DACA Scholarships help local Dreamers

Karina Vazquez

Karina Vazquez moved to Fort Wayne from Mexico when she was a pre-teen. Although she struggled to learn English and adapt to the culture, she soon found her way and began dreaming of going to college.

Before she could plan her future, however, she had to face a big challenge – applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. Without DACA, Vazquez would not be able to get a driver’s license, apply for a job, or attend college.

But the DACA application process is daunting. Vazquez tells the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: “I was a freshman in high school when I had to sit in the living room with my parents, trying to understand all the legal terminology and complete my application.”

Additionally, her family had to save for months to afford the $420 processing fee, which has now risen to $495. Vazquez and her parents navigated the challenges of completing the DACA application on their own, but a new program from local non-profit Latinos Count is offering assistance for youth who are just beginning the process.
With support from a $4,950 grant from the St. Joe Foundation, Latinos Count is providing scholarships to pay for half of the DACA application fee. The organization is also conducting two virtual workshops to help applicants (often known as Dreamers) understand the process and complete the forms.

Steve Corona

“We believe Latino youth and their families don’t want a handout and appreciate the shared cost for this benefit,” said Steve Corona, executive director, Latinos Count. “I also know our donors like the 50/50 cost sharing approach to this DACA scholarship program,” added Corona.

Corona knows DACA status provides more than just the chance to get a driver’s license; it provides a path for a Dreamer to reach their full potential.

For example, Vazquez says “Once I got my DACA permit, I was finally able to obtain a driver’s license and find a job. It also made college a possibility…I am currently working at Eli Lilly as a scientist in pharmaceutical product and design. All my professional opportunities lead back to DACA.”

The first round of scholarships will help 20 Latino youth apply for DACA. Anyone interested in the program should contact Corona at scorona428@gmail.com.