Congratulations to our 2017 Scholars!

 

 

Awards

 

We have reached an amazing milestone, for the first time in our five year history, we are awarding $100,000 in college scholarships in a single year! This includes $15,100 raised through our Generosity Campaign. Thanks to the generous contributions of supporters like you, our Advisory Council, the generous grant from E4FC, and the Generosity community, eleven more students will be able to pursue their dream of attending college.

This year, we are pleased to honor two incredible members of the AEF family, Cristela Alonzo and Chef Ronaldo Linares by naming two of our scholarships in their honor.  The Cristela Alonzo Resiliency Award, and the Ronaldo Linares Perseverance award have been awarded to two AEF scholars who fully embody the meaning of the words resilient and perseverance.   Both Cristela and Ronaldo made outstanding contributions to our annual gala and gave generously of their time and talents.

We are thrilled to introduce our eleven 2017 AEF Scholars!  Our eleven 2017 AEF Scholars embody the diverse immigrant community in New York City and represent Bangladesh, China, Gambia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal, and Togo.  Take a moment to read each of their extraordinary stories below.

About Our 2017 AEF Scholars:

  • A young woman from Gambia who escaped child marriage and immigrated to New York at the age of 13. She is passionate about raising awareness about global sexual violence and has raised funds for organizations that relocate girls from dangerous and unstable communities.  Her participation in the Barnard College STEP Program and the MedDocs Program have inspired her to study medicine and women’s studies. Despite her hardship and arriving just four years ago, she is ranked at the top of her senior class and plans to attend Barnard College in the fall.
  • The enthusiastic energy from our 2017 scholar from Togo is infectious. Her first encounter with English was at customs when she landed at JFK, and yet she speaks English with great fluency in the 3 years she’s been in the US. Despite the many hardships and violence she faced in her home country and the US, she is a rising pre-med student attending Skidmore College. Her goal to become a doctor stems from the lack of medical assistance her family received in her country. This Amin Family Educational Scholar dreams of one day going back to build a stronger medical infrastructure in her community.
  • This scholar’s path through life has been enormously difficult: her path from Mexico to the US, family home incidents, and the death of a close friend. She managed all of these stresses and a part time job where she works 23 hours a week while attending high school full time. Therapy and counseling were the driving force of her ability to cope and stay on task. This Sofia India Amin Educational Scholar is inspired to provide the same help she was given by majoring in Psychology and Counseling when she attends Queensborough Community College in the fall.
  • A young woman from Nepal who immigrated to the United States six years ago. The last two years she has interned as a youth activist with the New York Civil Liberties Union and since then donates half of her check to fund a year’s worth of school supplies for disadvantaged children in Nepal. When she was bullied because of her accent, she sought out alliances with the LGBTQ community and helped raise awareness on acceptance and inclusion. She is proud to serve as a mentor to her younger sister, and has learned to overcome her own challenges with hard work and building confidence. This Sanchez Alzate Community Scholar plans to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and study business management or computer science.
  • A young woman from Bangladesh who immigrated to New York as a young child. In middle school faced with a lack of resources available to navigate the competitive educational system, she founded her own non-profit to provide resources to underserved low-income students, including tools for high school admissions, SAT prep and a network of mentors with similar backgrounds. She is active in organizing protests against anti-Islamic rhetoric and violence, and she thrived in a career development program, The Opportunity Network. Her family has also faced hardship with her father becoming physically disabled and her mother suffering from spinal injuries. She is passionate about dance and will attend Barnard College in the fall, focusing on entrepreneurship and economics.
  • A young man who emigrated from Mexico at the age of six and has always loved physics and math. He earned an engineering internship with Con Edison which allowed him to gain experience working on New York City’s electrical distribution system and a project focused on building stronger electrical equipment post Hurricane Sandy. He dreams of being in a position to influence and be part of technological change in order to improve the lives of people everywhere and also inspire more Latino students to pursue a STEM education. This Raj and Bhavini Amin Educational Scholar plans to pursue a degree in electrical engineering or applied physics at New York University.
  • For this scholar originally from China, her pursuit of the American Dream began only three years ago when she and her mother were forced to seek political asylum in the U.S. In that short time, she has endured two high schools across two different states, while also learning a new language and applying to colleges. Dedicated, resilient, and passionate about accounting, she hopes to one day have her own firm to provide financial literacy and accounting to immigrants and those without traditional access to such resources. This Momentum Realty Acquisition Scholar plans to study accounting and will enroll at Stony Brook University this fall.
  • A Guatemalan immigrant with a passion for food, who worked part-time in restaurants to help her family while attending high school and maintaining her high GPA. She is one step closer to her dream as an occupational therapist after getting accepted to the College of Mount Saint Vincent. She sought help and didn’t receive it from teachers who were neglectful of students at her under-resourced high school, so she looked to the internet and the library to help teach herself and others. What is our 2017 Ronaldo Linares Perseverance Award scholar most proud of? Helping tutor another fellow immigrant student achieve good grades in math.
  • This 2017 scholar moved to the country at 15 years old from Bangladesh; she arrived merely two days before her first day at high school and was initially teased and made fun of. Through sheer will, she learned English and ascended to become student Vice President her senior year. Her first initiative as student body VP? Create a buddy program to help newcomers to the US to better adjust to their new environment. Her love of math and science has led her to declare her major in civil engineering at City College of New York.
  • A young woman from Mexico, this scholar came to the U.S. as a small child and has overcome many challenges as an immigrant. She has dedicated herself to assisting her community via workshops that help promote financial management, civic engagement, leadership development, and higher education for immigrants. She is a Sponsors for Educational Opportunity scholar who was selected for a summer program with Franklin & Marshall College. With her bubbly personality and outgoing attitude, she pursues her passions, which include acting, karate, and cross-country running. This Cristela Alonzo Resilience Award Scholar plans to pursue a career as a doctor and will enroll at Binghamton University this fall.
  • Born in Indonesia and immigrated to the U.S. as a 2 year old, this scholar would come to call Queens his home. After gaining admission to the competitive Stuyvesant High School, he did nothing but excel in and outside the classroom, including serving as an active member of the peer mentorship and guidance program. With near perfect SAT scores and a rigorous course load, he still found time to become the president of his school’s dance team where his love for hip hop and dance showcases flourished. As an immigrant, he has accepted the numerous challenges and doesn’t stop pursuing the activities that make him happy. This scholar is passionate about pursuing a career as a teacher and will enroll at Stony Brook University this fall.

