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New scholarship for DACA recipients at Marymount

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Treisy Primitivo spent most of her childhood not sure whether she and her family would continue to live in Washington or go back to Mexico. It made it difficult to plan for the future, to think about things such as whether or not she would go to college. Though she was born in Mexico, she’s lived in the United States since she was 2 years old. She’s never been back to Mexico. “I always had to have a back-up plan,” she said. “I had to think about that double life in the future.”

But while she was applying to the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) immigration program, she learned about a college scholarship for DACA recipients: TheDream.US. Once she got the scholarship, she knew college was within her reach. Today, the 19-year-old is a freshman studying psychology at Marymount University in Arlington.

To ensure student success, TheDream.US only partners with schools it considers able to support DACA recipients throughout their college career. Other local colleges in the program include George Mason University in Fairfax and Trinity College in Washington. This is Marymount’s first year.

A Marymount partnership with TheDream.US was one of the first things brought to President Irma Becerra’s attention when she joined the school in 2018. “Members of the Dreamers Club came to see me, probably the first week after I started, and they (said), ‘Marymount has to be designated as one of the institutional partners for TheDream.US scholarship.’ So I said, ‘OK, I will (do it),’ because I’m here for them,” she said.

This year, six students at Marymount, including Primitivo, are using the TheDream.US scholarship. About 80 students, or 2 percent of the school’s population, are DACA recipients, according to Becerra. The school recently held its annual ethics week with a focus on immigration.

Becerra knows many DACA recipients face barriers to attending and graduating from college, such as parents unfamiliar with the United States college application process or difficulty affording college.

“DACA recipients are not eligible to receive Pell Grants or federal government loans or work through the college work-study program,” said Becerra. Though Marymount offers many scholarships, she’s grateful for this additional opportunity. “We want as many students to benefit from a Marymount education as possible.”

Primitivo is using her shot to earn an undergraduate degree in psychology, then hopefully she’ll stay a fifth year to complete a master’s in counseling. In high school, she appreciated spending time with her school counselors, and she hopes to provide the same support to future students.

“I remember my mom used to always tell me, take advantage of what’s being given to you. Everything you receive, you receive for a reason. Every gain, take that, better yourself and give back to the community,” she said. “I feel like this is a form of giving back to a community I’ve come to know as home. And even still, I can go back to Mexico and apply these skills as well.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020

@ZoeyMaraistACH