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DACA Students Surprised With Scholarships During 'Senior Signing Day'

By Dillon Thomas

DENVER (CBS4)- In an effort to support equal opportunities for their students, staff at two high schools in Denver raised money to provide scholarships to four students.

The students who received the scholarships are DACA students, that may not have as much access to higher education funding.

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Chasel Valdiviezo Perez, a senior at STRIVE Prep, was one of the DACA students given the "Dare to Dream Scholarship." The award was handed out as a surprise at "Senior Signing Day," an event where students announce what university the plan to attend.

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"They called my name, and I was like, 'What?'" Perez said.

Perez was brought to the United States when she was just 1-year-old. She has spent her entire life in the United States, but is not an American citizen.

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"I was basically born here," Perez said. "I don't know what Mexico looks like."

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Perez said the $6,000 scholarship would go towards her tuition at Colorado State University, where she has been accepted to study veterinary sciences.

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Perez recalled the day she found out she was accepted to her dream university, with her mother standing nearby.

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"She was like, 'What, you got in?' I was like, 'Yeah!'" Perez said. "We just threw the papers everywhere."

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More than 90 percent of students at STRIVE Prep qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches. Nearly 100 percent self-identify as a person of color.

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"They have to work double as hard, in order to get noticed out there," said Jhenny Hernandez, Campus Director of Student Systems.

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Perez said the scholarship her teachers gave her made her feel a bigger sense of community.

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"(As a DACA student) the struggle is really hard, just to find the money (for tuition)," Perez said.

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STRIVE Prep Principal Ben Lewis (credit: CBS)

Principal Ben Lewis said his staff knew their students were as qualified as any other collegiate applicant, and wanted to make sure all were given the same opportunities.

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"(Teachers) are still willing to take the amount of money they are paid, to use some of that to better the lives of children," Lewis said.

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Perez said this gesture by her teachers, and her acceptance to CSU, should serve as proof that DACA students are capable of the same things citizens are.

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"It is true," Perez said. "I am a DACA student, and I am going to get my education."

Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.

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