We would like to thank our Selection Committee for reading over 440 applications, and interviewing 19 finalists before selecting 3% of our applicants as the 2017 AEF Scholars.

Thank you for all of your contributions, including your time and financial commitments. Together, we are elevating our community through higher education and significantly improving these young persons’ lives.

Sincerely,

Celeste, Diana, Erika, Julissa & Rob
AEF Board of Directors

 

Congratulations to our 2016 Scholars!

Our eight 2016 AEF Scholars embody the diverse immigrant community in New York City and represent China, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Germany, Belize, Ghana, Suriname, and Nigeria.  Take a moment to read each of their extraordinary stories.

About Our 2016 AEF Scholars:

A young woman from Belize, this scholar immigrated to the US when she was 12 years old. Despite being undocumented and thinking she would not be able to attend college, in her own words, she is not letting her circumstances define her. She has kept working and pushing to create a path to higher education.  She scored a four or above on three AP exams and has worked with the Coro New York Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council to design change projects to improve life in New York City.  With her school’s Students for Social Responsibility Club, she raised funds for MetroCards that were awarded to refugees in the Bronx.  She was later invited to speak at the United Nations’ International Day of Peace to highlight the results of their campaign. This Everett Castaneda Scholar plans to pursue a degree in criminal justice or the sciences and will attend Dartmouth College this fall.

A young woman of Turkish and Persian background, this scholar emigrated from Germany at the age of 11. She, along with her family, has struggled through severe hardship and has had to navigate life in three different shelters throughout her time in high school. She has made school her own sanctuary.  She has explored journalism, media and writing at Princeton University’s Summer Journalism Program.  Despite being undocumented, she believes her circumstances have pushed her to search for a better life and carve out her own path.  This Amin Educational Scholar plans to pursue a career as a behavioral analyst with the FBI and will attend CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice this fall.

A young man from Ghana, this scholar immigrated to the US in 2014 at the age of 17 to reunite with his mother, who came to America when he was only a child. Although he has only been in the US for 2 years he has excelled in the classroom and beyond. He was part of the National Honor’s Society, president of the Red Cross Club, founder of the Renewable Energy Club and named student of the month in October 2015 for his positive impact helping other students. He ranked in the top 2% of his graduating class of 790 students.  This scholar plans to pursue a career as a pediatrician and will attend Middlebury College this fall.

A young woman of Curacaoan-Dominican origin, this scholar emigrated from the Netherlands Antilles at the age of 4. Being undocumented has taught her how to navigate obstacles in life while remaining persistent and determined in her pursuit of success. Her determination and hard work earned her multiple awards during her high school career. She was awarded the Quest Bridge Award recognizing top low-income students in the nation. She graduated high school with an almost perfect GPA. Since 2015, she has interned with Harlem Biospace as a research entrepreneur engineer. In addition, she won a Newsies Award which resulted in her article “My History Matters Too” being published in the New York Daily News. This scholar plans to pursue a career as a bioengineer and will enroll at the University of Pennsylvania this fall.

After only 6 years in the US, a Chinese immigrant who spent every day in the library reading books and listening to CD’s to learn the language and graduate in the top of her class. She lent her hard-earned English skills to the next generation by volunteering at a local organization and tutoring other Chinese children free of charge. One of her life goals is to establish tuition free vocational schools for immigrants: allowing them the ability to earn a stable income, have a secure work environment, and contribute to American society. This Alwyn Andrew-Mziray Scholar will attend Northeastern University in the fall and plans to pursue a degree in Finance.

A Chinese American student who found her passion in art and used murals as mediums for promoting social change. She experienced poverty first hand, and sought to find a way to brighten her neighborhood and encourage conversation. The murals she helped bring to life highlighted the rare peaks of nature in the concrete jungles of New York City and the diversity of cultures and beliefs in her community. In her school’s volleyball team, she was transformed and focused on moving forward and having the capacity to change the game. She will attend the University of Southern California in the fall where she will pursue her interest in Computer Science.

A young woman of Nigerian origin, who was born in Italy and experienced racism as a person of color and immigrated to the U.S. 7 years ago. She has taken numerous AP classes and earned the Principal’s Honor Roll.  She is part of the NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault where she teaches Black, Hispanic, and South Asian youth about sexual assault. One of her teachers said the following, “She draws lessons from her own personal struggles as an immigrant, first-generation, low-income young black woman in order to demonstrate greater empathy for her peers. She has been able to turn her struggles into strengths through painstaking effort, which illustrates her resilience and tenacity.”  Her career goal is to become an educator so she can increase tolerance, social justice and educational equity. She will attend Brown University in the fall.

