn College, pursuing an M.A. in Industrial Organizational Psychology with a concentration in Organizational Behavior.
Solis wants to pursue a career in academia to represent her Mexican culture and heritage in higher education. She believes that representation matters in leadership roles. Solis is currently dedicating her time in doing research in team science and how it is impacted by diversity, culture, and inclusion, in organizational setting. She is also interested in cultural issues that impact minorities in leadership roles. Through her research, she wants to make an awareness of the difficulties that minorities face in their everyday life.

Marcia Suarez

Marcia SuarezMarcia Suarez is a junior at Queens College pursing a double major in Comparative Literature and Latin American and Latino Studies. She has been living in Queens since age seven, when she came to this country from Mendoza, Argentina. She enjoys literature, language, and art.

One of her greatest passions is learning through experience and people and being able to write about these experiences in whatever medium possible. She would like to be able to use the arts, particularly writing and written expression, to advocate and to connect the Latino community and the queer community to help bridge the gap formed by prejudices and misunderstandings. She hopes to be able to dedicate more of her time to helping the Latino immigrant community in whatever way possible and help give voice to those that do not have. She will be a CERRU Fellow beginning Fall 2016 semester and feels completely blessed to have this scholarship to help her in her achieve academic dreams.

Ernesto Tohom

Ernesto TohomHave you seen the movie about a teenager who had the ambition to become a businessman? When he was in school, his father died from a disease. The economy support ceased, but the guy did not give up his objectives. Four months later, his older brother was killed in front of him. As a poor family, they had to borrow money to bury their relatives. The necessity and the loans from banks started to kill the teenager’ s dream of becoming a businessman. He was the only support for his mother and sister. He decided to come to the United States for opportunities. Let me confess you, this is not a movie. This is my real life.
My name is Ernesto Tohom, and I'm from Guatemala. I'm currently attending Borough of Manhattan Community College majoring in Small Business Entrepreneurship. I arrived in New York with $10000 debt for my journey. After 2 month, I got my first job. However, I got fired because I was too young and I could not perform the job as they wanted. I went to the stop where laborers look for jobs, and I found a job cleaning a school at nights that helped me pay my debt. I decided to learn English. I also went to work in construction, to get extra money for school. One day, while I was cutting sheetrock, I cut my left thumb. I was afraid to ask for help or even go to the hospital because of my undocumented status. I went to the hospital anyway, but I ended up with a debt of $2000. The worst thing was that since I could not work with my thumb operated, I lost my job.

At that point, I believed that every obstacle made me stronger. I started to learn English at the Asociacion Tepeyac of New York. I found a job an Events Hall cleaning after parties. I worked six days a week, while attended school on Saturdays from 7 am to 8 pm. In the mornings I took English classes, while in the afternoon GED classes. I passed the GED exam a year after. I join the Leadership Program at the Asociacion Tepeyac called WALK, where they also help the youth to enroll in school. One of my goals was to go to college so I enrolled in the BMCC ESL program, and then I came to CUNY Start program. Now that I am at college, I continue working hard to achieve my goals.

Mauro J. Trejo

Mauro J. TrejoMy name is Mauro J. Trejo. I was born in Mexico City and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of eleven. Leaving my homeland changed my life completely. After the death of my grandmother and family conflicts, my parents decided to rotate our lives, the destination, New York City. I knew we were leaving home and pretended to be brave, but my tears reflected my fear. Leaving my school, friends and environment felt as if I was leaving my life behind. Each step I took forward was a step away from Mexico.
The night arrived; I was waiting in a hotel in Tijuana when a man knocked on our door asking me to get ready. I crossed the door with a determination that I had never felt before. The hug my parents gave me that night before departing could have been the last, but I did it for them. I trusted my parents and I was separated from them to a cross the border. Another country, language, culture, another life. After two weeks of waiting with my aunt, my parents and I reunited in California. A whole new scenario was presented to me; somehow, I had the task of adapting to it. I was welcomed in school by a group of Hispanic students, which made me feel accepted. At the end of my second year in school, I felt confident about speaking English and successfully left the ESL program.

Circumstances changed in High School as the greatest challenge of all appeared in my life, being undocumented. Dreams, goals, motivation, all collapsed when rejections based on an immigration status began to affect my daily life. Seeing others obtaining their first job, driver's permit, visiting their countries and applying for college had me trapped in a cage created by myself. I attached a chain called being undocumented to my back. I let my status beat me down to the ground, unable to see a path. I had surrendered on my education. In 2011 I graduated High School and started to work only a couple of days a week in a restaurant. A year later, DACA brought a sense of hope to my life, a hope that I had lost because of my blindness. It was at that moment when I realized that being undocumented was not a reason to give up, but instead, it was a motivation to work harder than others. To taste rejections, but to stand with my head up and battle my greatest challenge, my imaginary chain. With DACA, I became a full time employee, saved money and entered college. Paying my college tuition and other expenses has been hard, but not having an opportunity to do so was even harder. The satisfaction of being in college knowing that every single dollar has come from my long hours of work has no price. I have broken my chains and entered doors that I thought were locked for me. As of today, I feel capable of looking at my obstacles straight to the eyes. I know I will find a key to open the rest of the doors, the scholarship granted to me by The Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute, is one of them.

Maria F. Vera Cante

Maria F. Vera CanteMy name is Maria F. Vera Cante, I am seventeen years old and I was born in Cholula, Puebla. I came to the United States at the age of ten and have lived in New York City ever since. I am a recent high school graduate and wish to continue my education. My parents have always shown me support in everything that I have tried, as long as I did my best, they were content. The day of my fourteenth birthday my grandfather had a heart attack, three weeks later he passed away and this was one of the times where I had to show the same support my parents showed to me whenever I needed it. My father ended up going back to Mexico to say his final goodbyes to my grandfather. This happened almost four years ago and I have not seen my dad since then since we do not have a visa. Things have been difficult these past few years but my mom has stepped up greatly. She has been taking care of both my sister and me, working long, tiring hours to support us. The day I received the email I had been hoping to get from the CUNY Becas program saying that I was one of the recipients of the scholarship, it was a day filled with happiness and hope. Happiness because that scholarship was my ticket to college, it was going to help me achieve my dreams. It gave me a sense of hope because at the time I felt like every door was being shut in my face. Being an illegal immigrant makes everything much more difficult. All of my friends were applying to the colleges of their dreams and getting all of the financial help that they need yet some of them complained that it was not enough. I sat on the sidelines wishing I could be them. I felt like I was going to let my parents, family, teachers and everyone who believed in me down by not being able to go to college. Thanks to the CUNY Beca I will be starting my freshman year this fall semester at BMCC. Being one of the Becari@s means a lot to me because thanks to this program, I know I will not be letting anybody down anytime soon. I will also be serving back to the community which is something that I love to do and have been doing for a couple of years. This time it will be even more special because I will be serving to my people, the Mexican community.

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