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2012 Program: Becas Recipients 2012-13

In 2012, Fourteen amazing applicants were chosen to receive full tuition scholarships at CUNY. The selection criteria were academic merit, financial need and commitment to community service, and these winners have it all! Please read the profiles of each of these Becarios, or scholarship winners, so that you can be as impressed as the selection committee was by their accomplishments and their commitment to working with their communities.

Profiles of 2012 Becari@s

Victor Pajarito -Lehman College

Victor Pajarito“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” - Nelson Mandela

Hi, Hola, Olá, Salve, Salut! My name is Victor Pajarito Xochimitl, I was born in Puebla Mexico, but I will always call Brooklyn my home. I am a Linguistics and Russian major at Lehman College with a double minor in Spanish and Anthropology. Learning different languages is my passion and everything that comes along with it such as the culture, literature, food, dance and music. My polyglot career began when I first came to the US, when I was four years old. I didn't know a spec of English when I started school and not even my parents could help me learn it or with my homework. Nevertheless, that didn't stop me from acquiring it, and once I had mastered English I didn’t stop there, I continued to learn more languages until one day I realized that I had become a polyglot with the knowledge of 10 languages.

Getting through High School has to be one of the toughest things to do when you are undocumented and gay. I never thought that I would be where I am today four years ago. I never thought that I would be able to get a college education, considering how much it costs. Fortunately where there is a will there is a way, and now on my final year of college I am ecstatic to say that I will be the first in my family to get a college degree. I love giving back to my communities, whether it is interning at the LGBT center of, NY facilitating groups for queer youth, or advocating for the DREAM Act, or even doing a local philanthropy such as cleaning up a park with my fraternity brothers of Phi Sigma Chi.

As a Becario I will be combining my passion for languages and linguistics with my passion of helping others and advocating for equal rights. I will be working on the Indigenous languages of Mexico campaign to help raise awareness of the linguistic diversity that Mexicans have. This will also include me having the opportunity to learn a complete new and exotic language like Nahuatl.

Elizabeth Calixto - John Jay College

Elizabeth CalixtoAs a student at John Jay, I have cofounded and am the president of two organizations that focus on the Mexican and Latina/o communities in New York, including La Voz de Latino America Club. La Voz was created to educate and promote the social, economic, and political issues of Latina/o in the United States. The club also works in conjunction with the Latin American and Latina/o Studies Department to develop a Newsletter which is entitled La Voz, which highlights issues of importance to the Latina/o community, including Mexicans.

As a contributor and editor of Mexican descent, I have focused specifically on issues impacting the Mexican community. For our December issue, I wrote about the federal/state Dream Act, and for our February publication, I chose a topic that not enough people in New York City was aware of, SB 2281 in Arizona. This law prohibits Mexican American studies from being taught in K-12 system. It also ruled that any and all books taught in these courses were to be removed from all classrooms. As a woman of Mexican descent, I was motivated to do something about this. I suggested organizing a teach-in here at John Jay College to raise awareness on the issue and invited Tony Diaz, a professor and writer from Houston, Texas. He helped to develop a movement called Librotraficantes (book trafficker) whose goal was to smuggle these banned book back into Arizona. He accepted and we held the event at john Jay College.

My goal in life is to attend Graduate School so that I can be better equipped to help out the Mexican community; I am currently volunteering my time with the youth and education committee for the community board 12 in Manhattan and La Union in Brooklyn which both serve a growing Mexican Population. I am also a McNair Scholar at John Jay and my research revolves around the Mexican Community. This program is helping me prepare for Graduate School. I hope that by 2014 I will be on my way to earning my PhD in Social Psychology.

Eduardo Resendiz - Lehman College

Eduardo ResendizMy name is Eduardo Reséndiz and I was born and raised in Mexico City. In 2005, I arrived in the United States, along with my mother and my younger sister, as undocumented immigrants. At the age of fifteen, I continued my education attending New World High School, where I learned how to speak English. During my High School years, I participated and volunteered at many charitable, non-profit organizations around New York City. Such as The Bronx Defenders, North-West Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, New York Cares, and many others, as a way to better engage in my community. I worked to improve the main issues concerning NYC including public safety, health, education, and employment. Thanks to my teachers and the support of my parents, I successfully graduated in 2009 and proceeded to continue my college education at Lehman College, CUNY. Despite the lack of financial resources, and challenges I face as an undocumented student in college, I'm proud to say that I'm currently a Lower-Junior, Full-time, Music Major Student. Apart from school duties, I am a strong activist in the DREAM Act movement and I also intern weekly at State Senator Gustavo Rivera's office, in the Bronx. I also remain a strong community member collaborating with organizations and programs such as; New York Immigration and Coalition, Mirabal Sisters Cultural and Community Center, Latin Women Empower FACES and the Urban Male Leadership Program, at Lehman College. I'm very grateful with the CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies for granting me the opportunity to be one of the recipient's for the Becas Scholarship, which is allowing my college education to be one-step closer to its realization.