A young woman from Suriname, this scholar immigrated to the US when she was 4 years old. Her dedication to her community through the MinKwon Center as well as her efforts at a local food bank is sparked by her relentless desire to better the society around her. A stellar student, this scholar strives to improve access to ESL classes and awareness of other public benefits so that fellow immigrants can continue to improve their lives and give back to the NYC community. This Chris Cornett Scholar plans to pursue a degree in social work and will attend Hunter College this fall.

Congratulations to our 2015 Scholars!

Our nine 2015 AEF Scholars embody the diverse immigrant community in New York City and represent Ecuador, Philippines, Jamaica, Mexico, Guyana, Nigeria, and Peru. Take a moment to read each of their extraordinary stories.

About Our 2015 AEF Scholars:

A Guyanese American student who has made community service a vital part of his life. With Project Happy, he volunteers on Saturdays to assist and mentor children and young adults with disabilities, primarily autism or mobility impairments. He is also a tutor to his peers through the Arista National Honors Society. His family has survived extreme hardship, including domestic violence, poverty, and his mother’s uterine cancer. He will graduate with an Advanced Regents Diploma and expects to attend Williams College in the fall.

A student who immigrated from Mexico and loves mathematics and working with numbers as “the language of pure logic.” Despite facing a number of personal trials, including his stepfather’s recent death and becoming ill during his senior year, he will graduate as Valedictorian of his class. He is a leader of Respect for All, a program that facilitates social injustice discussions with students in the more junior classes of his Bronx community, and he has participated in the Bloomberg Arts Internship and New York University College Access Leadership Institute programs. He plans to attend Skidmore College and major in Mathematics.

A young woman from Peru who immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 4. She plans on becoming a doctor, first attending The City College of New York to earn her degree in Biology. She is an exceptionally resilient young woman who has endured great hardship. Her counselor describes her as someone who has navigated difficult home situations and grown from setbacks that would have discouraged other students. She spent many weekdays in high school tutoring 8th grade students in math and science.

A young man of Ecuadorian descent who found his way to the US after moving to Spain at age 2. He has been in the US for the past three years and now lives in the Bronx. Despite his recent move and a new language, this recipient maintained a 4.0 GPA in high school. Realizing that the current educational system can be tough on immigrants, this scholar strives for excellence and hopes to reshape the opportunities available to other immigrant scholars. He is active in the community through organizations like New York Cares and Changing the Odds. He will attend Hunter College this fall and wishes to have a career at the United Nations.

A young man who immigrated from Jamaica and is pursuing his life long dream of becoming a pilot. This recipient will be attending SUNY Farmingdale to study aviation and enroll in flight classes. Bouncing around the foster care system, this student eventually reunited with a family member in the New York City area but ultimately faced homelessness. Despite a tumultuous living situation and a four hour commute to his high school, this scholar had 100% attendance and maintained a 92 grade average. Overcoming all obstacles thrown in his way, this scholar remains optimistic and steady in his pursuit of his aviation dreams.

A young woman who immigrated from the Philippines four years ago and is graduating as Valedictorian of her high school. She received a score of 3 and above on four AP exams. As a student she organized workshops called “myth busters” to inform and teach her classmates accurate information about college, in addition to assisting over 600 students submit their college applications. She will be attending the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at The City College of New York where she will obtain a BS and MD degree in seven years. As a medical doctor she plans to provide quality care at an affordable price, focusing on the immigrant community.

An Ecuadorian young woman that was raised in a single family household faced with critical hardships, such as the inability to meet basic needs of food and housing. She has persevered in the face of adversity and excelled academically by maintaining a 3.9 GPA. Early on in high school, she realized many of her classmates lacked mentors and tutoring, and through her involvement in student council she started a Big Brother/Big Sister Initiative for upperclassmen to mentor and tutor 9th and 10th graders. More than 40 students are currently participating in this initiative, and she hopes to expand the program and involve college student as mentors in the future. She plans to attend Hamilton College this fall.

A young man who moved to New York from a small town in the countryside of Mexico City surrounded by poverty. The town lacked resources and a common reason for an incomplete assignment wasn’t “the dog ate it,” but due to inconsistent electricity. It is in these poor conditions that he found his passion for engineering, with his dream of providing modern infrastructure to his former community. When not participating in soccer for the Downtown United Soccer Club and focusing on his studies, he works as a cashier/stock boy. He will attend the City College of New York where he will major in Computer Engineering.

A young man who immigrated from Nigeria two years ago, to escape war and poverty, with the promise of playing basketball at a high school in North Carolina. After denying him admittance as an international student, he was used only to play basketball. He was then recruited to Georgia, but was falsely enrolled for his junior year (instead of his senior year). While in Georgia, his friend told him about the Covenant House New York, a non-profit that serves as a homeless shelter for young adults, where he currently resides. He will attend Ithaca College and pursue a career in physical therapy.

Thank you for all of your contributions, including your time and financial commitments.

Together, we are enabling these students of exceptional promise and elevating our community through higher education!

AEF Scholars featured in the Village Voice

The Undocumented Need Not Apply
U.S. denies financial aid to thousands of immigrants
By Keegan Hamilton Wednesday, Aug 6 2014

Cinthia Gutierrez is well on her way to becoming a New York City police detective. The 18-year-old aspiring investigator just completed her first year of studies in the honors program at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and she already has undercover experience — though not exactly the kind favored by the NYPD. When she was 12, smugglers bringing her family into the United States from Mexico gave her a fake ID and a cover story to get past the border guards.

“They told me, ‘If someone asks you what you’re going to do, say you need to go to the mall to buy new clothes,'” Gutierrez recalls. “I didn’t even know what the mall was.”

