The Illinois Dream Fund, which has collected $500,000 from private donors, announced Friday that on Nov. 1 it will begin accepting applications for the scholarships it will award to undocumented students eager to enter college.
The biggest contributors have been the president of the Univision network, Haim Saban, with a $100,000 grant, Western Union with $25,000, and the Chicago city government, which made $275,000 available in private funds left over from organizing last May's NATO summit in the Windy City.
Students who attend community colleges could receive annual scholarships worth up to $2,000, while those attending four-year universities will get $6,000 a year, in both cases renewable.
"It's been a long process, much more difficult than we imagined, but now we're ready to begin the registration process and start awarding scholarships," Rigoberto Padilla, an undocumented student who is a member of the fund's administrative board, told Efe.
The case of "Rigo" has been symbolic among activists fighting for the undocumented in Illinois, because he was about to be deported after being detained for a traffic violation.
The 25-year-old student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who arrived here from Mexico with his family at the age of 6, was named to the commission by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
One scholarship hopeful, Maria Gonzalez, said that she has lived undocumented in Chicago for 15 years, and despite the economic hardships and lack of help, she has been accepted by the prestigious Illinois Institute of Technology.
"A lot of people told me it was a waste of time and money to try for higher education if I had no papers, but I managed it with a great deal of effort," she said.
The fund was a local response to the original DREAM Act, which remains stalled in the U.S. Senate, and is supported by the presidents of 10 universities, Illinois community colleges and dozens of community organizations.
To be eligible for the scholarships, students must have lived with their parents while attending high school in Illinois and have studied in the state for at least three years, and must have obtained their high school diploma or GED. EFE