Undocumented students are awarded scholarships for college
CRAIG D. FRAZIER Special to the AmNews | 8/24/2011, 6:39 p.m.
Last week, the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC) awarded scholarships to nine courageous, outstanding immigrant students. The ceremony took place at the NYSYLC office in Midtown Manhattan. The diverse group of immigrant students was recognized as exceptional students, strong achievers and active leaders in their communities.
"We are here to celebrate the leadership and courage of undocumented youth in the state of New York. We are awarding scholarships to high school students and college graduates who have shown, through their character, academic records and community involvement, that they want to pursue their dream of higher education," said NYSYLC member Daniela Alulema.
"We believe that it takes a community to make a leader. We are here to support them and tell them that we are here to help. Our mission is to strive for equal access to higher education for all youth, regardless of their immigration status."
This is the fourth year for the NYSYLC scholarships awards. This year's ceremony was dedicated to undocumented New York youth who face deportation and are fighting for their right to remain in the country they now call home.
Yessica Martinez, one of the scholarship recipients, is from Colombia. She is a high school graduate from Queens and will attend Princeton University this fall. "Now that I have graduated from high school and am moving on to college, I remember all of the hard work that I have done for that council and the hard work that the council has done for me," Martinez said proudly.
"This experience with the council has been formidable," she continued. "I have come to understand that there is something bigger than myself. I feel that I am part of a community of leaders. As a student, I have regained the dignity I lost once I found out I was undocumented. The council has empowered me and shaped me. They pushed me to reach my full potential."
Martinez said she would like to see more high school students join the NYSYLC. She wants to see all of the hard work that the organization has done transformed into something valuable. "I would like to see the New York State DREAM Act passed," she added.
Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, the main sponsor of the DREAM Act, presented the scholarship awardees with certificates of appreciation for their hard work and accomplishments. The assemblyman shared his history as a son of immigrants, a student activist and lawmaker in New York City.
"The torch that you are holding is very powerful. This council, this institution, these young people are holding that torch," said Linares. "My job is to help guide that energy you have. I want to help you stand up to the powers that be and those who want to hold us back. Guess what? History speaks loud. History says that no one shall stand in the way of justice."
The NYSLC is pushing for passage of the New York DREAM Act. If passed, immigrant youth would have access to state-funded financial aid and insurance programs and would be able to receive a New York State driver's license.