Gutierrez spoke no English when she arrived in New York in 2007 with her mother and younger brother. Six years later, she graduated near the top of her class at Staten Island’s Susan E. Wagner High School. Under normal circumstances, she would have had her pick of colleges, but as an undocumented immigrant, her options were limited. She is barred from receiving state or federal financial aid and is ineligible for student loans. And when Gutierrez graduates, she will be unable to work legally for most employers — including those in law enforcement, the career she desires.

“I still have to find a way to fix my status,” Gutierrez says. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. There hasn’t been any legislation passed that will help me.”

With comprehensive federal immigration reform stalled in Congress, promising students like Gutierrez are stuck, waiting for states to enact their own measures that expand access to higher education. In the meantime, undocu–mented students are forced to rely on scholarships and a cobbled-together support network of family, teachers, mentors, and other allies.

“My parents don’t earn that much, I didn’t have a job at the time,” Gutierrez says, recalling her high school experience. “All I could think was that I wanted to go college. I just didn’t know how to do it.”

Gutierrez eventually found a way, obtaining a scholarship and stipend from John Jay and becoming one of the first recipients of a new, private scholarship specifically reserved for undocumented immigrants and first-generation citizens graduating from New York City schools. But she is more the exception than the rule.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, roughly 65,000 undocumented people graduate from U.S. high schools each year, including an estimated 3,600 students annually in New York. Nationally, only 49 percent of undocumented high school graduates move on to college, versus 76 percent of immigrants with lawful status and 71 percent for native citizens.

“A lot of students end up feeling hopeless,” says Jessica Rofe, a former New York City public school teacher and recent graduate of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law. Rofe cites the case of one gifted former pupil who “basically stopped going to school” after being discouraged from applying to college. “They end up leaving school because they’re told by guidance counselors — or by their parents, even — that college probably isn’t an option because of their immigration status.”

Nearly 5,500 undocumented students are currently enrolled at colleges in New York, which is one of 17 states that allow undocumented students who meet certain residency requirements to pay in-state tuition at public colleges. (Other states either expressly ban undocumented students or charge international tuition, which can cost more than triple the in-state rate.) But the state still denies undocumented students the financial aid that makes college attainable for many middle-class and low-income families.

States that have opted to help fund higher education for the undocumented have shown that even modest investments can pay significant, long-term dividends. A 2012 Fiscal Policy Institute study found states that granted in-state tuition to undocumented students experienced a 14 percent decrease in college dropout rates and a 31 percent increase in college enrollment. College graduates earn an estimated $25,000 more per year than their high school-graduate counterparts in New York state and pay about $3,900 more per year in state and local taxes. (New York’s undocumented residents currently pay nearly $700 million annually in taxes.)

“The more educated they are, the better it is for our workforce,” says State Sen. Jose Peralta, a Democrat from Queens. “It’s better for the city’s economy, it’s better for the state economy. It’s better for everyone.”

Peralta was a prime sponsor of the New York DREAM Act, voted down 30 — 29 by the state Senate earlier this year. Peralta blames two moderate GOP legislators — Sen. Phil Boyle and Sen. Kemp Hannon — for failing to appear at the Capitol when the votes were cast.

“They mysteriously disappeared,” Peralta says. “I’m pretty sure [Republican Party] leadership asked them to take a walk. ”

Hannon did not respond to messages requesting comment for this story. Boyle says he was attending his uncle’s wake at the time and would have voted no, regardless.

“I’m very sympathetic to the plight of the dreamers,” Boyle, who represents a swath of Long Island’s South Shore, says. “I know they’re in this situation through no fault of their own. But I have concerns about the use of taxpayer money in this regard.”

The State Education Department estimated that the annual cost of expanding the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to cover undocumented immigrants would be $627,428 per year. (The Fiscal Policy Institute, anticipating higher enrollment, predicted the figure would be closer to $17 million annually.) By comparison, the California Department of Finance estimates that approximately 2,500 undocumented students qualify each year for $14.5 million worth of state education grants.

Without access to financial aid, Cinthia Gutierrez works three days a week at a Mexican restaurant near her family’s modest home in Staten Island’s Port Richmond neighborhood. Her father earns decent money working construction, and her mother works as a housekeeper. All members of the family are undocumented.

Gutierrez’s father, José Manuel, explains in Spanish that he brought his family to the United States to provide a better future for Cinthia and her brother, a high school junior who wants to become a computer engineer. “The people who came here illegally, the majority work in construction, in restaurants with a minimum salary,” he says. “We can’t pay for college with the cost that high. If you have three kids, that’s a lot of bills.”

Easing the burden on the Gutierrez family is a $5,000 scholarship Cinthia received from the Ascend Educational Fund (AEF). Co-founded in 2012 by Julissa Arce, a former undocumented immigrant who gained legal status and ultimately landed jobs at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, the crowdfunded program distributed $63,000 among eight graduating high school seniors this year.

That was out of 350 applicants, and Arce laments the fact that dozens of qualified candidates who didn’t make the cut are left with little recourse when it comes to financing their education.

“It’s so heartbreaking,” Arce says. “I wish we knew of other [resources] we could send them to, but frankly we don’t know too many other scholarships where undocumented kids can apply. Other kids have more options, from financial aid to loans or a million other scholarships they can apply to.”

Arce dreams of eventually expanding AEF to cover all of New York state or perhaps other major cities with large immigrant populations, but for now, only residents of the city’s five boroughs qualify for the scholarships. Arce says the scholarship committee focuses on awarding money to students who might otherwise not be able to attend college.

