August 8, 2019
Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) Business Administration alumna Juana Encinas came to the United States from Mexico with her mother and siblings to join her father in New York City when she was eight years old. It wasn’t until she was a teenager, and wanted a part-time job, that she learned she couldn’t legally work because she was undocumented.
“I asked my mother where my social security card was, and she told me I couldn’t get one,” said Encinas.
Encinas did well in high school and as her graduation approached, she assumed she would qualify for financial aid, be able to go to college and eventually land a good-paying job.
“A group of visiting college advisors told me that unfortunately, as an undocumented student, I didn’t qualify for any assistance,” said Encinas.
Then one night, her mother took her to a church where a group of lawyers was helping young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. And then, Encinas applied for TheDream.US scholarship—a program that offers college scholarships to highly motivated DREAMers who want to get a college education but can’t afford it. As of 2018, the program had funded more than 4,000 DREAMer scholarships since its founding in 2014.
Data show that at BMCC, 139 students have been served since the program’s inception. The average three-year graduation rate among BMCC’s TheDream.US scholarship recipients is 90.16 percent; and the two-year graduation rate is 76.39 percent.
By 2017, Encinas had graduated BMCC and then in 2019, graduated from Baruch College (CUNY). Her plan is to work for a year, and then pursue a master’s degree in finance.
She said a lot of people don’t understand what the TheDream.US means to people like her.
“It’s about having a career and life my parents were never able to even think about,” she said. “In ten years, I see myself as the Chief Operating Officer of a firm.”
Encinas joined more than 140 fellow Dreamers at an CUNY hosted welcome event for new recipients of the TheDream.US Scholarship program at BMCC’s Fiterman Hall Conference Center on August 1. BMCC/CUNY is one of 75 colleges nationwide that partners with the program. CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodriguez spoke at the event.
“Today is a day to celebrate you, to let you know you have the support of TheDream.US organization, and the City University of New York,” Rodriguez told the students. “We are here to make sure you succeed.”
More than 1,000 TheDream.US scholarship recipients from across the nation watched the event online. Nationally recognized immigrant rights leader Maria “Gaby” Pacheco as well as TheDream.US co-founder, Donald E. Graham, the former publisher at The Washington Post, also welcomed the students to the program.
“CUNY has embraced the Dreamers and has been so warm to undocumented students,” said Graham. “These students have more barriers to overcome than others.”
The BMCC DREAMers
BMCC Interim President Karrin E. Wilks told the DREAMers at the event, they are a really important part of the CUNY and BMCC student population.
“We are proud to be in a nation of immigrants. We are proud to support TheDream.US program here at BMCC. It is critical to our mission and what we’re doing at CUNY in terms of advancing equity and social justice, and you in this room are all a beautiful example of that,” said Wilks.
BMCC Vice President of Student Affairs Marva Craig, who has worked with TheDream.US program since its inception in 2014, says when BMCC administrators first met with officials from the program, the goal was to address the needs of DREAMers at the community college level.
“We hosted scholarship workshops to help students navigate the application and in the process, we formed strong connections with this vibrant group of students,” said Craig. “We developed social media outreach and comprehensive programming to connect scholars to the campus and to each other and we supported scholars when they faced setbacks and we celebrated their successes.”
Forty-seven TheDream.US scholars are matriculated at BMCC for the fall 2019 semester.