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Scholarship Seeks to Raise Up Asian-American Undocumented

Approximately 1.3 million Asian Americans are undocumented, and many youth struggle to finance their education. A new scholarship aims to help.
Image: Students fill stadium seats of the State Farm Center during commencement ceremonies for the University of Illinois
The first scholarship aimed at raising up Asian-American undocumented youth is now accepting applications.Jonathan Gibby / for NBC News file

The first scholarship ever offered exclusively for undocumented Asian-American youth is now accepting its first round of applications until the end of January. Approximately 1.3 million Asian Americans are undocumented, and many of the youth struggle to finance their higher education because they are unable to apply for financial aid and student loans.

The RAISE Scholarship is a joint project of Revolutionizing Asian American Immigrant Stories on the East Coast (RAISE), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), and writer and creative producer Sahra Vang Nguyen.

Nguyen was inspired after seeing RAISE's theatrical show, ‘Letters From UndocuAsians,’ where undocumented Asian American youth spoke out about the hardships of being undocumented and the urgency for change.

“It was so powerful to see them be vulnerable and fearless at the same time,” said Nguyen, “I knew I couldn't just sit there, then walk out at the end of the show and not do anything.”

When RAISE youth told her there had never before been a scholarship exclusively for undocumented Asian-American youth, and that many resources for undocumented youth were earmarked for the Latino community, Nguyen says she knew she could help.

Every year for Nguyen’s birthday, instead of asking for gifts, she asks her family and friends to help her donate to a particular cause or organization. Nguyen also has experience creating and executing scholarships from a previous job at UCLA. So she worked with RAISE and AALDEF to create and fund five $500 scholarships for undocumented Asian American youth in the areas of Arts and Culture, Higher Education, Leadership, Community Service, and Professional Development.

“This scholarship is important because it will raise awareness about the pan-Asian undocumented community,” said Nguyen, “We also hope that the scholarship will encourage other undocumented pan-Asian youth to step up and become more involved once they see that there is a community like RAISE fighting on behalf of them.”