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Scholarships Quintuple in Five Years As Immigrants Find Their True Potential 6/22/18  06/24/18 11:17:30 PM Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly Version

Scholarship Founders Karen (left) and Ross Pesek kick the evening off with a picture with the night’s speaker, Fatima Flores Laguna.                                             – Photos by Zach Wagner Photography       

Scholarships Quintuple in Five Years
As Immigrants Find Their True Potential

By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record

The True Potential Scholarship Program is now five years old and its meteoric rise is a testament to the founders, Ross and Karen Pesek of Pesek Law.
The program focuses on creating opportunities for young immigrants and is funded by private donors and private institutional funds. Since 2014, True Potential has awarded more than 70 one-year (they may be renewable) scholarships.
The recipients are “Dreamers,” young immigrants ineligible for most higher education government funding. Since Ross was a graduate of a community college before going on to earn his bachelor’s and law degree, he knows the value of community colleges in getting a quality, affordable education. Karen also attended community college, then a four-year college, on a scholarship.

Scholarship winners line up waiting to take the stage as their names are called.

Ross and Karen, a native of Mexico, decided to help others have the same advantage they had by attending a community college.
Since starting Pesek Law, Ross and Karen have dedicated much of their efforts towards helping others in their community. Ross opened a free legal clinic in South Omaha at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church where he gives free legal advice in Spanish every Monday night. He has met with over 1,500 people in six years at the clinic. Ross has also announced immigration reforms to thousands at local churches and personally helped well over 200 people brought to this country as children to obtain DACA. Ross has a thriving legal practice that is heavily influenced by Spanish-speaking immigrants. Karen is the director of finance and community liaison of the firm.
This year, the gala dinner on June 13 at Metro Community College’s Institute for the Culinary Arts in the Swanson Conference Center was attended by more than 200, including the Mexican Head Counsel Guadalupe Sánchez Salazar. The meal was prepared and served by the Culinary Arts students.
In 2014, the first year, five scholarships were presented. This year, 26 scholarships were awarded. Students’ studies range from nursing, medicine and dentistry to construction, welding, interior design, and yes, culinary arts.
The speaker – Fatima Flores Laguna, a senior at the University of Nebraska-Omaha – is herself a Dreamer. Fatima was born in Mexico City, Mexico and was brought to live in the United States at the age of 6; she’s been in Nebraska ever since.
She’s a diminutive young woman with a big message. She shared her moving story of growing up as a perceived outsider in Omaha and how she persevered and is succeeding in reaching her goals.
She recalled the effect that the passage of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) immigration policy had. Because of that, she was able to obtain her driver’s license (“two days after the law was passed!”).
DACA allowed thousands of young immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors to live and work legally in the United States. Despite the many advantages to having DACA as an immigration status, one major disadvantage is that DACA and TPS (Temporary Protected Status) recipients cannot accept any federal or state money in any context. The True Potential Scholarship seeks to fill that gap by awarding scholarships that are 100 percent privately funded.
After graduation, Fatima plans to attend law school and to continue working with the immigrant and youth community.
Immigrants who live in Nebraska and Iowa and wish to attend a community college there may apply for a True Potential scholarship. Students may want to transfer to a university or to obtain a technical degree. Students may be be new high school graduates or returning students. All need DACA or TPS documents.
“We receive funds from the Omaha Community Foundation, the Mexican Consulate, the Jesusita and Santos Baros Courage and Fortitude Fund, and other private organizations and individuals. We also work with community colleges foundations to create matching agreements to maximize our dollars.
“The foundations matching our contributions this year are Metropolitan Community College Foundation, Southeast Community College Foundation, Central Community College Foundation and Kirkwood Community College Foundation. And we raised over $25,000 by the end of the night at our dinner,” Karen Pesek said.
One of those donors is Jane Shanahan, who with her husband Steve, created the Courage and Fortitude Fund in honor of her grandmother and mother, Jesusita and Santos Baros, who were Mexican immigrants. After living with her two young children in New Mexico, then Wyoming, Jesusita finally settled in Colorado. Her daughter Santos married and settled in Nebraska. Santos is the mother of Jane. Jane is honoring her grandmother’s generosity and kindness to her fellow immigrants and her mother’s courage and perseverance by establishing a fund to help young immigrants. Several True Potential scholarships have been funded by Shanahan.
At this year’s scholarship dinner, she offered to match up to $10,000 of the donations made on the spot. Ross Pesek jokingly said, “Let’s clean her out!” And then they did.
Individuals and organizations may donate to True Potential through the 501c3 umbrella organization, Matters on Tomorrow. See www.mattersontomorow.org for more information.

2018 True Potential
Scholarship Recipients

Central Community College
Kevin Boteo Mazariegos
Construction Technology
Adolfo Diaz-Vargas
Advanced Manufacturing
Design Technology
Gloria Flores Ramirez
Academic transfer /

Kirkwood Community College
Alondra Hernandez
Academic transfer / Dentistry

Metropolitan Community

Brenda Cuevas
Chemical Dependency /

Beatriz Gabino Maganda
Martha Gomez Angeles
Real Estate /

Carlos Aguilar Ramirez
Academic transfer /
Marketing and

Bernardo Morales Rodriguez
Heating and Cooling
Grecia Torres Arredondo
Academic transfer /
Animal Studies

Brisa Mejia Crisanto
Academic transfer /
Earth Studies

Ana Loya
Academic transfer /
Human Services

Jonathan Alvarez

Metropolitan Community

Angela Valadez Flores
Erick Landa Guerrero
Culinary Arts
Felix Flores Flores
Academic transfer /
Interior Design

Kenia Hernandez Santiago
Susan Sanchez Medina
Academic transfer /
Microbiology & Dentistry

Tomas Brito
Academic transfer /
General Education

Maria Valencia

Northeast Community College
Mario Lugo Aviles
Radiologic Technology
Yovani Sanchez Carrera

Northwest Iowa
Community College

Noelia Ledesma Gonzalez

Southeast Community College
Hermelinda Escobar Tercero
Calixto Lopez
Construction Management /
Construction Tech

Brisa Lara Gonzalez

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