Since 2013, the Education Unidos Scholarship Fund, founded by Melissa Silva, Student Services Coordinator for University of Arizona – Douglas, has been a significant bi-national effort to increase scholarship funding for local students.
In her student service role, Silva identified a high need for scholarships in the area and began a collaboration between University of Arizona Douglas, University South Foundation, the Mexican Consulate and the City of Douglas. Education Unidos helps cover a significant portion of semester tuition for a student, helping to make higher education accessible.
Scholarships are supported by three funding avenues, including the Institute of Mexican Abroad Becas fund, the University South Foundation and an annual regional fundraiser, which is supported by the generosity of Douglas-area residents.
Because so many students in the region are non-traditional college-goers, Education Unidos recently added scholarship opportunities for part-time students. The program has even grown to include an internship program, which encourages mobility and understanding between the United States and Mexico. Scholars from Mexico join the University for a semester of tutoring, co-teaching and research. It has been so successful that the Department of State has designated the exchange as a best practice.
Education Unidos is helping to create a culture of learning in the area. To date, the effort has distributed more than $94,000 in awards and every one of the scholarship recipients have graduated with a postsecondary degree. That’s a big achievement in the highly transitory region where most students are first-generation college-goers.
What’s more, most of these students are staying in Douglas and working in education, law enforcement and more. Without scholarships like this, students in this area would not have the resources to pay to further their education, which is so critical in today’s economy. And they are grateful for the opportunity.
Itzel Chavez-Ramos, Cochise County Adult Probation Officer
As a Mexican-American student I faced obstacles that hindered my path to professional success.One of those obstacles, perhaps the most common, is the financial difficulty that many students face day after day. However, thanks to Education Unidos, the generous support of the Mexican Consulate and the University South Foundation, I got one step closer to my goal. My dream of attending a nationally recognized educational institution moved forward the day I got selected as one the recipients of the Education Unidos Scholarship. By awarding me this scholarship, I was able to concentrate on what is truly important, education and success.
I’m very grateful for the opportunity that Education Unidos offered me; it made a difference in my life. Thanks to all the support, I was able to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Latin American Studies. Definitely, this inspired me to help others by giving back to the community. I hope one day I will be able to help other Mexican-American students and make a difference in their lives, the same way that Education Unidos made a difference in mine.
Zueyzan Pineda, Elementary Education Teacher
The Education Unidos Scholarship played a very significant part in my life because it meant that this time it was okay to be bicultural. I was thrilled to have been helped by my two nationalities. It meant that there were people who cared about me completing and succeeding in my career even though I was Hispanic. Education Unidos taught me to be proud of who I am and that my voice matters. It also demonstrates a powerful community coming together to help students support their dreams. All of the community unites for the same cause, our students, because they are our future. People part of this committee put their heart and soul to make this possible and I am very thankful for that. As a teacher, I am very thankful to have received this scholarship because now I can pass on what I have learned to my students. Every day I strive to be a better teacher and I teach my students that they all matter, that there are plenty of people who want to see them succeed, and most importantly that it`s okay to be bicultural.
The scholarship for Education Unidos opened the door to my career. I was a full-time student at the time and I had to do my student teaching which required to do practice hours just like a full-time job. Due to this, I was unable to have a job. The Education Unidos scholarship allowed me to complete my practice hours because without the scholarship I would not have been able to support myself financially.