MIAMI (CBS4) - Tuesday, Miami-Dade College accepted the first scholarships ever for undocumented immigrants. The move, a sidestep around the immigration debate, is changing the lives of dozens of students who could only dream of going to college.
Organizers hope the dream scholarship program may pave the way for thousands more to follow.
In a special program at Miami's Freedom Tower, 22 students signed up for their scholarships. Fanny Maidana was a bit emotional as she signed up for a college scholarship she's been dreaming of for years.
"I was thinking my mom and my dad. All the struggles that I went through. I just want to make them proud. I will make them proud," Maidana said.
Maidana, who moved here when she was 12, is an undocumented immigrant. She and the 21 other newly enrolled students say they had little or no options post high school.
Tuesday, that changed.
Maidana explained, "It means the rest of my life. A future. Financial stability. Everything. Without this there is no future. There is minimum wage forever. Which I'm not going settle for."
The scholarships are the first ever provided by a group called "The Dream US."
One could call it an attempt at immigration reform.
Candy Marshall, The Dream US President told the students and their families standing nearby, "It's righting a terrible wrong. There is one thing that stands between dreamers and all of the other American children who are able to go to college and that is the lack of a piece of paper."
Miami-Dade College is looking past that. The college president promising to aggressively push more of these scholarships in the future.
"You are not alone. You will have the opportunity to pursue your dreams. And to reach you're fullest potential. Frankly, American success depends on it," Eduardo PadrÃ³n said.
Ironically, the person directing the scholarships is quite familiar with the students plight. Gaby Pacheco, who serves as the program director, told the audience, "I know that every single one of you are going to take this opportunity and are going to walk across the stage at Miami-Dade College and pay it forward."
Pacheco is an undocumented immigrant herself. For the past decade, she has been at the forefront of the the student immigration debate conducting rallies to even a march from Miami to Washington D.C.
After the ceremony was over she looked back and reflected on her dream finally realized.
"To me it's the reflection of you should never be afraid to follow your dreams," Pacheco said. "You should never be afraid of your own story and your own power to make a difference."
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