LatinaLista — Jose Lara is the co-chair of the Association of Raza Educators, a group of Hispanic scholars who adhere to a teaching philosophy of creating not just students who excel in academics in the classroom but who are also socially conscious and can act to make a positive difference in their communities.
Mr. Lara and members of his organization try to help the neediest Hispanic students achieve their academic dreams by fundraising for college scholarships. The ARE has identified the neediest Latino students as those who are undocumented, thus not eligible for federal aid.
While undocumented students cannot receive federal scholarships, they can receive private scholarships. Yet, the premier financial aid organization for Latino students, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, refuses to award undocumented students with any type of college scholarship.
Mr. Lara explains to Latina Lista why he and ARE are working to change that policy.
The Association of Raza Educators (ARE) ramped up its national campaign demanding the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) stop discriminating against undocumented students with a protest outside HSF headquarters in San Francisco on Thursday November 20th 2008. HSF has repeatedly emphasized that it â€œwill not knowingly grant scholarships to individuals without legal status.â€
There are an estimated 65,000 undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools each year. As a private organization, HSF is one of the few sources of financial aid undocumented students can turn to since they do not qualify for state or federal aid. Last year alone, HSF gave out over $26 million in scholarships, with none of that financial support going to undocumented students.
The Association of Raza Educators sent various letters imploring HSF to allow undocumented students an opportunity to apply, but HSF continues to refuse.
The fact is that undocumented students face tremendous hardships that U.S. citizens do not; moreover, even though HSF does a wonderful job supporting Hispanic students, its open and blatant disregard for the neediest in our community is deplorable.
In its defense, HSF responded to some of ARE claims by stating that they do not have the power to change national law and that they will not jeopardize losing corporate funding in order to allow undocumented students apply.
While HSF does not have the power to change federal law, it is well within its power and it is fully lawful to allow undocumented students to apply for their scholarship. As a Hispanic organization, HSF must not discriminate and include all Hispanics, not just those who are citizens, in spite of unjust immigration laws.
Only then will HSF reach its goal in assisting Hispanic Students reach their educational goals.
So far, more than twenty community-based organizations have endorsed this effort, with over 2,000 people signing the online petition.
Videos have also been produced by ARE calling on HSF board members Cheech Marin and Univision anchor Maria Elena Salinas (whose father was undocumented) to help promote this needed change in the organization's policy.
All students deserve the right to be educated and have their voices heard â€” regardless of their citizenship status.