Sunday, December 5, 2021
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Association of Latin American Students raise scholarship money for Dreamers

Hispanic Heritage Month may have ended in October, but UMKC’s Association of Latin American Students (ALAS) is still celebrating this month after earning a nearly $9,000 scholarship for DACA students.

A group of UMKC students received scholarships this June from the Hispanic Development Fund. At the ceremony for the recipients, students were offered a partnership with the fund to create a scholarship for DACA recipients attending their university.

“We were all thankful we got a scholarship, so we wanted to give back to students, especially for DACA and undocumented students,” said association president Maria Franco. “Considering the policies and laws in place against this community, we were like, ‘let’s go and help them.’”

UMKC was one of five universities competing to fundraise these scholarships, and each dollar they earned was matched by the Hispanic Development Fund.

Since it was the winning university, UMKC will be spotlighted at the fund’s 2019 awards ceremony and gala.

ALAS decided to fundraise during the kick-off for Hispanic Heritage Month at Fiesta Hispaña. The group operated a face painting station and sold raffle tickets for t-shirts provided by the development fund.

Students found the response to their efforts overwhelmingly positive, with many people relating to the students’ plight.

“Some people didn’t even want the tickets, some people just gave you money,” said ALAS member Hannia Zavaoa. “You insisted they take the tickets and they wouldn’t. They just said, ‘no, we’re doing this to help you.’ Some people even had tears in their eyes.”

Students also reached out through email and their own professional networks to secure donations for the fund, raising $8,798 once matched.

These outreaching efforts added to the already full schedule of many students in the organization, who work 40 hours as full-time students.

“We always have the excuse ‘I’m busy.’ But I have proven to more than enough people you are never too busy—you just have to find the time,” said Franco. “When you find your passion, you will do anything to get it done.”

While Franco is a DACA recipient, she is not the only member in the organization who found her passion in helping this group.

“We did it for DACA students here at UMKC because they are a part of our Hispanic community,” said ALAS treasurer Bryan Betancourt. “Those individuals are going to school right now because their dreams are to be professionals.”

Franco said she knows of 10 students that are DACA recipients at UMKC, but there are possibly more. With changes under the Trump administration, these students recently faced with fears of deportation, and were forced to pay the higher international rate for tuition.

This makes scholarships like this one even more of a necessity than before.

Despite the challenges DACA recipients at UMKC face, members of ALAS believe the success of this scholarship is a step forward.

“We are a Hispanic organization, but we also had different cultures help us,” said Zavaoa. “All sorts of races and people donated. That is powerful, and that just shows change can happen when everybody unites.”


Photo courtesy of the Greater Kansas City Development Fund

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