Forever Humboldt

Dreamer Scholarship Makes a Difference in Lives of Undocumented Students

Heather Bernikoff (’93, Psychology/Pre-Med)

Undocumented students face unimaginable challenges in their pursuit of higher education. In addition to the emotional upheaval of adjusting to life in an unfamiliar country, undocumented students have few options when it comes to paying for college. Though many of these students grow up in the American K-12 school system, they still don’t qualify for basic Federal Student Aid. However, through resilience and hard work, several undocumented HSU students are making their dreams come true this semester with vital support from the Humboldt Dreamer Scholarship.

Last year, the Humboldt Dreamer Scholarship was established by Heather Bernikoff (’93, Psychology/Pre-Med), former Chair of the HSU Advancement Foundation Board, to help undocumented students overcome the financial and personal challenges of attending college. Humboldt State is the first in the CSU system to offer such a scholarship.

Now in its second year, the “dream” has come true for six students. The $1,000 Humboldt Dreamer Scholarship—which is available to those maintaining a 3.0 GPA or better—has given students the confidence they need to succeed, according to letters they’ve written to Heather. The voices of these Dreamer students are featured below (please note that we removed the students’ names to protect their privacy):

To be sincerely honest, I never pictured myself in college. At the age of 10, a stranger swooped into my home, ripped me from my grandparents, and took me on a journey across the desert on foot. The stranger was my biological mom, whom I had barely met. Over the next month’s journey, I saw things a girl of ten should never see: abuse of women, prostitution, drug use, and people dying in the streets. Once in the U.S., we had to travel through the desert, where many feared death.

I am very thankful to be chosen for the 2016 Dreamer Scholarship and I’m so glad that people like you exist who help other people’s dreams come true. College was always presented as too big of a hurdle for someone like me, with little resources, low income, and being born outside the U.S. What motivates me is the education I’m receiving, being in such a beautiful place, and the pride it brings my mom.

Humboldt Dreamer Scholarship recipient, Environmental Mgmt. & Protection, class of 2020

My journey to a new home was very long and scary. I realized that in order to be successful here I would need to struggle in learning the language. For a long time, I found it very difficult to be in the U.S. Being a ‘nobody’ here was very hard at times, but I had to accept it.

My accomplishments are very meaningful to me because even though I’m an undocumented student I have managed to make it halfway through college. My academic goals are to continue my ongoing dedication towards my degree, because if there’s anything I want to achieve, it’s to be a role model for those undocumented students who might be afraid to pursue an education because they might see it as impossible due to their status. Thank you for the confidence you have shown in me by supporting this scholarship. I couldn’t be more grateful for you. It is people like you that make all the difference in the world.

Humboldt Dreamer Scholarship recipient, Marine Biology, class of 2019

I want an education. I promise you that your time and money will not be wasted. I can amount to so much more than a minimum wage job at a fast food restaurant.

Humboldt Dreamer Scholarship recipient, Journalism, class of 2019

Heather says the scholarship fund is a rewarding investment that not only benefits our students but our society, as well. “Great minds and solutions come from diverse communities, ways of thinking, and personal experiences. I want to give someone a chance to write a new history.” Speaking with this year’s Dreamer recipients, Heather learned the scholarship has been critical in allowing them more time to concentrate on academics, volunteer activities, and other learning opportunities.

“It was my intention to name the scholarship after the students it seeks to serve – American young people who dream of improving their lives and improving the world. If you’re reading this article, I want you to know that this is your scholarship, too, and I would love for you to partner with me as a donor. I can’t think of a better investment than helping highly motivated, academically excellent people achieve a college education at Humboldt State. It’s not only for their futures but for ours, too.”

To support undocumented students at HSU, please visit the giving page for the Humboldt Dreamer Scholarship. If you’d like to support a fund or scholarship that speaks to your passions, contact the Office of Philanthropy at (707) 826-5200 or giving@humboldt.edu.