Marlen Fernandez - Lehman College

Marlen FernandezMy name is Marlen Fernandez, I am currently a Junior at Lehman College, double majoring in Anthropology and Latin American Studies. As of right now I am planning to pursue Medical Anthropology at the graduate level. My family is originally from Puebla, Mexico. I came to the United States at the age of three and have lived here my whole life. I grew up in White Plains, located in Westchester County. Aside from school I am also the Vice President of the Lehman Dream Team and the Co-coordinator of the Westchester Dream Team. These organizations focuses on helping undocumented students find resources, provide a safe haven and promote personal growth, through leadership, community service, and activism. Participating in these organizations allows me to bring change to my community as well as raise awareness about the many struggles undocumented youth face. Being that I myself am undocumented this is a cause I hold close to my heart. In addition, I will continue working with the Mexican Studies Institute this academic year by interning there. My task will primarily focus on helping to coordinate the Becarios.

Arline Herrera - City College

Arline HerreraArline Herrera was born in Puebla, Mexico in February of the year 1991 yet migrated to the United States five months later with her family. As a child growing up in the South Bronx, she had big dreams of becoming a teacher. With a small blackboard and her hands covered in chalk, she would pretend to teach her teddy bears the alphabet. This determination to become a teacher came from her own ardent love for learning and her incessant longing for knowledge.

Growing up speaking Spanish made it an arduous task to learn English in school. The crowded bilingual classrooms in school hindered Arline’s teachers from always providing independent help for each student. Nonetheless, Arline was committed to her academic success.

One day, her father brought home a dictionary. Arline continuously searched up unfamiliar words, questioned their pronunciation and gazed at the colorless pictures provided. Arline discovered her love for words and aspired to become a good writer. It was because of these adversities she faced while learning English that helped her appreciate the power of language. Furthermore, her admiration for her bilingual teachers motivated her to also help children learn the English language. Therefore her dream is to become a bilingual elementary school teacher to help children in the communities of the South Bronx. She is currently majoring in Bilingual Childhood Education and History at the City College of New York.

Margarita Sidoa - Hostos Colleg

Margarita SidoaMy name is Margarita Sidoa, I am from Puebla Mexico. When I was seven years old, I began a dream that one day I would become as a nurse. In Mexico I didn’t have the opportunity to study because of the poverty I experienced. However, years later I thankfully came to the United States where I could begin to study to get my GED. After that I entered Hostos Community College in the Bronx, where I learned many things that I did not know before. Some months ago. I applied for a scholarship that I won! I felt very proud of myself because thanks to that I can continue to study and finish my career. Also, with this scholarship I can participate in the community helping people. I really appreciate this project because in this way I will find people with similar dreams, capacities and, energy to succeed. Also I can share my knowledge to others.

Stephany Barron - Lehman College

Stephany BarronMy name is Stephany Barron. I am currently majoring in Computer Graphics and Imaging where I hope to demonstrate my passion for art and design. As a Lehman Scholar I am also seeking the ability to take part in research projects and individual studies that will strengthen my academic performance and experience at Lehman College.

Karina Sandova

Karina SandovaMy name is Karina Sandoval I am majoring in Electrical Engineering. I graduated High School with an Advanced Regents Diploma unfortunately because of some events in my life I wrongly chose not to pursue my dreams. I thought I was not smart enough. But people in my life made me realize that I was doing the exact opposite of what I preached, I was giving up out of fear, fear of failure, and limiting myself. I am a cosmetology graduate and hope to use the skills I learned to help me pay for my college education. By giving blowouts and haircuts while I am in college and I hope to establish myself as an “electrical engineer”. Once I have my associates in electrical engineering I plan to look around for internships or paid internships to get a “feel” of the field. After an associate’s degree I plan to obtain a bachelor and possibly a master’s degree.

