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Lehman College


The Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute Blog

Blog Post by Maria Xique (Baruch, 2013 CUNY-IME Becaria)

Thanks to the CUNY-IME Scholarship program from the CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies, I was able to attend my first semester of graduate school. I’m currently enrolled in a masters program in Public Administration at the School of Public Affairs in Baruch College. The CUNY-IME scholarship I received not only helped me pay for my first semester but also has brought me new friends and contacts. In addition, thanks to the CUNY-IME scholarship, I was able to do an internship at the Mexican Consulate where I learned more about the Mexican Community.

At the Mexican Consulate I had the opportunity to learn about the different services the Consulate offers to all the Mexican community. My job at the Consulate was to do research about the educational programs New York City offers to all New York residents. In addition, I also had to translate the information into Spanish. Using my research I was able to provide assistance to the people who went to the Consulate seeking information about college, GED, English classes as second language, Plazas Comunitarias, and Deferred Action.

The CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies thought CUNY-IME Becas provides an open door with many opportunities. For instance, it offered me the relief of not having to worry for a while about financing for a semester of graduate school. Aside from the economic relief of having a semester assured with the scholarship, the Institute has also provided me and my fellow becari@s with monthly seminars. At these seminars we met different people that advised and counseled us about college, the work field, and about the do’s and don’ts in succeeding in life. Two of the workshops that have helped me in many ways are the workshops given by Carlota Zimmerman J.D. and Richard Alvarez, the University Director for the City University of New York. Carlota Zimmerman gave us a workshop about the job search process and the right methods in using LinkedIn. Richard Alvarez gave us a workshop about the college application process. These two workshops helped me so much because thanks to them and the Institute of Mexican Studies I am better informed about the college application process and the job field. Furthermore, with this information I am now able to help students who are applying to college.

It fills me with so much enthusiasm that the CUNY-IME Scholarship program exists today! Because like me many other students can benefit from this open door opportunity that the Institute has created for the Mexican and Latin American Community.  

Blog Post by Emilia Fiallo (Hunter College, 2013 CUNY-IME Becaria)

Emilia FillaoThe Importance of Mentors in the Life of a College Student

If you could write a letter to yourself after your High School graduation, what would you say to your younger self? Perhaps you would tell yourself to work harder, to exercise more and eat better food, to prioritize better, to take more challenging courses in college, to participate more, and to pace yourself along the way. We all remember that glorious day when we threw our caps in the air, picked up our diplomas and promised our friends we would keep in touch. The possibilities were endless and we felt unstoppable like the world was really in our hands. At least that’s how graduation was supposed to feel. Looking back at my high school graduation, I remember feeling alone and indifferent to the exciting path that lay before me because deep inside I knew my road to college would be like climbing up a steep hill, already tired and unmotivated. For an undocumented student like me, the road became difficult especially without a mentor for guidance and advice.

Undocumented high school students and their families face a tremendous financial burden when it’s time to pay for college since financial aid and TAP are not open to undocumented students. Although financing our college education is a struggle, the most challenging obstacle is a lack of mentorship and guidance when navigating life after high school. As an undocumented student I needed someone that I could count on when I needed special advice on my options when choosing a major, how to pick the right courses, how to balance work and school, and what scholarships were available. I stumbled my way through most of college and even though academic advisors are on campus they weren't always available or I would be assigned a different one each visit. The difference between an advisor and a mentor is that a mentor is willing to commit and dedicate his or her time to you and check in on you and follow your progress in college.

When I found out I had been awarded the CUNY IME Becas Scholarship Program I felt grateful to know that I had a whole community that was willing to donate their time and money in order to put me and other students through college. It meant that I was given a chance to go to school for an entire school year without sitting in class worried about my next tuition payment. It was a great feeling. The most exciting aspect of being a Becaria is the mentorship I have received so far. I remember a time when I was extremely stressed out about school and I was pushing myself to my limits. I took a trip to Lehman College and had a meeting with Professor Alyshia Galvez, and we spoke about the importance of enjoying college and how to prioritize taking care of our mental health. I left that meeting feeling energized and finished the semester strong with straight A’s. In the different seminars that have taken place throughout the year, we have met amazing community leaders, authors, entrepreneurs, professors, and students that not only inspired me to work hard but have offered their emails and personal phone numbers in case we ever need anything. In the last seminar we met Carlota Zimmerman who taught us how to build our professional profile and what we can do to achieve our career goals. We've also met people like Aurora Anaya-Cerda, who launched a campaign to raise funds and open La Casa Azul Bookstore, a literature/cultural hub in El Barrio. I've also met amazing students along the way and I find that we all have a lot in common; the drive to finish college and do it with our heads held high. The CUNY IME Becas scholarship has been a wonderful experience filled with amazing people that have taken care of me as a student beyond what I ever could have expected.

Blog Post by Juan Mejia (College of Staten Island, 2013 CUNY-IME Becario)

Coming from a family of nine brothers and sisters money has always been tight. When my siblings and I graduated from high school my parents told us they would support us in every way, but we would have to pay our own tuition if we wanted to attend college. It would be impossible for them to pay for all of us on their salaries. To save enough money I had to work multiple jobs and miss a couple of semesters. I used this time off to think about what career I wanted to pursue when I started college. Being awarded the CUNY IME Beca Scholarship and becoming a Becario was such a surprise, and perfect timing! During that time I was struggling to save enough money for the upcoming school year. This scholarship allowed me to focus more on my studies and schoolwork instead of worrying about how I was going to pay for my next semester.

