Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans: New Class of Fellows Announced & Application for the 2024-25 Academic Year is Now Open!

In late April of 2023, The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, a merit-based graduate school program for immigrants and children of immigrants in the United States, announced their new class of Fellows, which includes four DACA recipients.

Selected from nearly 2,000 applicants, the 30 newest Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows are chosen for their achievements and their potential to make meaningful contributions to the United States across fields of study. They each will receive up to $90,000 in funding to support their graduate studies at institutions around the country.

The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships is open to DACA recipients and individuals who are undocumented who have graduated from both high school and college in the United States. The four DACA recipients in the 2023 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships Class include: Yehimi Cambrón Álvarez, an incoming MFA student in printmedia at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Silvia Huerta Lopez, an MD/PhD student in biological and biomedical sciences at Harvard University, Cinthia Zavala Ramos, a JD student at New York University School of Law, and Jaspreet Kaur, an MFA student in writing for screen & television at University of Southern California.

Yehimi Cambrón Álvarez was born in the small town of San Antonio Villalongín, Michoacán, Mexico. She became undocumented at seven when her family immigrated and recreated a home for themselves on Buford Hwy—the multicultural heart of Atlanta. The alienating feeling of not speaking English when entering Atlanta’s public schools dissipated in the art classroom, where she thrived simply by creating. Art restored her self-confidence as an immigrant child and became inseparable from her being. Yehimi became a first-generation college graduate, worked for Teach For America for two years as a teacher, and then became a full time artist and educator in Atlanta. Through her murals in Atlanta, Yehimi became a monument-maker to immigrants in the South, asserting their presence and humanity while confronting the idea of who is worthy of public celebration in the home of the nation’s largest monument to the Confederacy.

Yehimi came to a point in her career where she was successful but also felt that her work wasn’t developing as much as she wanted. “I decided to finally take a shot at realizing a long-time dream of pursuing an MFA. SAIC’s Printmedia MFA program will provide a dedicated, critical space for me to thoroughly research multi-layered, explorative work that refuses any singular narrative of what it means to be Undocumented,” Yehimi explained.

“Pursuing graduate school is already a challenge in itself. For me, it felt like having an additional full-time job,” Yehimi said of pursuing an MFA. “Being undocumented while navigating the many aspects of this process adds another layer of complexity, especially regarding financial aid.”

Yehimi used GoogleSheets to keep track of everything that was required of her graduate school applications and her Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships application. More broadly, she used the support of mentors, professors, TAs, advisors, friends, and family to help her with recommendations, essay editing, and finding the encouragement she needed to get to the finish line with each application.

Silvia Huerta Lopez spent her early childhood living in the rural countryside of El Zapote de Cuendeo in Michoacan, Mexico before immigrating to New Jersey when she was six. Working low-wage factory jobs to make ends meet, Silvia’s parents exemplified the resilience to build a strong foundation in their new home and enable their children to have a better life. These experiences gave Silvia the resolve to advocate for undocumented immigrants and patients. “I was inspired to pursue medical training so that I could advocate and provide the medical care that I saw my undocumented immigrant community was so often denied,” Silvia wrote.

After obtaining an AA in biology at Essex County College, Silvia went on to receive the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship and transferred to the University of Pennsylvania where she obtained a BA in biology and began her scientific research. She has continued that work at Harvard in their MD/PhD program and by co-founded Quetzales de Salud, a non-profit organization that aims to improve access to primary medical care for undocumented immigrants through medical accompaniment.

Silvia advises students to seek out mentorship and advice from their community and from undocumented students. “To see someone who shares parts of your identity doing something you aspire to do can be empowering and give you tangible strategies to effectively convey your unique experience in writing,” Silvia explained. “I also think that being open and vulnerable by sharing all parts of your journey that brought you to where you are is important when sharing your story in a personal statement.”

Jaspreet Kaur was born in Punjab, India and immigrated to Los Angeles with her parents and older sister in 2000. After 9/11, she witnessed the xenophobia against Sikhs and Muslims that raged across the United States. As a response, in high school, Jaspreet began creating films that challenged the stereotypical depiction of underrepresented people in mainstream media. Her film work envisions film as a transformative tool for creating community led change and healing. Later, she co-founded Brown Girl Joy Productions to create transformative media centering under-told stories.

“While graduate education is not necessary for a filmmaking career, I knew an MFA would give me access to mentors, collaborators, skills, and industry knowledge that is otherwise difficult to access as an undocumented, first-generation, and low-income student,” Jaspreet explained of her decision to pursue a graduate degree.

For other students considering applying for The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships, Jaspreet says, “Hold yourself with a lot of tenderness and care when you write the essays. Reflecting on the obstacles and sacrifices of being undocumented brings up a lot of raw emotions especially since many of us are still low-income and undocumented. Most importantly, write the essays in a way that honors your story, family and ancestors—you have nothing to prove or any need to ask for permission. You are giving the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships application committee a small glimpse into a family gem: your stories and how you approach the world.”

When completing the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships application, “it’s always worth asking yourself: did I really provide ALL the context of my accomplishments and work and the depth of its impact?” Jaspreet explained. “Show your application materials to mentors or friends who may be able to flag when you are normalizing the obstacles you have overcome or underestimating your impact.”

Born in rural Honduras, Cinthia Zavala Ramos and her younger siblings, and her grandmother hired a coyote and made the trek on foot into the United States in 2005 when Cinthia was only six years old. On their second try, they crossed into San Antonio, where they were detained by ICE in a detention center without food for three days. Cinthia’s family eventually settled in South Carolina where life was extremely tough as undocumented immigrants. In high school, Cinthia gave a viral valedictory speech outing her status as a Dreamer and catalyzed conversation in South Carolina about education for undocumented students.

“Not only do I want to be able to understand the legal statutes, codes, and precedent that create the reality in which I live, but I want the tools to be able to transform these confines,” Cinthia explained of why she is attending law school.

In terms of advice for other undocumented students, Cinthia says, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help, this battle is tremendously difficult already, it doesn’t have to be done on your own.”

“Lean on your communities, and while you don’t have to trust in the institutions around you, believe in the goodness of the individuals who collectively can lift us beyond any heights this government believed possible for us,” Cinthia said. “For me, these individuals were my queer friends who loved to write and lent me their eyes, TA’s who gave me their two cents on the process of law, and teachers who have been my biggest mentors and supporters ever since I arrived in the U.S.”

The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans’ application for the 2024-25 academic year is now open and is due October 26, 2023 at 2 pm ET. Selection criteria focuses on accomplishments that show creativity, originality, and initiative. If you apply this fall, then you can be a college senior or graduate who is applying to graduate school, or you can apply in the early stages of graduate school. All applicants must be planning to be enrolled full-time in an accredited graduate program in the US in the 2024-25 academic year. In addition, applicants must be 30 or younger as of the application deadline.

As Cinthia said, “The legal system has tried to codify the undocumented experience as one filled with individual shame and otherness, but the reality is that our collective betterment is only possible when we center the love, power and brilliance that connects our narratives.”


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logo3ver2At My Undocumented Life we provide up-to-date information and resources for undocumented immigrants and allies. We post scholarship opportunities that are open to undocumented students, strategies for navigating the educational system, information on how to apply for DACA/Advance Parole, news on DAPA, and much more. Most importantly, we want to provide a sense of community to our diverse group of readers. Learn more about our work here: “About Us

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