“If you want to attend college badly enough, you’ll move mountains, oceans, and skies to go.”

-Hector Lopez, CPS Dream Fund Scholar

For students like Hector, who were brought to the U.S. as children and remain undocumented, attending college can require this kind of effort.

These students are not eligible for federal financial aid, or for the MAP grants provided by the State of Illinois. Most private scholarships are out of reach as well, so even with ability and good grades, undocumented students can feel like they’ve hit a wall as they approach high school graduation. But, CPS knows their potential.

For Hector, who was brought to the U.S. from Jamay, Jalisco Mexico when he was less than a year old, Chicago has always been home. He graduated from Brooks College Prep with a strong GPA, and was accepted to numerous four-year colleges, but the financial barrier seemed insurmountable.

The same was true for Walmer Saavedra, who came to the U.S. from Guatemala at age 7 and graduated from Lindblom Math & Science Academy last month in the hopes of studying architecture. Inspired by Lindblom teacher Lawrence Bass, who taught him to give back to the community by designing neighborhood gardens, Walmer was ready for college. He had the full support of his parents, who had sacrificed much to help him succeed, but he worried that financial challenges might make that sacrifice a waste.

Dreamfund insideStudents like these are what inspired CPS to create the Dream Fund Scholarship – a financial award funded by Central Office and Network staff to help undocumented students attend college. Donations have totaled $30,000 since 2013 and have grown each year, with more than $12,000 raised in 2016 alone.

Today, the 2016 Dream Fund recipients gathered with their families, and the CPS staffers who have supported them, to receive their awards and celebrate the fact that their dream of a college education is now a reality.

“What is so special about this scholarship is that it was created by people who really believe in us and want us to be successful,” said Hector, who was awarded the Dream Fund Scholarship in 2014 and recently completed his studies at Harold Washington College – the first recipient of this scholarship to earn a college degree.

“I’m now not trying to make just myself and my parents proud, but every person who contributed to this scholarship proud,” he said. “I cannot thank those people enough.”

The CPS Dream Fund Scholars for 2016 are:

Meyaheultzin Angeles, Legal Prep Charter Academy

Walmer Saavedra, Lindblom Math & Science Academy

Nida Hameed, Lane Technical High School

Hubo Zamarripa, Sarah Goode STEM Academy

Xitlali Lopez, Whitney Young

Zuleikha Mohomed, Sullivan High School

Damilola Adeoye, Sullivan High School

To find out about making a tax deductible donation to the CPS Dream Fund Scholarship, click here.