The University of California at Berkeley announced on Tuesday that it has received the largest single scholarship in the country for undocumented students.
The Evelyn & Walter Haas Junior Fund has awarded Cal $1 million to be used exclusively for undocumented students at the school best known for its diverse campus and history championing liberal issues and civil rights. At this point, fund spokesman Denis Chicola said Cal is the only school to be awarded such money.
"We are committed to advancing rights and creating opportunities so that all people can live, work and raise their families with dignity,” said Haas, Jr. Fund President Ira S. Hirschfield. “These motivated, hardworking and inspiring students are an asset to our state and our country."
Until last year, it was illegal to give undocumented students scholarship money. Because of the Dream Act, it is now possible to award undocumented students money, Chicola said, but just how Cal will disburse the funds has yet to be decided. Some of the language in the act ensures that undocumented immigrants have the same access to state financial aid as all other low-income students. Undocumented students can now receive privately funded scholarships through UC Berkeley and eventually will receive Cal Grants and publicly funded scholarships.
There are about 200 undocumented immigrants who currently attend Cal, according to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau.
"The giving at this level for undocumented students is unprecedented," Birgeneau said, adding that he is extremely grateful to the Haas family.
Students such as Ju Hong will be eligible to benefit from such scholarship funds. Hung, who is from South Korea, is not legal and felt like he had done something wrong, like he was an "inferior being." Even though he got into prestigious universities and works long, hard hours, he felt "less than." He decided to speak out, though, because he wanted to empower other undocumented students to become more active and vocal.
Uriel Riveras of Los Angeles is another undocumented student at Cal, who is in dire need of extra financial help in order to return to the school, where he had to take a temporary leave to get a job. Because of the scholarship money, he is now eligible to apply for the scholarship.
“I’m so grateful for this opportunity,” Rivera said. “You’re not just paying for a student to go to college, you are helping a whole community.”
Also at UC Berkeley, there will be new services to help high schoolers transition to Cal, provide funds for emergency needs, create an online resource that centralizes information for the students and their families, offer legal services support, and create a textbook lending library and mental health resources.
In addition to the $1 million for the scholarship fund, Elise Haas is donating $300,000 toward the Robert D. Haas Dreamers Resource Center, named in honor of Elise Haas’s father.
The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund has awarded more than $408 million in grants since its founding in 1953, according to its website.
The fund supports "organizations and initiatives that share our values and our commitment to the work of advancing and protecting fundamental rights and opportunities for all people.," which means the "deep appreciation for the vitality and beauty of the San Francisco Bay Area and its diverse people and cultures."