I hope college opens the door to many projects ideas. I would love to meet people who would like to participate and create programs for educational purposes such as to help recent U.S immigrants and immigrants in general, children’s (tutoring and educational classes), programs to help teens (who are facing difficulties while working, going to school and having problems at home), elderly (who are victims of domestic violence and scams), coat drives (for the homeless), Fresh food drives (where we would either donate our own money or make fundraisers to make some fresh sandwiches and give them in the boroughs to people in need) and many more ideas we come up with not just for the one community we belong to but to all communities because I believe we are just one group of people belonging to just one community, which is humanity.

Veronica Tepale - Hunter College

Veronica Tepale First, I want to say how grateful I am to have been chosen to receive a Beca. My name is Veronica Tepale and I am an undocumented, undergraduate student attending Hunter College. Few are the times that we as Mexicans are recognized for our achievements. Thus, not only has the Beca become one of my many motivations to continue with the career I intend to pursue--Medical Lab Science--but also an opportunity to become more involved in my community through an internship I will be enthusiastically attending the spring semester of 2013.

Jasniya Sanchez - Baruch College

Jasniya SanchezSince late 2009 I have worked with Qualitas of Life Foundation, whose mission is to provide basic financial education to Mexican and Hispanic families in New York and promote financial stability in order to improve their standard of living. Today, I am a volunteer academic coordinator at Qualitas where I manage alliances with community centers throughout the city, revise academic material, coordinate facilitators as well as conduct workshops. These workshops provide an introduction to the basics of family financial planning, the banking system, insurance, and investments, among other topics. By teaching communities how to better manage their finances, each family will have the opportunity to bring financial stability to their households. As an immigrant myself, I understand firsthand what it is to lack access to reliable information regarding banks and other services.

Education is something that I hold dearly and feel like our community often overlooks it. As I was taking part of the leadership course in 2010, conducted by the Mexican Consulate and Baruch College, I met young members of the Mexican community that felt the same way I did about education. With the knowledge we gathered at the leadership course, we organized a couple of meetings with our own friends and bounced ideas about what and how the Mexican youth could do to inform and motivate our community about higher education. As a result, the youth group MAYAS (Mexican American Youth Advising Students) was created. To this day MAYAS continues to motivate and inform not only the Mexican community, but also the immigrant community about the importance of having a college education. As a founding member of MAYAS, I can proudly say that despite our complicated schedules, which include work, school and community work with various Mexican nonprofits, we have managed to motivated others to see college as an option for themselves. Furthermore, currently I am a part-time Master in Public Administration student at Baruch College, where I am concentrating in Nonprofit Management and scheduled to graduate in the fall of 2013.

The opportunity of being in this program fills me with great honor and the responsibility to do my best because I am part of the generation of Mexicans in New York who in the near future will have a voice and vote in what happens in this great city not only politically, but economically as more and more of us get educated and show our full potential. As with any great responsibility, there is a price to pay. This price has been a combination of various factors such as the struggle to find a way to help my parents with the burden of tuition costs and dealing with the uncertainty of my future as a professional here in the greatest city of the world. Despite the challenges I might have faced to get to where I am today, I consider myself lucky as I look at all that I have accomplished with the support of my parents and many other important individuals.

Read a profile about Jasniya in CUNY's Winter 2013 Salute to Scholars [PDF]

Angelo Cabrera - Baruch College

Angelo CabreraAngelo Cabrera knew that getting a college degree was the only way to change his working conditions, and at the same time he felt it was also an opportunity to challenge the concept that “most Mexican cannot go to college.”

In the fall of 2001, the City University of New York decided to change its in-state tuition policy regarding undocumented students. Regardless of his status, he was not affected directly with such changes; nevertheless he decided to fight for those students that couldn’t continue their college education. Early in the spring semester of 2002, he organized students within the Mexican community and CUNY to stage a three-day hunger strike in order to protest, but also to spread their message. Consequently, there was a rapid response and hope for thousands of undocumented students shone brightly: in the summer of 2002, he was invited by the New York state Governor George E. Pataki to the signing in-state-tuition law ceremony at City College.