“That’s something we’re very mindful of,” Arce says. “A lot of kids might think, ‘Oh, I’m going to go part-time or take a year off and work and then go.’ Then life happens, and those things don’t end up happening.”

Though invaluable for some, private scholarships such as the AEF cover just a small percentage of the undocumented high school graduates who could potentially afford college if not for their immigration status. The only real remedy, Arce says, is federal immigration reform, and the DREAM Act has been stalled in Congress since 2010, when it was filibustered by Senate Republicans. The measure has the support of President Obama, multiple national education groups, and most top universities.

Gutierrez and other young, undocumented immigrants say that though they are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents, they consider themselves American and share a common desire to make the most of life in their adopted homeland.

“Being American is not about where you are born and not even what papers you have,” says Jin Park, an 18-year-old undocumented student from South Korea, who was raised in Queens and will attend Harvard next year. “Being American is the desire to make something better of yourself and willing to be accepting of a lot of views and values and beliefs.”

For Gutierrez, who arrived in the United States a few months too late to qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — President Obama’s 2012 executive order granting a temporary work authorization and reprieve from deportation for people who immigrated illegally as children — the risk is very real that she or her parents could be deported back to Mexico. Her parents say they abide by the laws and diligently pay taxes “to be right with the country” if a path to citizenship ever becomes available. Her father says half-jokingly that if Gutierrez does eventually become a police officer, he will be less fearful about receiving a traffic ticket that could set him on the path to deportation and leave the family without their main breadwinner.

“I guess if I put myself in the shoes of the people who are against immigration reform, I can see some of their points of view,” Gutierrez says. “But at the same time, a lot of the people here as undocu–mented people, we can do so much for the country if we are given the opportunity.”

Read the original article here: http://www.villagevoice.com/2014-08-06/news/the-undocumented-need-not-apply/full/

Congratulations to our 2014 Scholars!

We are thrilled to introduce our nine 2014 AEF Scholars!  Thanks to the generous contributions of supporters like you, our Advisory Council, CUNY, and the Indiegogo Community, these nine scholars will receive a total of $63,000 in college scholarships, which includes $30,000 raised through our Indiegogo Campaign.

We would like to thank our Selection Committee for reading over 340 applications, and interviewing 22 finalists before selecting 2% of our applicants as the 2014 AEF Scholars.

Our nine 2014 Scholars exemplify the diverse immigrant community in New York City and represent Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, India, Mexico, South Korea, Tibet and Burma.  Take a moment to read each of their extraordinary stories.

We are in the process of matching our scholars with mentors.  If you would like to join our mentorship program, please contact us at ascendfundny@gmail.com 

A Tibetan refugee who immigrated from India three years ago and whose journey to the United States has been nothing short of remarkable.  At the again of six, his family embarked on a trek across the Himalayas to Nepal to escape his homeland of Tibet.  He was subsequently sent by his family to India, where he was educated by monks.  Reunited with his family, he is now an avid break dancer with a passion for robotics.  This Scholar’s good nature and endless optimism are palpable when you are in his presence.  This fall he will attend Binghamton University, majoring in Astrophysics.  This Indiegogo Community Scholarship recipient dreams of being part of a NASA mission.

A young man who immigrated from Bangladesh at the age of 4 and now lives in Brooklyn.  This Arthur Li Distinguished Rising Star Award recipient is headed to Cornell University and his long-term goal is to become the CEO of his own open-source software company.  He has endured extreme poverty and helps to care for his young nephew, doing homework late at night when his duties are done.  In his words, his dream is to be a “lifelong scholar.”

A young woman who immigrated from Ecuador and now lives in Inwood.  This Danaus Awesome Achievement Award recipient is in the top 2% of her graduating class. Inspired by her own scoliosis diagnosis and her mother’s stomach cancer, her long-term dream is to become a pediatrician.  She will major in Forensic Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice this fall. She is active in the community and led a campaign to raise funds and awareness for children in African who cannot afford shoes.  In her words, the struggles of an immigrant is what motivated her to keep moving forward.

A young man who immigrated from Mexico and is graduating from one of the top high schools in the nation.  He received a score of 3 and above on 5 AP exams.  This CUNY Excellence Award recipient will be attending Baruch College.  He promotes the values of hard work and perseverance to those around him through the Big Brother/Big sister program at his high school.  Through success in education and business, he hopes to promote social change and improve his community.  He believes it is the youth’s responsibility to change any negative stigmas associated with the immigrant community.

A young woman who immigrated from the Dominican Republic three years ago, leaving her mother and two siblings behind. Following tremendous hardship, she finally feels a sense of safety and calm in her fourth foster home, and is proud to say her struggles have not stopped her.  She actively gives back to the immigrant community by mentoring students to improve their basic literacy skills, and educates immigrants about their rights with Community Voices Heard.  She will attend Bard College this fall and plans to pursue a degree in a social science.

A South Korean young man whose family left everything behind to give him a chance of obtaining a better education.  His internship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center was cut short due to his status, but he did not give up and successfully campaigned with the director to re-instate his position.   His courage and resilience earned him admission to Harvard, where he will major in Biology.  This Arthur Li Distinguished Rising Star Award recipient plans to pursue a career in medicine and research.  In his own words, his status empowers him to work harder and to always lend a helping hand to those who are struggling.

A young woman whose parents immigrated from Mexico.  She is passionate about science and improving human health.  She has successfully maintained an A average while also working part-time in the evening cleaning medical facilities.  She has contributed 360 hours of community service during her high school career, highlighted by a trip to Mali in West Africa with buildOn. In addition, she spends significant hours conducting lab work and is proud to have earned Second Place in the Bronx Science and Engineering Fair at Lehman College.  She will attend Union College and plans to pursue biomedical engineering.

