MPOWER Financing and La Unidad Latina Foundation (LULF) are excited to announce the winners of their scholarships for Latin American and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students. Born out of a shared passion for supporting high-potential international and DACA students and expanding access to higher education, MPOWER Financing and LULF jointly funded and administered two scholarships to award to students who align with the organizations’ ideals. The La Unidad Latina/MPOWERing Estudiantes Latinoamericanos (LULMEL) Scholarship Program and the La Unidad Latina/MPOWERing DACA Students (LULMDS) Scholarship Program provide scholarships to students who demonstrate the highest potential to advocate for and empower marginalized communities in their home country, the Latino community in the U.S., and/or the DACA/undocumented community.h
For each scholarship program, the top prize awarded was $3,000, and two additional $1,000 honorable mention prizes were awarded.
LULMEL Grand Prize Winner: Diego Sierra, Fulbright Scholar Strengthening Democracy and Equality Through Technology
Diego stood out to our judges as a scholarship applicant who had already empowered marginalized communities in Latin America through his work designing technologies to close knowledge and wealth gaps.
Diego was born in Colombia, which, he points out, is among the top 10 most unequal countries in the world and is one of the countries with the lowest chance of intergenerational mobility. “Some of the contemporary issues contributing to this ‘broken elevator’ are the fracture of democracy, the decreased learning opportunities caused by parents’ education level, and the vulnerability of growing up in conflict zones,” he says.
Diego has already developed and implemented numerous digital tools to combat these challenges. In partnership with the Stanford History Education Group and the Government of Colombia, he developed a curriculum to teach students in Latin America to critically evaluate fake news and the use of social media in political campaigns. He also developed a digital tool to help students develop effective study habits, which received the Technology for Equity in Learning Opportunity award from Stanford University, as well as partnered with the United Nations Development Programme and the community of Buenaventura, Colombia, to design digital tools to restore social capital. After graduating, he aspires to return to Colombia and to advocate for sustainable and equitable development.
Diego will use the LULMEL scholarship to augment his Fulbright scholarship, which only pays a small monthly stipend and a portion of his tuition at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education. “I am honored and grateful to be the recipient of this award,” he says. “I believe we can build a future where every learner in Latin America develops their unique potential and thrives regardless of the fragility of their environment. This award strengthens my commitment of working towards this goal.”
LULMDS Grand Prize Winner: Monette, Georgetown Medical Student Serving the Undocumented
Monette, who asked that we not publish her last name, impressed our joint MPOWER-LULF scholarship committee with her tenacity. She received DACA status in 2012 but kept her status a secret from everyone except for a handful of close friends and mentors. Despite the obstacles, Monette persisted in her dream of becoming a physician, spending three years working as a medical scribe and project manager for ScribeAmerica – and getting an eye-opening window into the disparities between the insured and uninsured.
“This [experience] sparked my interest in advocating for the medical needs of the DREAMer [undocumented] community,” she says. “As a current first-year medical student at Georgetown University School of Medicine,” she wrote in her essay, “I have finally decided that it is time to stop hiding in the shadows and to harness my fears into something useful, serving as a voice for the undocumented population. I want to ensure that everyone, regardless of status, has access to affordable care.”
Monette is already working towards this goal. She volunteers at Georgetown’s free clinic, co-organized the screening of a documentary on health disparities for undocumented migrants, and mentors two pre-med DACA undergraduates.
“This award will help me reach my goal of becoming a physician and providing medical care to all regardless of status,” she says.
LULMEL and LULMDS Honorable Mention Winners
For the LULMEL scholarship program, LULF and MPOWER awarded honorable mention scholarships to:
1. Ana Cristina Sedas Ruiz from Mexico, who is pursuing a Master of Global Health Delivery at Harvard Medical School and wants to use her degree to focus on improving health among Latino migrants in the U.S. Prior to beginning her studies at Harvard, she led a migrant health program at the Mexican consulate in Boston and organized two free health fairs that provided more than 1,700 health screenings.
2. Ana Gabriela Loayza Nolasco, who is a Peruvian student pursuing a Master of Architecture at Harvard University. She is a former assistant professor at a Peruvian architectural school and has worked with remote indigenous communities in Peru to develop solar-heated modular housing.
For the LULMDS scholarship program, LULF and MPOWER awarded honorable mention scholarships to:
1. Paola, a DACA student at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, Paola was an Academic Counseling Fellow and was awarded a UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Award for service to the undocumented community.
2. Jorge, a Georgia State University DACA student pursuing a dual degree in Finance and Real Estate. Jorge has worked in construction to finance his degree, and he eventually wants to use his degree to help Latino small business owners manage their finances.
Due to concerns about the safety of undocumented family members, Paola and Jorge have asked that we not use their last names.
About MPOWER Financing
MPOWER Financing, headquartered in Washington, D.C., and with offices in New York City and Bangalore, India, is a mission-driven fintech company and provider of global educational loans. It is the only student lender in the world that leverages both overseas and U.S. credit data, as well as future earning potential, to serve high-promise international and DACA students. MPOWER Financing works with more than 350 top universities and colleges across the nation to provide financing to students from over 200 countries. Since 2014, it has received close to $1B in loan application volume on its platform. MPOWER Financing helps students build their credit histories and provides them with personal finance education and career support to help prepare for life after college. The team is backed by Gray Matters Capital, Breega, Potencia Ventures, Zephyr Management, Goal Structured Solutions, 1776, Village Capital, VARIV, DreamIt, Fresco, Chilango, K Street, and University Ventures, as well as funds managed by Lloyd Crescendo Advisors and Community Investment Management.
About La Unidad Latina Foundation (LULF)
La Unidad Latina Foundation (LULF) is a community of socially conscious college graduates dedicated to the advancement of the Latino community nationwide. Its college access and scholarship programs propel students from high school to college graduation. LULF believes ensuring the future success of its students will ensure the success of all of the United States of America. Since 2014, LULF has awarded over $100,000 in scholarships and helped nearly 150 students gain admission to top colleges and universities nationwide.