Scholarships for a Dream: An organization helps DC students with their university studies
El Tiempo Latino cover story
January 25, 2019
By Olga Imbaquingo
SPECIAL TO EL TIEMPO LATINO
Discipline and perseverance are two qualities cultivated by Keiri Sánchez, a young girl who will one day be a pilot. That’s been her dream since the first time she rode a plane as a child. Now she is 18 years old and the Uniting People with Opportunities (UPO) organization, with the delivery of a $10,000 scholarship, is helping her take a step toward reaching her goal.
During the 35th annual breakfast in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., UPO awarded the efforts of Sánchez and four other students with $10,000 each to realize their desire to be an engineer, biologist, therapist, and zoologist. Sánchez, a student at Bell Multicultural High School, was the only Latina to receive this scholarship on January 18.
In addition to academic excellence, the directors of Uniting People with Opportunities take into account the value of applicants’ community and volunteer work. “They go through a demanding selection process. The winners are not only given this money but we accompany them until they reach their final goal,” said Juan Jara, vice president of City National Bank. He, along with Gabriela Mossi, are Latinos on the board of directors of Uniting People with Opportunities.
The Joseph A. Beavers College Scholarship fund is supported by private donors. Thus 170 young people and their families have [received scholarships and] crossed the poverty line.
It was Martin Luther King, the greatest leader of the U.S. civil rights movement, who in 1957 reminded his audience in Alabama that “the most persistent and urgent question in life is ‘What are you doing for others?’” That great question was echoed by Jacqueline Kinlow, president of the UPO board of directors, to highlight the effort of the students and the contribution of donors. “Your generosity is an act of defiance and resistance … we have to keep fighting and winning … we have to keep doing something for others,” was her message.
One of those fighters is Natalia Wilkerson, a single mother of two who, nervous and excited, first narrated her somber and uncertain reality, and then the calm that her family found thanks to support via child care and a decent job, which this organization helped her find … and which has impacted (for the good) the lives of 50,000 residents of Washington DC.
When it was the turn of Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski [to talk], president of the University of Maryland in Baltimore, defender of minorities, educator and mathematician, he confronted the reality of blacks and Latinos in a world where there is a lot of talk about science education but less than one percent of African Americans and less than three percent of Latinos have an opportunity in those fields, [even] in neighboring Montgomery County, which includes the zip code with the most professionals in science and research in the country.
Hence the importance of students such as Sánchez, who came with her parents, Gerardo Sánchez and Icela Segovia, from El Salvador when she was just four years old, to join the list of academic honors. This young woman, who is one of the 1.8 million Dreamers, has gone behind the scenes to help her father produce the program Así es mi gente, which is broadcast in the country of her birth. She says, “Besides being a pilot, I want to study communications, but I am convinced that I was born to fly so every time I travel, I always observe everything and ask the pilots questions.”
She wants to follow in the footsteps of two other Salvadoran pilots: María Elena Mendoza and Sandra Hernández. The first flies through the skies of El Salvador and the second pilots helicopters over conflicting airspaces monitored by the United Nations in Africa and the Middle East.
“I am an undocumented student, which raises many obstacles to overcome. I have come to believe that everything is possible if you put your heart and passion into it. I dream of being someone of worth and I thank God for what I have achieved so far,” Sánchez wrote in her essay to get the scholarship. She’s been accepted to the University of the District of Columbia, Trinity University and the Phoenix East Aviation Academy [a flight academy in Florida] — and she is eager to attend the flight academy.
FOR HISPANICS IN DC
– Information. Latino students interested in applying for this scholarship are invited to inquire on the website www.upo.org and to complete the application they can go to www.upo.org/youth-services. Apart from academic excellence and volunteer work, applicants must study and live in Washington DC.
– Training. Scholarships are just one of UPO’s activities. The organization focuses its efforts on education from different angles. It has 15 early learning centers in the city for newborns up to two years. It also offers talks for families who are thinking of or already in the process of buying a home, and trains electricians, professional drivers, paramedics, and employees in tourism and culinary arts.