DENVER — For students like Alondra Meraz, paying for college can be a challenge because she cannot apply for federal loans or grants.
"I think being undocumented is like the biggest obstacle that there is," Alondra said.
She is a senior at Manual High School with her sights set on going to college. But, when she was young, her parents brought her over the border illegally from Mexico. She is currently applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. DACA is the immigration policy in limbo under the Trump administration, but it is still active.
Even with DACA status, Alondra cannot get help from federal funding.
"I can't go to FAFSA night like you guys are doing," Alondra said.
But, she can go to Diana Madriz. Madriz is a college advisor for the Denver Scholarship Foundation. She runs the Futures Center in Manual High School and tries to find scholarship opportunities for students like Alondra.
"The list can be shorter and I think sometimes it can be a little frustrating," Madriz said.
Now, an organization from South Carolina is making the list a little longer. Golden Door Scholars is now offering a national scholarship to high achieving DACA students interested in science and technology. Program Director Amy Long says the recipients usually get full ride scholarships.
"We are very confident that they are going to be successful," Long said. "We think they are worthy of being invested in."
Alondra says finding out about scholarship opportunities like this is encouraging.
"I think it's great because me being an undocumented student, I really felt scared at the beginning," Alondra said.
Golden Door Scholars even follows up with students and leads them towards jobs after graduation.
"A lot of scholarship organizations do just write a check and then they lose touch with their students or hope for the best," Long said. "With Golden Door, each student is assigned a one-on-one mentor who keeps in touch with them, builds a relationship with them."
Madriz says students need to feel supported.
"It means that they have a chance and I think that's really what any student wants is to know there is an opportunity for them," Madriz said.
If you want to find out more about the Golden Door Scholars, click here: https://www.goldendoorscholars.org/