Spotlight: Young DC professionals band together to give hope to college-bound immigrant students

LatinaLista — College education costs are rising so quickly and steeply that a lot of students are losing hope that they will ever achieve their dream. For low-income immigrant students, both legal and undocumented, that hope to achieve a college education is even slimmer — until The Esperanza Education Fund.

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Founded only in 2009, The Esperanza Education Fund is already making headlines with their mission of awarding college scholarships to immigrant students who live in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, regardless of their citizenship status.

The cool thing about the Washington, DC-based organization is that it is an all-volunteer group of young professionals who are lawyers, economists, documentary filmmakers, entrepreneurs, designers, consultants and educators who came together because they care about the growing education gap in the capital region among the immigrant population.

This immigrant population faces a severe education deficit. Immigrants in the area are three times more likely to lack a high school diploma than their native-born peers, and 50 percent more likely to have never gone to college.

This education gap creates a serious economic disparity. Foreign-born families in the capital region are nearly twice as likely to be poor as native-born families. Immigrants in the capital region need access to higher education, and to the opportunities and leaders that higher education forges and provides.

There are two scholarships awarded: $5,000 for two-year degrees and $10,000 for four-year degrees. In addition, the recipients further benefit by being enrolled into an intensive academic and professional mentorship program sponsored by the Esperanza Education Fund.

The organization has no formal office or any other kind of overhead that would subtract from the scholarship awards. Yet, that doesn’t mean they don’t need money to fund the scholarships.

Since they were founded, the group has had a number of successful campaigns to raise money and so far have been able to award $50,000 in scholarships to six immigrant students who were selected from 250 applicants.

The selected students were from Bolivia, India, Vietnam, Guatemala, St. Lucia and El Salvador. They included a budding civil rights activist, a future doctor, a math prodigy, a young community health advocate, a future entrepreneur, and an engineer.

The Esperanza Education Fund wants to help put the esperanza (hope) back into the lives of more students who already feel their situations are hopeless.

There are several ways to support the Esperanza Education Fund, and the return on this investment is the hope of a brighter future for our nation with such talented individuals on the horizon.

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