The Last Hurdle

New scholarship offers opportunity for the undocumented.

Long before she established the DREAMership Scholarship at Evergreen, you’d always find Kit Miller ’78 in the underdog’s corner.

Back in the 1970s, Miller enrolled in an Evergreen study abroad program in Guatemala. It was her first glimpse of real, generational poverty. Years later, an image sticks out in her mind from that formative trip.

“I saw the sheer strength of the family unit in Latin America,” Miller says, “particularly the unbreakable bond between mothers and their children. All of those mothers wanted a better life for their kids.”

Today, Miller teaches ESL to students near her home in Palo Alto, California. In getting to know her students, Miller realized that many were undocumented immigrants.

“Most of my students are mothers who sacrificed so much to bring their children to the U.S.,” Miller says. “It brought me right back to Guatemala. One generation hoisting the next on its shoulders. How could you not root for that?”

President George Bridges agrees. As he said in recent public remarks to the campus community, “We are committed to the academic success of undocumented students—and to their personal success in our country.”

But what happens when seemingly insurmountable obstacles prevent young undocumented students from fulfilling their potential? What becomes of their parents’ dreams and aspirations?

Those questions compelled Miller to take action. An activist with a heart for social justice, Miller summoned the skills she’d picked up at Evergreen— critical thinking, creative problem solving, and learning across significant differences.

“I wanted to give back to my alma mater because Evergreen has given me so much. I began working directly with the development office to create the DREAMership Scholarship.”

Introducing the DREAMership Scholarship

 

The $5,700 scholarship will be awarded to two students each year, beginning in 2017. Applicants must be either an undocumented immigrant or a U.S. resident whose first language is not English. They also must demonstrate financial need. Miller named the scholarship after the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act—a United States legislative proposal that would grant conditional residency for undocumented immigrants who meet certain qualifications.

While Miller’s work won’t single-handedly solve the plight of undocumented students seeking equal access to education, it does offer a ray of hope amid an increasingly fraught immigration landscape.

With a new U.S. administration known to be strict on immigration, the status of undocumented students is uncertain. That means increased fear and anxiety among a group of Evergreen students who are American in every way but one.

“It’s heartbreaking to see kids hit that ceiling,” Miller says. “They deserve the chance to reach their fullest potential. I hope my scholarship can help with that in some small way— and reassure these students that many of us are on their side.”