After facing her own difficulties in finding resources to pay for her college education, entrepreneur Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca launched DREAMer’s Roadmap. The mobile app acts as a scholarship network specifically designed for undocumented students.
“We believe that all students regardless of legal status should have the same opportunity to pursue the ‘American Dream’ and become the first in their families to be college graduates,” according to DREAMer’s Roadmap mission statement.
The DREAMer’s Roadmap, available for both or iOS and Android, collects scholarship information from different organizations and allows users to filter the database based on various criteria. For example, users can select settings reflecting whether they hold Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status and also to narrow down the scholarships for which they qualify. The database remains accessible to both registered and unregistered users as Salamanca wanted to let users search for scholarships in case some undocumented students “didn’t feel comfortable giving their information,” according to one report.
As a senior at North Hollywood High in California, Salamanca found no help from school counselors when she began searching for money to pay for college. Moving to the United States in 1994 from Mexico at the age of 4, Salamanca found herself with limited options in terms of both financial aid and also job opportunities. Instead of succumbing to defeat, Salamanca became inspired to develop the DREAMer’s Roadmap.
After Salamanca earned her associate’s degree from Cañada College in Redwood City, she turned her full attention to the development of the DREAMer’s Roadmap, an effort fueled with a $100,000 award from the Voto Latino Innovators Challenge. Salamanca also received an anonymous $25,000 donation to further the app’s development as well as accompanying marketing efforts. Still, the flow of money for such things as updating the app, fixing bugs and adapting to the number of users remains slow.
“The toughest part has been finding additional funding,” Salamanca said. “A lot of foundations have trouble seeing the impact that we’re going to have in the community.”
One way Salamanca and her team work to get around the obstacle includes partnerships with schools. Among the most notable partnerships are Sequoia High School Dreamer’s Club in Redwood City and UC Berkeley’s Undocumented Student Program.
“Our vision is to bring hope to all those students who think there is no path for them after high school to continue their higher education. We want to be able to bridge the gap of lack in financial aid when transitioning to college for all undocumented students,” according to DREAMer’s Roadmap information.