HSU Advancement Foundation Chair Supports Undocumented Students with New Scholarship

Jul, 2015
HSU Advancement Foundation Chair Heather Bernikoff-Raboy

A new scholarship established by Heather Bernikoff (’93, Psychology/Pre-Med), Chair of the HSU Advancement Foundation Board, is helping undocumented HSU students stay at Humboldt State.

When asked why she established the $1,000 Humboldt Dreamer Scholarship, Heather says, “My own experience has given me a deep appreciation for the struggles a person goes through to become an educated person.”

Humboldt State University Advancement Foundation Board Chair Heather Bernikoff-Raboy

Heather Bernikoff-Raboy ('93, Psychology/Pre-Med) at her commencement ceremony.

Heather’s commitment to giving to HSU started right after graduate school. “I started giving as soon as I had a paycheck. I started with a $100 book scholarship. After that, the size of the scholarship grew as my financial capacity grew. The amounts varied depending on the number of applicants, but I always gave.

“I come from a working class family and couldn’t have afforded to go to college without the generosity of others. I was a good student so I was awarded scholarships and those scholarships made all the difference for me. By providing scholarships, I felt I could help smooth the path just a little bit for other students.”

In 1997, Heather and her husband, David Raboy, Class of ‘94, funded the Humboldt Passport Scholarship for students from Tuolumne County, the rural county where Heather grew up. Although the scholarship helped many students over the years, there were a number of years where no one applied because of the limited pool of students from the rural communities it served.

Last year, Heather decided on a new direction for her scholarship funds. She was visiting campus one day and students were tabling on the quad. Sitting at one of the tables were students from the FREE (Finding Resources and Empowerment through Education) club.

“I started talking to the students and learned they were advocating for undocumented students at Humboldt State and were working on establishing a scholarship,” she says. “I had followed the discussion of the DREAM Act in the news and always felt that young people who came to the United States with their families shouldn’t be penalized.”

Heather spoke with University Advancement and was surprised to find HSU didn’t offer a scholarship for undocumented students. In fact, Heather discovered that many undocumented students are ineligible to apply for federal financial aid. After talking to the FREE club members about the unique financial struggles of undocumented students, Heather knew she wanted to support these students as they pursued an education.

Working with the Office of Philanthropy, Heather established the Humboldt Dreamer Scholarship. The $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to a continuing HSU student who has documented AB540 status, and maintains a 3.0 GPA or better.

“HSU was a huge part of what prepared me to be a changemaker in my community and my work,” says Heather. Through philanthropy, Heather encourages students to build confidence and skills with an HSU education.

“I see so much intelligence, initiative, and potential in young people and want to support them. We need all hands on deck in our nation to generate the solutions and thought leadership we need to address our challenges. Everyone’s contribution is essential,” she says.

To contribute to the Humboldt Dreamer Scholarship, support a scholarship that speaks to your passions, or establish a scholarship of your own, contact the Office of Philanthropy at (707) 826-5101 or email giving@humboldt.edu.