Scholarships and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Scholarships and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

The following article appeared in the October 8 issue of the National Scholarship Providers Association’s Scholarship Times newsletter. In it, Tiffany Anderson, our scholarship program director, explained the process the Boettcher Foundation engaged in when it opened its scholarship application process to students meeting the requirements for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The Boettcher Foundation marked a historic first this spring when we selected our first Scholar who is not a United States citizen or permanent resident. Veronica Fernandez-Diaz, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) qualified student, is attending Colorado College, developing an individually structured major in the social sciences. She will undoubtedly be making an impact on her campus and in the Colorado community in the coming years. That impact will now be multiplied through the opportunities afforded to her through the Boettcher Scholarship.

The Boettcher Foundation Scholarship has been in existence since 1952, helping to keep some of Colorado’s most talented students in the State of Colorado. We award essentially full-ride scholarships for Colorado high school students to attend Colorado collegiate institutions, allowing them to take advantage of a Colorado education, form their networks locally, and make their impact right here at home. With an incredible pool of high-caliber candidates, we choose the students we feel will have the biggest impact on their universities and communities. Those students come from all types of backgrounds, educational settings, and family situations. Until this past year, however, our eligibility requirements excluded a subset of Colorado high school students from applying.

Recognizing that Colorado’s demographics have shifted since the inception of the scholarship program, our Board of Trustees and Foundation staff began working toward increasing access and opportunity for all students to apply. We increased recruitment to diverse populations and adjusted our academic eligibility requirements during our 2013-2014 selection cycle.

In June of 2012, it was announced that individuals who came to the United States as children and meet several key guidelines may request consideration of deferred action (details on those requirements can be found here). This meant we had the opportunity to reexamine our previous eligibility requirements to now include these students who were no longer in the United States unlawfully.

During the fall of 2013, we received multiple inquiries from high school students who wanted to apply for the Boettcher Scholarship and fell into this new qualification. This issue rose to the forefront when, in February of 2014, we had just named our finalists for that year and were preparing for interviews — a very exciting time of year for the scholarship program. As we were finalizing the interview schedule, we got a call from one of the finalists who, based on her accolades and experiences, we were anxiously anticipating meeting. With a tearful voice she told us she was withdrawing her application. Unlike other candidates who withdraw at this point in our process, she had not decided to go out of state or received another scholarship offer; this young lady had misunderstood our eligibility requirements and had just discovered she was not eligible to compete. She had come to the United States as a child and now met the requirement for Deferred Action; however, she was not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Unfortunately, according to our established citizenship eligibility requirements (based on the recently outdated federal regulations), she was not eligible to compete for the Boettcher Scholarship.

First, I want to say that we worked to find this young woman other resources, and she is currently in her second year of college. However, with the shift in this federal policy and our increased awareness of the Colorado student population that fell into these qualifications, it became apparent that we needed to revisit our eligibility requirements. This incident accelerated us along the process of making this change and adjusting our eligibility requirements to include DACA students, giving them the opportunity to compete for our scholarship.

Knowing we are a private Foundation set up to exist in perpetuity, we wanted to ensure that any change we made to our long-established eligibility requirements was done so very thoughtfully. Over the course of 2014, we worked with other local scholarship providers who had already made this shift (the Denver Scholarship Foundation specifically) learning from their process, best practices, and mistakes. We reached out to our partner collegiate institutions, many of which had already been working with this population of students or were in the process of figuring out how to support them. Finally, we sought out legal experts in both nonprofit tax and immigration law to ensure we made this change with all possible implications considered.

We officially opened the Boettcher application to students meeting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival qualifications in our 2015 selection process and received 19 DACA applicants in our first year. In April of 2015, we awarded Veronica, our first DACA Scholar, a 2015 Boettcher Scholarship. Veronica Fernandez-Diaz is an inspiring young woman.

The Boettcher Foundation Scholarship will continue to be awarded to the Colorado high school students we feel will make the biggest impact on their universities and communities, and we are proud to say they now truly come from all types of backgrounds and experiences, including our Colorado Deferred Action students.

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