School Choice & Charters

Immigrant Grads Get Charter’s Help

By Mary Ann Zehr — October 08, 2004 1 min read

Educators at a charter school in California have gone to extra lengths to make sure that undocumented immigrant students who graduate from the school receive financial support to go to college.

The Animo Leadership Charter High School in Inglewood, Calif., one of five charter schools run by the nonprofit organization Green Dot Public Schools, has raised $31,000 in private money plus $30,000 in scholarships so that 19 undocumented students in the school’s first graduating class can attend college.

Those students, who graduated in a class of 125 students last spring, are college freshmen this year. “Between the students, the families, and us, for this first year, we have them covered,” said Mara Simmons, the vice president of education for Green Dot. “Our challenge is next year.”

California is one of a few states in which undocumented students can pay in-state tuition at public universities. But those rates—up to $12,000 a year in California—are out of reach for many undocumented youths, said Ms. Simmons. Many scholarships aren’t available to them, and they can’t get jobs legally, she said. Moreover, they can’t receive federal financial aid.

One of the undocumented students, last year’s valedictorian, received a four-year scholarship to attend Loyola Marymount University, a private, Roman Catholic university in Los Angeles. Three others received $10,000 scholarships from the Oscar De La Hoya Foundation in Los Angeles, at the request of the charter school. The school also raised money from private donors for the other students.

Ms. Simmons noted that passage of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act by the U.S. Congress would enable many undocumented youths to attend college. The bill, which hasn’t yet been approved by the Senate, would permit such youths who have succeeded in U.S. high schools to gain legal residency and qualify for in-state tuition.

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