Pritzker Foundation gives scholarships to undocumented students

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Some 70 undocumented high school seniors set to graduate in June from the Noble Network of Charter Schools can tap into a new $3 million college scholarship fund aimed at filling a financial gap and established by loyal Noble backers, the Pritzker Foundation.

The foundation will provide up to $12,000 per year to each of the students to attend a four-year accredited college, a sum intended to replace federal Pell and state MAP grants that undocumented students can’t apply for,said Bryan Traubert, a board member and husband of U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

“They get into college but without any scholarship money…To put it very simply, these are Pell grants and MAP grants for undocumented students,”said Traubert, whose foundation has committed to four years of funding for the class of 2015. He and his wife have been generous financial backers of Noble schools; one campus is named for the Pritzker family.

“These kids are part of America, and if all you did was care about the economics interest of America, this is such a waste of human potential,” Traubert said. “The kids worked hard, they had grit, they did everything we asked of them and they got into college. They feel betrayed.”

Whether the help will come for the class of 2016 and beyond isn’t clear, but “the class of 2015 is set,” Traubert said.

To get a Pritzker Access Scholarship, the studentsgraduating from 10 of Noble’s campusesmust qualify for the federaldeferred action for childhood arrivals, be accepted into a four-year school, and contribute $2,000 per year, said Rose Alanis,principal of the Golder College Prep campus, which has seven undocumented seniors out of about 130.

“It’s a huge breakthrough having this money available,” Alanis said. “We canplace them in top-tier schools instead of community college.”

Of the graduating seniors, a “very small number” of undocumented seniors wouldn’t qualify for DACA status,Noble spokeswoman Angela Montagna said.

Chicago Public Schools said it doesn’t track how many of its students are undocumented immigrants. Since 2013, the district also has maintained its own “Dreamer Fund,” funded mainly by CPS employees to help fill the college funding gap. So far it has awarded scholarships to four students, according to a district spokesman.

Alanis, a daughter of immigrants, said the cause of getting the undocumented kids known as “dreamers” to college has been close to her heart — and part of her doctoralresearch.

“This could have very much been my story if I had been born across the border instead of the US,” she said. “It’s like a dream come true, it’s so important to believe in your dreams.”

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