An Indian-Bengali young woman who dreams of becoming a chemical engineer to help identify a cure for cancer.  She took it upon herself to research mentors in cancer research and has worked under a Chemistry Professor at CUNY’s York College. A survivor of domestic violence, she strives to be independent in order to achieve her dreams and find her true purpose in life.  She holds several part-time jobs to contribute to her family’s finances.  She will be attending Penn State this fall.

A Burmese immigrant who moved to the US at the age of 8 and currently resides in Woodside with his family. He will be attending Princeton and studying Economics. He was a straight A high school student and achieved the highest possible score on every AP exam, despite struggling with English when he first moved to America. His interests and experiences are diverse. He enjoys extemporaneous speaking and competed with his school, while also founding his school’s Woodworking Club and Eco-Design Club. He is also a Set Design Director and manages crew members to build theater sets. In 2013, he had lunch with Michelle Obama for the National Design Awards. His dream is to continue to develop his leader skills and ultimately have an impact in developing the future of Burma.

Our initial goal for 2014 was to award $50,000, and instead, thanks to your support, we are awarding 97% more than we were able to award in 2013!

Thank you for all your contributions, including your time and financial commitments. Together, we are significantly improving these young person’s lives.  We look forward to changing many more lives in years to come.

Sincerely,

Adrienne, Celeste, Diana, Erika, Julissa & Rob

AEF Board of Directors

2014 AEF Gala Recap

The Ascend Educational Fund hosted our First Annual Gala on Saturday, February 8, 2014. The Gala was a huge success with over 130 people gathered in the Prince George Ballroom in Gramercy. AEF was able to raise over $8,000 from the silent auction alone! While the event set a solid foundation to help us achieve our goal of awarding $50,000 in scholarships in 2014, we still have work to do and your continued support will help us meet our goal. Over 650 applications have been started and we are on pace to receive four times the number of 2013 applications.

Click here for a full gallery of photos from the First Annual Gala. If you post any photos from the Gala, please use our hashtag #aefgala2014

We thank everyone who attended and contributed for helping us to Elevate the American Dream of our current and future Scholars. Without your participation, our First Annual Gala would not have been such a moving and inspirational evening!

AEF on Bloomberg News

Young Bankers Seek ‘Good Yield’ With Their Own Nonprofits
By Max Abelson – Feb 4, 2014
Bloomberg News

The founders of the Resolution Project don’t dwell on generosity or charity when they describe why their nonprofit mentors and funds young leaders. They favor the language of finance.

“We get good yield,” said Andrew Harris, the group’s 31-year-old vice chairman, who advises private-equity firms at Forum Capital Partners in New York. “We think it’s very different and, to use a Wall Street term, very differentiated.”

Without deserting careers, a new wave of young bankers is starting nonprofits to help orphans, immigrants, veterans and students. They say they’re moved to mend the world using capitalism’s wisdom, not because of its shortcomings, preaching the power of dividends, due diligence, leverage and efficient allocation of resources. Some see themselves setting a new mold for post-crisis Wall Street philanthropy by not waiting to give away their money or leaving for full-time charity work.

“Among this generation — our generation — is a deep passion and interest in learning, earning and returning simultaneously,” said Andrew Klaber, 32, an analyst at hedge fund Paulson & Co. whose nonprofit Even Ground provides education and care to African children affected by AIDS. “You just see an unmet need in your research, and research is what we do on Wall Street.”

‘Made It’
Even Ground, which has given out more than $800,000 according to Internal Revenue Service filings, received early funding from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Three founders of Ascend Educational Fund, which throws its inaugural gala in New York’s Prince George Ballroom Feb. 8, have worked at that bank.

“Our target audience is a very under-covered market,” said Adrienne Serrato, 27, an Ascend co-founder who now works for Houston-based investment firm WindAcre Partnership. Her group, which grants scholarships regardless of immigration status, awarded $32,000 in 2013, its first full year.

Another Ascend co-founder, Julissa Arce, develops derivatives for Merrill Lynch clients at Bank of America Corp.

“The first time I felt like I made it wasn’t when I made director,” said Arce, 30, a University of Texas graduate. “I felt like I made it when I launched this fund.”

Lessons from capital markets aren’t the only inspirations. Others described being shaken by the 2008 financial crisis, even if they don’t see bankers as villains.

System Meltdowns
“There’s been a cultural humility that’s come out of the financial crisis,” said Tim Kleiman, 30, an analyst for New York-based asset manager Golub Capital. He’s working on a project to fund higher education in Africa that may aim for profit. “When you’re confronted with these really humbling events, where you see the meltdown of these systems and the sad human costs of that — that were not necessarily the result of anyone’s intention — for me it galvanized my thinking.”

Kleiman, a Yale University graduate who worked for McKinsey & Co. and hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co. before Golub, said he doesn’t want to wait for his career to hit its high point before undertaking meaningful projects.

“That world that I’m imagining, where I’m a partner and I’ve made all my money, who knows what that world’s going to look like?” he said. “So why not try something now?”

Several founders, including some of the young bankers, warned that the work demands more than passion and pluck. Nancy Lublin, who started Dress for Success, which gives unemployed women suits for job interviews, said she cautions aspiring philanthropists even while admiring their intensity.