In early 2004, he formed a partnership with Professor Robert C. Smith’s organization MEXED (Mexican Educational Foundation of New York), and together created the “Mexican Mentorship Project” to reduce the dropout rate with in the Mexican community, and to provide academic role models to Mexican students living in New York. He currently serves as members of the CUNY Task Force to strength opportunities for Mexican students and other Latino students at CUNY, and he also serves as a President of the MASA-MexEd.

As a community leader, he was appointed by the Mexican community to serve honorary advisory board to the Mexican President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa 2009 to 2011 to represent the Mexican community in New York. His work has been recognized by the Mexican President of Mexico Felipe Calderon, New York City Council, The New York State Senate, Mexican Consulate of New York, New York State Attorney, recipient of the Cuauthil’s award, and recently award winner of Iniciativa Mexico (1.5 Million Pesos) to promote MASA’s program. As student, he has received various fellowships including a Leaders Program Fellowship at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, CORO, and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Currently he is a recipient of the Hagerdon Scholarship at SPA-Baruch College.

His work has appeared in mayor news media, People en Español with the story “El Angel de la Educación” 2009, New York Times, NCB Latino News, Primer Impacto, Univision 41, Telemundo 47, Televisa Mexico, Despierta America, ABC Eyewitness News, El Tiempo with Joe Torrez, NPR, WNYC, El Diario la Prensa, El Diario de Mexico y muchos mas. He currently writes for el Diario de Mexico as a Columnist in Education.

Rosa Tovar - Lehman College

Rosa TovarMy name is Rosa Tovar, and I am proud to be Mexican. Currently I am pursuing my master’s degree in social work at Lehman College, where I feel extremely fortunate to be part of this learning community. Since the age of five when I immigrated to this country, I became aware of the social injustices that came side to side with the American dream. My mother, like many immigrants, came to this country in pursuit of the “American dream” in hopes of a better education, employment, and dreams of a better life for my sister, and I. With this dream I had to endure and overcome discrimination, adversities and many hardships. Theses adversities have shaped who I am, and what I want to do with my life, my family, and my community. I feel a sense of jubilation to be able to empower my community by; informing them of their right as immigrants and to be able to empower then to navigate multitude of social service system as it pertains to their children and families.

I knew the only way to break the continuous cycle to stereotype, discrimination, and inequality was through education. Due to this, I chose to bridge the gap in services that continues to affect many communities by committing my passion to social change by pursuing my masters in social work. Being a full time student, working fulltime, and managing several internships, while caring for my family wasn’t easy however, determination, motivation, discipline and diligence have helped me to overcome many obstacles to achieving my personal goal of being the first in my family to graduate from college, and pursue a masters in social work. I am honored to be a Becaria, because for the first time I feel that the efforts and dedication to perseverance is validated and acknowledge in both micro and macro level. There is nothing else that I am more passionate about than having the opportunity to empower my community and the world at large.

Janet Perez - Lehman College

Janet Perez Janet Perez is a college student and activist in the immigrant community. She was born in Puebla, Mexico but raised in the Bronx, New York. Janet is currently attending Lehman College, pursuing a double major in Computer Graphics and Imagining with Business Administration, as well as a minor in Political Science. She is the President of the Lehman DREAM Team, a club on campus that provides a safe haven for both undocumented students and allies, and an active member of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, an undocumented-youth led organization fighting for the undocumented immigrant community. Janet also volunteers to teach at a Religious Educational Program as a Catechist and has recently joined the Tertulia Resolana as an intern as part of the Becas Program. She hopes to one day become a political champion in reshaping political views of undocumented immigrants, especially Mexican migration. She is a firm believer in ¡Sí se puede!

Luis A. Saavedra - Lehman College

Luis A. SaavedraLuis Saavedra is attending CUNY Lehman College and is majoring in Anthropology with a minor in Sociology. Luis became one of the first members of the first Dream Team at CUNY, the Lehman College Dream Team. He is also part of the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC); the first undocumented-youth led non-profit organization in New York. As a core member of NYSYLC, Luis is co-coordinating UndocuQueer, which seeks to foster solidarity among queer and immigrant communities. He is also a co-coordinator of NYSYLC’s Leadership Development (LD) committee and has helped facilitate and organize LD’s Youth Empowerment Program and Youth Leading Change trainings. As part of YLC’s NY Dream Act campaign, Luis walked 150 miles from New York to Albany, advocating for the passage of the bill. Luis will be interning with the Center for Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Meet our Becari@s!