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Mexican Consulate disburses funds to colleges for student scholarships

The Mexican Consulate has released a total of $83,000 to area colleges and high schools in an effort to assist students of Mexican origin with paying for their education.

In a mid-November ceremony, Head Consul Alfonso Navarro Bernachi presented the funds to representatives from several institutions of higher learning, including Donnelly College, Johnson County Community College, Kansas State University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the University of Central Missouri, and Bishop Ward High School.

“So far, 65,000 Mexicans in the United States have benefitted from the collaborations between our governments,” Bernachi said in his opening remarks. “Here, we have been able to benefit 5,000 students in this part of the country, and we have been able to allocate a half-million dollars.”

Bernachi said this year’s gift of $83,000 will benefit a total of 57 students at the six institutions.

One of those students is Diana Vasquez, a senior in horticulture at K-State.

“This scholarship helps us with our academic funds. As an undocumented student and a DACA recipient, it can be hard to find scholarships we can apply for, especially since we are not eligible for (Free Application for Federal Student Aid),” Vasquez said after the ceremony. “So, it’s really important to have scholarships that focus on students like us.”

Even more important than the money itself, Vasquez added, is the partnership between the two countries in the pursuit of a common goal – to help Mexican students and DACA recipients realize their dreams.

“Every little bit helps. We do see our communities coming together to helps us succeed,” she said. “You can see the support they give students, whether it’s through funds or resources. … A lot of the time, it’s scary not to know what your future holds, but it’s definitely great to see the communities come together in support of undocumented students like myself. We have great mentors, great leaders who pave the way for us. Now, we can follow in their footsteps and use the resources they have and be able to network with them.”

Administrators from each institution were on hand to receive the funds at the ceremony. The release of these funds is an important way to show a real commitment to students and their goals, said Mike Godard, vice provost for enrollment management at UCM.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of this,” Godard said. “We want to provide as much of an opportunity to students as we can. Our biggest-growing population of students at UCM is Hispanic. Anything we can do to help these students achieve their dream, we want to be a part of that.”

Jennifer Ingraham, vice president of the UMKC Foundation, said she agreed. UMKC received an $8,000 gift from the Mexican government; after UMKC matches that amount dollar for dollar, the total of $16,000 will be split between eight students, she said.

“We want to give them some encouragement,” said Ingraham, who added that DACA students are charged higher tuition rates applied to international students. “They’re excellent students. We want them to succeed, and we want to help them financially.”

Vasquez said she is heartened to see the support from Kansas and Missouri colleges, especially as uncertainty looms regarding the status of DACA recipients in the U.S.

“I used to think, ‘Why even try, when it feels like the odds are against you?’” Vasquez said. “The best advice given to me was, ‘Why give into the stereotypes of what people believe?’ People think we’re lazy, that we don’t work for what we have. We want to prove them wrong – prove to them that you have done your best to be the best citizen of this country, whether it’s working or being a student. We’re here to stay, to get our education.”