‘Root Canal’
“I’ve never run a hedge fund, and they’ve never run a not-for-profit,” said Lublin, 42, now chief executive officer of Do Something, an organization that runs national campaigns about bullying, the environment and other causes to engage teenagers. “I brush my teeth every day, twice a day, that doesn’t mean I’m ready to perform a root canal on somebody.”

Some Wall Street nonprofit founders described hitting logistical and financial snags trickier than expected.

Kelly Peeler, a co-founder of Business Across Borders, said she had a hard time planning entrepreneur competitions in Iraq while working as a JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst in New York.

“It’s a lot to juggle,” said Peeler, 26, who left the biggest U.S. bank last year to be a Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation global scholar.

Ahmad Zubair Sahar Mahjoor, 37, struggled to raise funds for his Afghan Education Peace Foundation, which aimed to bring students from Afghanistan to the U.S. for schooling. The partner at Latin Markets, a New York firm that organizes forums for investors, said he’s winding down the group after six years.

“You can’t lead a cavalry charge if you think you’ll look funny on a horse,” Sahar Mahjoor said.

Marathon Man
Others are undaunted. New York Needs You, which mentors students who are the first in their families to attend college, raised almost $1.4 million at a Jan. 23 gala, according to a press release. Robert Reffkin, a former chief of staff to Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn, started the group in 2009 while working at the New York-based firm. The fundraiser honored Adebayo Ogunlesi, a member of the bank’s board.

“There is a subculture of young Wall Street people starting nonprofits,” said Reffkin, who left the bank to co-found Urban Compass, a real estate startup that says it’s using technology to improve housing searches for New Yorkers.

The firm and the nonprofit aren’t his only creations. The 34-year-old Columbia University graduate helped start a Success Academy charter school in the Bronx, began a Lazard Freres & Co. minority internship program and ran 50 marathons in 50 states over six years, ending in New York in November.

‘Let’s Go’
Reffkin, raised by a single mother, was one of the founders who described being driven by life experience and personality.

“I’m a starter of things,” said Oliver Libby, another co-founder of the Resolution Project, which will hold competitions for student social ventures at the United Nations Youth Assembly this month and the Clinton Global Initiative University in Phoenix in March. “I just have fun with it. So there’s a certain aspect of me that just is like, yeah, sure, let’s get that started, let’s go.”

Libby, 32, a managing director at New York-based advisory firm Hatzimemos Partners LLC, started a Harvard University a cappella group and was included in a Harvard Crimson story about students who wanted to be president of the U.S. Another Resolution co-founder, Howard Levine, is a colleague of Arce’s at Bank of America, where he works on a special-situations team.

“You can have your cake and eat it too — there doesn’t need to be a tension between Wall Street and nonprofit,” said Harris, who went to high school in Westchester with Levine. “And we’re proving that.”

Scalability, Mitigation
The language of banking shapes their group, with Resolution judging pitches on market demand, scalability, risk mitigation and returns. Winners get as much as $3,000 of seed funding and mentoring from volunteers who work at firms including New York-based Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan.

Resolution “is an allocator,” Libby said. “In a sense, we’re angel investors.”

There are limits to what the vocabulary and methodology of banking can do for nonprofits, according to Andrew Hahn, who directs the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy at Brandeis University.

“Often it works out, and I call that a magical outcome, but sometimes it doesn’t,” Hahn said, adding that metrics Wall Street relies on for risk management can be harder to find in philanthropy. “Sometimes the Wall Street people bring their culture into the nonprofit arena and expect too much.”

‘Doing Good’
Most of the young Wall Street philanthropists promote their efforts on the resumes they post online. Some share abundant details. The LinkedIn page for Alliance for Veteran Support co-founder Omar Itum, 29, a Johns Hopkins University graduate, describes the group’s press coverage, partnerships, contacts and goals, detailing a fundraiser that was “one of the largest charity events in the financial-services industry.”

It includes little about his job as head trader for Charter Bridge Capital Management LP, an investment manager.

Joseph Weilgus, 36, who started Project Sunshine in 1998 to entertain hospitalized children, doesn’t question the motives that drive Wall Street’s new philanthropists.

“At the end of the day, if they’re doing good, that’s great,” said Weilgus, the CEO of investment adviser New Legacy Group LLC. “You don’t have to question people’s intentions if they’re doing good.”

The current wave of bankers starting nonprofits isn’t the first to wash over Wall Street. Even young founders who described trying to create a new model of banker philanthropy paused to offer praise for predecessors.

Klaber, whose group Even Ground was previously known as Orphans Against AIDS, applauded the generosity of John Paulson, his New York-based hedge fund’s billionaire owner, and cited former Goldman Sachs heads John Whitehead, Robert Rubin and Hank Paulson as “tri-sector athletes” who’ve thrived in business, charity and politics.

“Perfection is the aspiration,” Klaber said. “I just try to do the best that I can.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Max Abelson in New York at mabelson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Eichenbaum at peichenbaum@bloomberg.net

To read the original article: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-04/young-bankers-seek-good-yield-with-their-own-nonprofits.html

Join AEF & DAPF for a November Happy Hour!

AEF/DAPF November Happy Hour

 

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The Ascend Educational Fund and the Dr. Antonia Pantoja Fellowship, Inc. invite you to join us for a November Happy Hour to learn how we are working to promote educational achievement in the New York City community. We look forward to sharing more about our plans for both organizations in 2014.

Event Details 
Date: Thursday, November 14
Location: EVR- 54 W 39th St (between 5th & 6th Ave)
Time: 6 PM- 9 PM
Donation: $30 (includes one drink**)
At the door: $35 (includes one drink**)
Please RSVP and print your event ticket here

Your donation will help further AEF’s and DAPF’s missions.

