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Alumnae Association to give scholarship fund to undocumented students

Earlier this month, the Alumnae Association of Mills College (AAMC) gifted the college with the new Audrey Gibney Endowed Scholarship for Undocumented Students, a fund meant to help undocumented immigrant students achieve an education at Mills.

On April 10, the college announced that the AAMC had created a scholarship specifically for undocumented students whose education experience may be affected by their immigration status. The endowed fund is for $100,000, with $5,000 being awarded annually to each recipient. Jeff Jackanicz, vice president for Institutional Advancement at Mills, says that this gift is central to the school’s commitment to social justice.

“[The gift is] from the AAMC, which is an indication of the strong intention on both the AAMC’s and the College’s part to collaborate more closely,” Jackanicz said in an email.

Students who are undocumented are ineligible to receive federal aid for higher education, including both Pell grants and federal loans. Before this scholarship, Mills did not have long-term resources to help undocumented students.

According to AAMC President Viji Nakka-Cammauf of the class of 1982, this fund was created based on the increasing challenges faced by undocumented students. The scholarship was created as an endowment fund because endowed funds continue throughout the years, meaning it will continue to help students in the face of future political and social changes.

“You always know that this will go to help a student in a particular category, in this case undocumented students,” Nakka-Cammauf said.  “We wanted it to be an endowed gift so that it can continue in perpetuity. Additionally, the funds will support the student for all four years of their education at Mills.”

Nakka-Cammauf explained that the idea for the scholarship comes from alumni who leave behind requests that get brought to the College Board of Governors.  She says that when alums become aware of certain issues facing students of varying demographics, they want to find a way to help. In terms of undocumented students, Nakka-Cammauf wants to make sure that students who already face challenges off campus have a financial support system for school.

“When we become aware of something immediate, we step in and do something about it,” Nakka-Cammauf said.

In addition to helping undocumented students attend Mills, Nakka-Cammauf hopes that the AAMC will get to be involved with those students who receive the scholarship.

“We would like to meet the students,” Nakka-Cammauf said. “We don’t want to just give the funds and not know the students. We really want to build a relationship and see how we can offer any support, encouragement, mentoring, and in the future connect them with internships, job opportunities – whatever we can do as an alumnae association.”

While administration is optimistic about the scholarship, some students have expressed confusion on the lack of information that has been provided. ASMC Publicity Chair Katie Funes did not know that the scholarship existed until attending a Mills Commons meeting.

“Students want to access and need to access this money, but they can’t because there’s no clear structure for how to access it, you just say something and you don’t provide a route to it,” Funes said.

Nakka-Cammauf is hopeful for what the scholarship will be able to do for undocumented students.

“We hope that students can feel good about knowing at Mills, the College and its alumnae are working together to offer the best opportunity for an undocumented student to come and get the best possible education in a supportive and nurturing environment. We are confident at the same time that they make the world a better place for all of us to live,” Nakka-Cammauf said.

The Audrey Gibney Endowed Scholarship for Undocumented Students will be available next academic year.