According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 65,000 undocumented students graduate every year from high school. But too many of them are thwarted from pursuing higher education because they don’t qualify for federal student aid.
In 2008, Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca was one of those teenage students. She came to the U.S. with her family when she was four, studied diligently, and dreamed of getting a degree as a first-generation college graduate. But without a Social Security number, she was ineligible for government assistance and felt “hopeless and lost.”
After working at cash-only jobs to pay for some college classes, then dropping out to support her family, she was able to obtain a social security number under the DACA program and was named a Champion of Change by the White House. In 2015, she won the Voto Latino Innovators Challenge to solve a community problem with technology.
Drawing on her painful experience of being turned away from college, she came up with DREAMer’s Roadmap, an app that helps DACA students find scholarship money for higher education. She won first place, received $100,000 in prize money to build the app, and launched on April 13, 2016.
With DREAMer’s Roadmap, undocumented students can find accurate information on financial aid available across the country in one easy-to-use mobile app—something that Salamanca wishes she had had when applying to college, instead of having to go through cumbersome lists of scholarships one at a time. “Everything is accessible to anyone who has a smartphone. All the information is now at their fingertips,” she says.