About AEF and DAPF:
Ascend Educational Fund’s mission is to enable and encourage higher education and professional achievement for the immigrant community. Regardless of ethnicity, national origin or immigration status, we envision every exceptional student in New York City as having the same educational and professional opportunities. Visit www.ascendfundny.orgfor more information.

The Dr. Antonia Pantoja Fellowship, Inc. (DAPF) advocates for a quality and accessible education for all students and promotes the development of Puerto Rican and Latino/a leaders of integrity. Our role is to help bridge the educational attainment gap so prevalent within this community in New York City. Visit www.drantoniapantojafellowship.org for more information.

**The complimentary drink is sponsored by GetPoured: a members program that provides FREE drinks at various NYC venues.

Join Us at the AEF September Happy Hour!

Dear Friends of AEF,

We’d like to invite you to our September Happy Hour on Wednesday, September 18th at 6:00 pm at Ainsworth Park (111 E 18th St). Come join us to send the summer off with cocktails and mingle with AEF supporters and friends.

We are also excited to announce that we will be hosting our First Annual Gala in February of 2014 and are looking for Gala planning committee members. If you are interested in joining our gala-planning committee, please email ascendfundny@gmail.com or come to the happy hour to learn more!

You can also stay up to date on future events here.

Best Regards,

AEF Board of Directors

www.ascendfundny.org

Meet Our 2013 AEF Scholars

The Ascend Educational Fund’s Selection Committee reviewed over 320 applications, interviewed 20 finalists, and this weekend selected our inaugural class of eight AEF Scholars! Thanks to the generous support of our Advisory Council and other contributors, our eight AEF Scholars will receive a total of $36,000 in scholarship awards, which includes over $9,000 raised through our matching gift drive.

Thank you to everyone who participated—and special thanks to Anne Brennan, Danaus Chang, Arthur Li, Liam O’Neil, Raphael Zagury , and the Alchemy Club, LLC for their generous contributions. All of the time and financial contributions of our donors and supporters are allowing us to significantly improve these young people’s lives.

We are thrilled to share our Scholar’s stories with you:

• A civil rights activist whose parents emigrated from Bangladesh and who will be attending Princeton University in the fall. This Danaus Awesome Achievement Award recipient has spent her teenage years supporting the struggle for human rights and social activism throughout the world by organizing hate-crime rallies, promoting voter rights, and starting a tutorial center in her house for free. Not only has she maintained a 4.0 GPA and is a true leader in her community, she also contributes her earnings from the summer employment program to her parents to assist her family with their basic needs.

• An immigrant from Mexico who is a founding member of a diversity group that promotes tolerance and anti-bullying at her school, and will attend Binghamton University this fall with plans to study Psychology and Education. This El Aguila Perseverance Award recipient dedicates herself to her schoolwork as an International Baccalaureate diploma candidate with a 100 average, while continuing to help her guardians pay the bills by selling ices and cupcakes.

• A young research scientist whose parents emigrated from China and who will be attending the University of California, Davis in the fall. This A+ student has already maxed out the CollegeNow program and has accumulated 13 college credits. His accomplishments include performing at Carnegie Hall, a national ranking in Chess the last three years, and being a member of his high school’s varsity fencing team since his freshman year. Despite his demanding academic and extracurricular schedule, he also plays the role of homemaker in his household: purchasing groceries, making dinners and taking care of his siblings.

• A Mexican immigrant who arrived just four years ago and transitioned from ESL to now taking all her classes in English with an overall grade point average of 89%. She is a varsity soccer player who actively volunteers in her community, from HealthCorps to El Museo del Barrio, and helped to form the Haiti Relief Project with the National Honor Society on her campus. A Skadden mentee, she will attend La Guardia Community College this fall and eventually plans to go to law school and become a lawyer.

• A student devoted to women’s rights and gender equality whose parents emigrated from Guyana, and who will be attending Wellesley College in the fall. Despite her economic and personal struggles, she has maintained an A average at one of the country’s most rigorous high schools. She is a head counselor at Project HAPPY, a sports and recreational program for individuals with disabilities, as well as an advocate for the Asian American youth community with the Coalition for Asian American Children & Families.

• A young woman who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico five years ago, is currently in the top 10% of her class, and earned a 4 on the Advanced Placement English Language & Composition exam, despite being enrolled in ESL classes her freshman year. This Arthur Li Distinguished Rising Star Award is a member of a rigorous college-preparatory program, she is also an alto sax player and volunteers regularly at her church.  She will attend CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice this fall and is passionately seeking a career as a criminal detective.

• A women rights advocate whose parents emigrated from St. Kitts and Nevis and who will be attending Bryn Mawr College in the fall. She founded a women’s empowerment group in her school to discuss race, body image, and women’s’ rights. An active member of the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, she maintains an A average and ranks in the top 12% of her graduating class. She is described by her teachers as “A more honest, generous, and determined individual than you will never meet.”

• A young man who immigrated to the U.S from Mexico, maintains a 3.7 GPA at one of New York City’s most competitive high schools, and scored in the 83rd percentile on the SAT mathematics section, all while working as a cook’s assistant, assistant super, and at McDonald’s to help support his family. He is described by his teachers as ”one of the most ambitious, giving, and thirsty for knowledge” students they have ever encountered. He will be attending City College of New York this fall.

Thank you again for supporting us, and assisting us in ‘Elevating our Community through Higher Education’. We have big plans for AEF, and we hope that you will be a part of our growth in the coming years.

AEF Board of Directors
Adrienne, Celeste, Diana, Erika and Julissa