For Immediate Release: May 21, 2021
Contact: Michael Earls: [email protected]
Dr. Jill Biden Joins TheDream.US to Celebrate Virtual Commencement of More than 1,000 DREAMer College Graduates
Watch a recording of the virtual commencement HERE
To connect with any of the speakers affiliated with TheDream.US, contact [email protected]
Washington, DC – At a virtual commencement held last night, TheDream.US proudly celebrated the graduation of more than 1,000 TheDream.US Scholars this academic year from 77 Partner Colleges in 16 states, Washington, DC, and online.
Dr. Jill Biden, First Lady of the United States, delivered the keynote speech during the virtual commencement, saying to the graduates, “We know you have so much to contribute to this nation in the days ahead … We stand with you. Never stop dreaming.” Noting that she felt “inspired” by the graduates, Dr. Biden said, “Your journey from this day forward will be both heartbreaking and hopeful, bruised and beautiful. But you already know that the inner strength that got you here will serve you well”
TheDream.US graduating Scholars and alumni were a prominent part of the commencement. Johana Gracia Lara, an alumni Scholar of TheDream.US and graduate of Lehman College, City University of New York (CUNY), sang a beautiful rendition of the national anthem to start the ceremony.
Ewaoluwa “Ewa” Ogundana delivered the graduation speech. A DACA recipient born in Nigeria, Ewa is a recent summa cum laude graduate of Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC, where she majored in political science and served as president of the Student Government Council. Ewa’s speech noted, “The power of overcoming is that you’re able to prevail against something, and then not only look back and see how far you’ve come, but also encourage others to show that it’s possible for them too … My hope is that this ceremony inspires and empowers us enough to continue believing in ourselves and the power of sharing our story and how we’ve overcome.”
Kevin Ortiz, TheDream.US Alumni Council President, delivered the alumni speech. Kevin is a DACA recipient who graduated from the University of Central Florida and now works in leadership development within the financial services industry. His speech offered advice to graduating Scholars, noting, “1) If you get tired, learn to rest, not quit. 2) Continue to look for the light in the darkness. 3) Lead with purpose.” He concluded his remarks by saying “The winds of change are blowing … The world needs your perspective, your leadership. So lead.”
Homar Rodriguez introduced Dr. Biden. He is a former TheDream.US Scholar who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Delaware State University and plans to teach middle school in Delaware. As Homar noted, “Dr. Biden emphasizes the power of instilling confidence in her students and leading with kindness and understanding. I also plan on following along in her footsteps to build a distinguished career as a lifelong educator, mentor, coach, and leader. As Dr. Biden says, ‘Teaching is not what I do. It’s who I am.’”
Don Graham, co-founder of TheDream.US, delivered the commencement speech, stating, “The students in the class came to the United States with their immigrant families at an average age of four. Many of you grew up not knowing you were undocumented. As you went through high school, you learned that you would be the only students in your class who would not be eligible for Pell Grants or any other federal aid. And you learned that you were the only students in your class who wouldn’t receive any federal loans—not one dollar. There are students in your class who were told by their own college counselor: ‘You cannot go to college. There’s no way’ … You have the unique hardships of students from undocumented families. And you have overcome every one. The ranks of you graduates today are full of Phi Beta Kappas, cum laudes, and lots of other latin and Greek words … Your record and that of your class are amazing. There’s one university in Washington whose enrollment fell 20% during the pandemic. The Dreamers’ enrollment never flickered. I believe that at all 75 of our partner colleges, the graduation rates of TheDream.us scholars are higher than those of the college as a whole.”
Gaby Pacheco, TheDream.US Director, Advocacy, Development and Communications and a longtime leading voice for DREAMers, delivered the closing speech. Gaby stated, “Nothing was handed to you, things weren’t easy, but see, immigrants don’t do easy, immigrants, get the job done. Your family worked so hard to see you succeed. You are probably the first in your family to achieve this milestone of graduating from college and now you leave behind a legacy for future generations to come. Your younger siblings, cousins, and even babies that have not even been born yet will be looking up to you. Savor every moment of this journey, even the tough times you have faced and will face will remind you that YOU DID IT and you will be able do it again.”
Candy Marshall, President of TheDream.US, concluded the virtual commencement by saying: “We end this celebration in deep gratitude. You have changed our lives and the lives of all of those you have encountered on your college journeys. We have every confidence you will play a vital role in helping move our country forward. Thank you for sharing your beauty, your pride, and your resilience in making the world a better place.”
About TheDream.US and its 2020-2021 Graduating Class
- TheDream.US is the nation’s largest college and career success program for immigrant youth, having provided more than 6,500 college scholarships to DREAMers attending over 75 partner colleges in 19 states and Washington, DC. We believe that all young Americans, regardless of where they were born, should have the opportunity to get a college education and pursue a meaningful career that contributes to our country’s future.
- The more than 1,000 (projected) Graduates from the 2020-2021 academic year include approximately 930 bachelor’s degrees(including approximately 140 Fall 2020 graduates and approximately 790 Spring/Summer 2021 Graduates) and approximately 120 associate’s degrees (the majority of who will transfer to 4 year colleges next academic year)
- Top fields of study among the 2020-2021 TheDream.US Graduates: 32% Science, Math, and Technology, 20% Social Sciences, 15% Health and Medicine, 15% Business
- Demographic background of the 2020-2021 TheDream.US Graduates:
- 59 different countries of origin
- 89% DACA, 3% TPS, 8% Immigration eligibility criteria (basically neither DACA nor TPS)
- 85% First in their family to attend college
- Average age of arrival to the US: 4 years old