Dreamers Scholarships and History

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach (UUCLB) is active in supporting community organizations. Each month our congregation holds a Special Collection to raise awareness and funds for a local organization that supports our Unitarian Universalist values. This is the tale of how the Special Collection for the Dreamers Scholarship came about.

University of California and California State University campuses offer the in-state college tuition rate to students who have attended three years of high school in California, regardless of immigration status. Undocumented students, known as Dreamers, do not qualify for Federal aid including loans and Pell Grants. High school teacher and church member Cynthia Case understood Dreamers had limited financial resources for college and took action. In 2013, Cynthia worked with UUCLB and created the Dreamers Scholarship funded with a Special Collection.

In 2015, volunteers stepped forward to continue this project under the Social Justice Council of UUCLB, and the Dreamers Committee was established. To make the Scholarship more accessible to local high school students, Committee members designed an on-line application. We relied on school counselors to guide students through the entire process. Due to high workloads placed on counselors, students were not getting the assistance necessary to submit required documents timely and it was difficult for the Committee to follow up on the applications. Still, three local high school seniors received Dreamers Scholarships of $2000 each to begin their college life.

The following year, Committee members realized we did not have the resources to assist high school students. College students have direct access to their records and need less guidance, so the Scholarship was offered to students attending Long Beach Community College and California State University Long Beach (CSULB). That year, we offered separate funding to help students pay Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) application fees of $465. This status must be renewed every two years. The fund raising went well: six students received $400 toward DACA fees and two outstanding CSULB graduate students were awarded Dreamers Scholarships of $1750.

At the start of 2017, Committee members changed the focus yet again. Due to the uncertain status of the federal program, we ended DACA assistance for that year. Also, we decided to sponsor CSULB students only. In coming to this decision, we considered our relationships with the university including church members on the faculty who facilitate the process and on-campus organizations who help promote the Scholarship. Again we had a great response to the Special Collection and awarded scholarships of $2000 each to three awesome students.

Over the years, the Scholarship has been enthusiastically supported by the Social Justice Council, Reverend Mitra Rahnema and the congregation as a whole. The Dreamers Committee continues to administer the scholarship program each year.