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DREAM Act Scholarship Makes College Possible

Scholarship Makes College Possible for Immigrant Students

Nadia and Louis Najarro SmithNadia and Louis Najarro Smith have taken a forward-thinking step to help immigrant students in Minnesota. Last year, the couple worked with MCTC to establish the Nadia and Louis Najarro Smith DREAM Act Scholarship for college-age immigrant students.

The scholarship is intended to help students and also contribute vision of the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation signed into law in Minnesota last spring. The state DREAM Act allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors access to state-based college tuition aid if they meet certain criteria. These students are not eligible for federal financial aid, and currently only four states in the country have such a law.

“We are thrilled the Minnesota Legislature adopted a state DREAM Act for immigrant students,” said Nadia. “We will still continue to support MCTC students through this scholarship, because we see the need and believe in MCTC's mission. Our younger generation, including young immigrants, deserve every opportunity to be competitive and active contributors to our society, and MCTC provides a critical door to that opportunity.”

The issue is important to the Smiths in part because they understand the challenges faced by newcomers to the United States. The couple first met in Nadia’s native Guatemala. When they moved to Minnesota, she initially struggled with the transition to her new home. “I was an attorney in Guatemala, but when I came here I discovered I would have to go to law school again,” she says. “I also felt very isolated at first.”

As trying as it was to fit into her new environment, Nadia, who now works as a court-certified interpreter, points out that children of undocumented immigrants often have a much harder time. “They lack many of the advantages that U.S. students have—including the ability to qualify for financial aid,” she says.

“These children are already here and often are fully assimilated,” adds Louis, who is a partner with Smith Partners PLLP, a Minneapolis law firm that represents watershed districts, local governments and conservation organizations. “They also want to earn an education, and our country needs an educated workforce. We can’t afford to leave them behind.”

With all of that in mind, the Smiths established the scholarship, which provides $2,500 per academic year for students who immigrated to the United States prior to their 16th birthday, and who are ineligible for federal financial aid. The scholarship also is weighted toward students with strong academic potential, an interest in serving the community and demonstrated financial need.

“This is only one relatively small scholarship, but we wanted to provide something—and possibly inspire others to give too,” says Louis. “The scholarship recipient’s identity is kept confidential, but we are allowed to review each person’s application. Nadia and I are absolutely thrilled when to read through them. Each recipient’s commitment to pursuing the American dream is inspiring.”

For more information on the MCTC Foundation and applying for scholarships, click here.

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