UndocuBruin: Hector's Columbia Fund

La Opinión Article: “Me aceptaron en una de las mejores universidades de EEUU, pero ¿cómo pago la colegiatura? - I Was Accepted into One of The Best Universities in the US but how I do I pay off tuition?

Univision Palm Springs Reportage: "Estudiante latino busca ayuda de la comunidad" - Latino Graduate Student Seeks Community Support

Dear Friends, Family, and Professors:

My name is Hector Leonardo Sanchez Perez and I am writing this letter to you all in light of amazing news and great excitement. I have been honored and privileged to be accepted to the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health for a Master of Public Health in Sociomedical Sciences. This school was my dream school when I first applied last Fall and I am still in disbelief that I will attend a top five US public health school. Dreams do come true and I know that this is the right step in my aspirations for pursuing medical school.

However, I am also writing this letter as a means of seeking support and help for my graduate school plans. I am a first generation, undocumented (DACA & AB540) Latino college student, which means that my financial aid options are limited. I will be the first of my family to graduate from a four-year university and now I will be the first in my family to attend graduate school. I attended UCLA for my undergraduate studies and I am very excited to begin a new chapter in my life at Columbia.

But before I go into the details of how much money I need to fundraise, I would first like to tell you a little bit more about myself and my story.

I was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and immigrated to the United States when I was a mere 4 months old. My parents left everything behind in Mexico due to the large prevalence of poverty and political corruption present in my home nation. Overall, my parents wanted to give my siblings and I a better life than they had and not endure their hardships. My family would settle down in a town within the Coachella Valley named Chiriaco Summit. I am the oldest of three children and I am the product of my parents’ hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance. My community is a large influence in my aspirations to becoming a future physician. Currently, the Coachella Valley is suffering from a shortage of practicing physicians that deliver primary care. Specifically, it is estimated that the physician to resident ratio in the Coachella Valley is as low as 1 physician to 9000 residents. Additionally, a large percentage of the population in the Coachella Valley are low-income and undocumented Latino immigrants. Therefore, many of the residents in my hometown do not have proper access to basic healthcare due to their immigration status. My background is a large factor in my desire to pursue graduate studies in public health since I wish to one day address these issues by combining public health and medicine as a future physician. I lived the first 17 years of my life in the Coachella Valley and would move to Los Angeles to begin my undergraduate studies at UCLA.

The past 5 years at UCLA have been some of the hardest and most challenging years of my life. I majored in Biology and minored in Chicana and Chicano Studies. UCLA is one of the most competitive institutions in the US and this is strongly highlighted in students that are majoring in the STEM field. Although my education trajectory has been tough, these past 5 years also been some of the most rewarding years of my life. Throughout my undergraduate years, my involvement outside of the classroom consisted of being: a team facilitator for the Future Physician Leaders program, a caseworker for the Mobile Clinic Project @ UCLA, a project director for the AB540 Project, a principal investigator of my own research project with the UndocuBruins research program, an on-site coordinator for the UCLA LeaderShape Institute, a Health Career Connections summer intern at Desert Regional Medical Center, and a work study assistant at the UCLA Center for Health Services and Society. It was my involvement with these spaces and organizations that I found my passions in public health, medicine, homelessness, Latino health, and community service. Below you will find pictures of myself working in some of  these organizations and spaces.

Unfortunately, as a DACA (undocumented) student, I am not eligible to receive federal student aid, the traditional method of funding graduate school. My only option is to finance my education through private loans, an option that is nearly impossible to obtain for my low-income family and will place a great burden on any potential co-signer. Therefore, I am reaching out to my network to fundraise funds for my Columbia MPH degree. I will do my part in applying for scholarships, working, and finding other ways to obtain funds.

I received a generous scholarship from Columbia that covers ⅔ of tuition. However, I still need to cover the rest of tuition, fees, health insurance, transportation costs, living expenses, flight expenses, books and other needed materials. In total, this comes out to approximately $45,000. This figure is a large obstacle but with your help I know we can succeed.

It has taken a village to get me through my undergraduate years at UCLA. I would not have been able to finish my college years without the support of my family, friends, mentors, neighbors, and teachers. If you choose to give any donation, please consider it as an investment rather than a donation. Investing in me is investing into the future, especially the future health of our Latino communities. I will be giving back to my community through public health and medicine as a way of thanking all of the inspiring people who have helped me on my journey.

I will not let you down at Columbia should you choose to invest in me and I will continue breaking down barriers for undocumented students and students of color. ¡Sí se puede!

Warmest Regards,

Hector Leonardo Sanchez Perez
Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health | MPH Candidate | Class of 2019
University of California, Los Angeles | Biology, B.S. | Class of 2017


Hector Leonardo Sanchez Perez
Los Angeles, CA

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