Please Help My Student Achieve Her American Dream

In many ways, I am the American Dream.  My great-grandparents all immigrated to this country in abject poverty, fleeing religious persecution in Eastern Europe.  My grandparents were born in the 1920’s in the shadow of Pittsburgh steel mills.  Each of my grandfathers proudly served during World War II, and upon their return to the United States, they were thanked by our country with the passing of the GI Bill, which paid for them to become the first members of their families, along with their brothers, to attend college. This in turn enable my parents to grow up in the middle class. Both my sister and I are incredibly blessed to have had those privileges and educational opportunities passed down to us.

Over the past five years, I have had the amazing experience of helping dozens and dozens of students in the Bronx become the first in their families to attend college (as well, of course, of helping many who were not the first), taking them each one step closer to achieving their American dreams. As 83% of our students live below the poverty line, federal and state financial aid are the only reason our students can afford post-secondary education.

Unfortunately, each year we have a small handful of students who are not eligible for this aid because they are undocumented immigrants.  To assist these students,  a group of students and teachers at the school created the DREAM Act Club Scholarship.  The DREAM Act Club works to support the passing of the DREAM Act, which would give undocumented young adults who were brought to the country before their 16th birthday a path to citizenship through college education or military service.  As the Act has failed multiple times to make it to the floor of Congress, the club created the scholarship so that the dreams of our students would not be deferred.

This year, there is only one undocumented immigrant in our graduating class, and she is someone I have taught for the past two years.  This student was brought by her parents from Mexico when she was only two years old.  All of her younger siblings have been born in the United States and are therefore citizens. However, my student, through no fault of her own, has no documentation, and therefore is not eligible for financial aid for college.  This student is an incredibly smart and talented young lady.  She does everything she is asked, has never once displayed anything close to problematic behavior, is a model for her peers, and has never once asked for anyone to do her any favors.  I can say without hesitation that in my eight years in the classroom, she is the kindest and most decent student I have taught.  If there was ever a student deserving of a shot at the American Dream, it would be her.  (And if she knew I was writing this letter, she would kill me.)

And this is why I am asking you to help her.  It is my goal that this year’s DREAM Act Club Scholarship will be the largest it has ever been.  It is estimated that four years of tuition at a public university in New York will cost $25,000 over the next four years.  It is my goal to raise this amount to be awarded to my student through this year’s DREAM Act Club Scholarship, which will be awarded at graduation on June 28.

This will not be easy, which is why I need your help.  Just as this country pulled together to send my grandfathers to college 65 years ago, I want to pull together as many people as possible to make my student’s American Dream a reality.  If you can donate any money, that would be wonderful.  Even $10 will make a difference.  But much more importantly, I want you to share this letter to as many people as you know.  If only 100 people can each find 25 people to donate $10, we can join together to send my student to college and help her to move toward achieving the American Dream for herself and for the children she will one day raise.

Donations can be made to the scholarship through the Friends of Bronx Lab.  To donate, go to http://dream.bronxlabschool.org.  In the “Dedication” box, please click “on behalf of” and enter “DREAM Act Club Scholarship”.  100% of your donation is tax deductible.

I cannot imagine where my family would be today had this country not paid for my grandfathers’ education.  I hope that in another 65 years, my student’s grandchildren will be thinking the same thing.

Thank you so much for your help,
Stephen Lazar

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