Not only did the CUNY IME Becas allow me to continue my education, but it also opened many doors for me. Through the scholarship I was able to intern at the Queens Business Outreach Center, a non-profit organization that works with small businesses. This organization helps businesses run more efficiently and helps them to apply for loans. As a business major this was a great experience. I had the opportunity to see and learn about the many aspects of running a business, what start up businesses have to go through to try and run a successful business and the requirements needed for them to get a loan. I also had the chance to sit in on the many workshops the organization held on how to manage your own business.

CUNY IME BECAS has given me a place where I am surrounded with like-minded individuals, a network of people who want to be successful, who help others, and dream of a better future. If I had to pick the best part of being a Becario it would have to be the seminars. It is in these seminars that I get to interact, share ideas and learn more about my fellow Becari@s. The best part of the seminars is having the honor of meeting such admirable individuals who share valuable advice, inspiring me with their words and sharing their stories of success and how we can also become successful. I can truly say these individuals have influenced me to become a better student and a better person. I have always dreamed of doing something great, something no one has ever done, and to change things for the better. I am still not sure exactly what that is, but I feel that with the new people I have met to back me up I can hopefully achieve it one day.

Blog Post by Luba Cortes (Borough of Manhattan Community College, 2013 CUNY-IME Becaria)

One cold October morning my mother woke me up and told me that we would be embarking in a journey. I remember seeing my grandmother crying, but at the mere age of five I did not understand what her tears meant. The journey my mother was talking about was coming to the United States. I learned the language quickly and excelled in all my classes, but my lack of status prevented me from enjoying opportunities given to students with excellent grades such as studying abroad.  It was not until my junior year of high school when my peers were getting into universities like MIT, while I had to contemplate whether I could afford going to school, that I realized how unjust the laws in this country where.

Through very hard work my mother was able to round up the money to pay for one semester of college. Although I had good grades and loved my school we could not afford a second semester and I had to wait another year until I could go back.

Through my work as an organizer at this wonderful organization called Make The Road NY, I found a community of people who embraced me and encouraged me to not fear my status. Because of this newfound power in me, two months ago I engaged in civil disobedience. I did this because I believe that our government has failed us, it has failed the 1,100 undocumented immigrants that are being deported every day. It has also failed the families that are left behind trying to fill the voids that their loved ones left. But most importantly I did the action for my mother; who is the most important person in my life, my rock, my anchor, and the one person that will always love me unconditionally. She is the woman that held my hand as we crossed the border on a cold October night when I was five years old and reassured me that we would be okay. The one person who put her dreams aside so that one day I could realize my own. That night in December I honored her sacrifice, but I am not done repaying everything that she has done for me. I will not stop fighting until I see my mother is able to work without fear, travel without fear, and finally become a citizen of the country that she has called home for the last 14 years. I will not stop fighting until my community no longer feels afraid to embrace their undocumented status for fear of persecution and separation.

I thank the CUNY institute of Mexican Studies for their warm welcome and encouragement. For being the beacon of hope that I needed in order to go back to school and for providing me with a safe space to share my story.

Blog Post by Angy Rivera (John Jay College, 2013 CUNY-IME Becaria)

Many assume that because I’m undocumented I don’t have a voice. I often hear some refer to people like me as “voiceless” or “invisible”. There is always a need to give me a voice, to humanize me, to speak out for me, and to advocate for me. What many fail to see is that I can do all that for myself; if only they stopped to listen. At some point in my life, I also thought I was voiceless.

When I was younger I wasn’t undocumented and unafraid, I was very afraid and ashamed. I thought this status was a curse, but I know see how it is also a blessing. I have a love/hate relationship with being undocumented. While it has kept me from many opportunities and has limited my existence here in the United States; I’ve also learned how to fight for my rights and education. I’ve met a lot of amazing people because of the path my immigration status has taken me on.

The CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies awarded me one of their scholarships this year and I’m so thankful for that. The scholarship allows me to not worry about financing my education for a little while. It means one year of not stressing over money so much. To focus more on school and my career. It means one year of being able to invest more into my community.

I decided to volunteer with the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC), a non-profit organization led by undocumented youth working on creating equal access to education for all regardless of immigration status. I had already been volunteering there in a different area of the organization; so I switched over to organizing.

As a fellow for the organizing section of the organization I was able to work alongside other youth, many of whom are undocumented as well. Together, and with the help of the CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies, we organized the NYSYLC’s first ever Dream Team Convening. There are Dream Teams in various campuses and high schools, several Becari@s met at these clubs. The clubs have created a safe space for undocumented youth in school. A space for them to meet each other, share stories and resources, cry, make friends and become unafraid. The convening would put all these Dream Teams under the same roof in order to provide each other with the skills necessary to stay active. Many students find themselves dropping out of high school or college because of the lack of community, Dream Teams are there to change that.When the Dream Team Convening finally took place I couldn’t help but feel honored to be surrounded by such amazing individuals. Young people who are ready to change the culture of their campuses. Who are no longer afraid or ashamed to be undocumented. Who are stepping up and claiming the respect and dignity they’ve always deserved. Who are pushing for the New York Dream Act and/or creating their own scholarships while they wait for the state to provide support. They’re a force to be reckoned with.

We are standing up and being our own advocates. We are using our power and our voices to push for the changes we wish to see in our community, and in our state. We are creating spaces and opportunities that didn’t exist before.

I’m thankful to the CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies for their constant support and for believing in the power of education for all. Their scholarship program and educational events show that by providing the necessary tools, students are able to succeed.

Click here for blog posts from our 2014 cohort

Click here for blog posts from our 2015 cohort