True Potential Scholarship Numbers To Grow Dramatically in Third Year 2/09/16 02/09/16 9:14:49 AM
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Luis Olivas was one of several young people who told their stories of frustration at being denied a driver’s license to a legislative committee, spearheaded by then-Sen. Jeremy Nordquist in 2014.
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True Potential Scholarship Numbers
To Grow Dramatically in Third Year
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record
Consider Luis Olivas of Columbus. The 26-year-old Nebraskan got his first driver’s license nine months ago. Until then, he was unable to get one because he was an undocumented immigrant, having come here from Mexico when he was only six years old.
He had been fighting to stay in the United States since 2012, and then had to put his education on hold when he was jailed for nine months prior to getting his deportation orders.
He was packed and ready to go back to the country he only vaguely recalled. Then came the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – also known as the Dream Act – in 2014. He applied and was approved and was able to “come out of the shadows,” Olivas said.
He spent the next year working, including testifying in the Legislature, to earn the right for “Dreamers” to apply for a driver’s license in Nebraska.
As a Dreamer (named for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), Olivas became eligible for a True Potential Scholarship, created specifically for deserving young immigrants who have been granted DACA.
The scholarship, which relies on donations and grants for its funding, was founded in 2014 by Omaha attorney Ross Pesek of Pesek Law LLC. The first year, five scholarships were awarded to those who were attending or were enrolled in an Iowa or Nebraska community college.
In 2015, Luis Olivas was awarded one of seven scholarships. He attends Central Community College (CCC), where he maintains a 4.0 grade point average, just as he did in high school. He works as a legal assistant at Kendall Law Office in Columbus while balancing 18 credit hours of classes. He plans to transfer to a four-year university to complete his bachelor’s degree in education before enrolling in law school to fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer. His path echoes that of his mentor Ross Pesek, who also attended CCC.
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Pesek is adamant that, just as it did him, community college gives these students a doable start on the road to advanced degrees and, in turn, higher earning potential and a productive life. “Community college can be the starting point for realizing any dream,” Pesek said.
This year’s scholarships will be awarded to 15-20 deserving recipients, more than double the number of awards last year and three times that of the first year. The deadline for applying is March 1, 2016.
This year’s total rose dramatically when efforts to secure a government grant from Mexico finally paid off. After being denied in 2014, Pesek said they resubmitted the request to EMI, Instituto De Los Mexicanos En El Exterior, in partnership with the Metropolitan Community College Foundation, where he serves on the board of directors.
This time it was approved for $4,200. Metro agreed to match the amount, and True Potential itself matched it (and more) to come up with a grand total of $13,000.
“We created a pot of money” that will fund full-tuition scholarships for one year at Metro. The rest of the scholarships to be awarded were funded in part by another large donor, he said.
Paying It Forward
In his daily work, Pesek tries to validate those individuals who gave him an opportunity by creating the scholarships that funded his education.
He says he was able to attend college and law school “because of the generosity of others.” Pesek attended Central Community College, Wayne State College and the University of Nebraska College of Law over seven years and never paid any tuition. He often gives thanks to the donors whose generosity allowed him to get his education and begin to fulfill his true potential.
Despite the many advantages to having DACA as an immigration status, one major disadvantage is that DACA recipients cannot accept any federal or state money in any context. As such, DACA recipients cannot receive federal financial aid or many scholarships that are partially funded with public money.
The True Potential Scholarship seeks to fill that gap, Pesek said. “The ultimate goal of these scholarships is to allow these students to reach their ‘True Potential.’” Because of the public funds restriction, True Potential uses 100 percent private donations and private institutional funds.
Pesek said he decided to partner with community colleges because he believes community colleges offer tremendous value. Community colleges offer a wide variety of opportunities ranging from technical certificates to classes required to graduate with a four-year university degree in any field. All of these opportunities come at a fraction of the cost of public and private universities and allow True Potential to make the biggest impact with every dollar awarded.”
The 2015-2016 Community College Partners were Central Community College, Western Nebraska Community College, Metropolitan Community College, Southeast Community College, and Iowa Western.
The 2016 Fundraising Dinner will be held on Thursday, June 16, at 5:30 p.m. at the Institute of Culinary Arts of the Metropolitan Community College in Omaha. The scholarship winners will be recognized at that time. Last year’s sponsors of the event include Pesek Law, Matters on Tomorrow, Lobo 977, Lingo Docs Marketing, Watson & Carroll PC LLO, Omaha Pain Management, Metropolitan Community College Foundation, South Omaha Medical Associates, and Ameritas.
Those interested in applying for a scholarship or learning more about it, should go to: http://www.truepotentialscholarship.org/.
If you would like to donate time, services or money True Potential accepts and appreciates all forms, Pesek said. True Potential is a program under the 501c3 umbrella organization Matters On Tomorrow. Monetary donations may be made online at: http://www.mattersontomorrow.org/how-we-work/. Checks can also be made payable to: True Potential Scholarship and mailed to: Matters On Tomorrow, P.O. Box 5573, Lincoln, NE 68505.