McFarland, CA — Today, State Senator Melissa Hurtado launched the new “Central Valley Dream Scholarship Program” by awarding 80 scholarships to students from across the Southern Central Valley. The scholarships are dedicated to children of Central Valley farmworkers and each recipient received $1,000 for the 2020-2021 school year.
“Barriers to educational opportunity remain unacceptably high in the Central Valley and we have a lot of work ahead to provide greater access, support and financial assistance to our students,” said Senator Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger. “We created the Central Valley Dream Scholarship program to help address systemic inequities and invest in young lives. We want to make the American Dream or ‘El Sueno Americano’ possible for all of our students and it starts with education.”
The need for educational support in the Central Valley is staggering. Only 9% of students from the Southern Central Valley obtain a bachelor’s degree. Statistics for high school graduation rates are also unacceptable with more than 40% of residents failing to obtain their high school diploma or GED.
“The California Farmworker Foundation believes education is the gateway to a free, healthy, fair and prosperous society,” said Hernan Hernandez, Executive Director for the California Farmworker Foundation. “That’s why we support Senator Melissa Hurtado’s Central Valley Dream Scholarship Program. This unique scholarship will help Central Valley students continue their education during these critical and challenging times.”
“The California Citrus Mutual is honored to be able to support the Central Valley Dream Scholarship. Our citrus growers recognize the obstacles many students face in our rural communities and understand that education will lead to additional opportunities for them, their families, and our communities. We appreciate the strong leadership of the California Farmworker Foundation and Senator Hurtado for helping to make more dreams possible.”
The scholarship presentation ceremony took place at the Hacienda Ranch in McFarland, California. The event was a communitywide effort by the California Farmworker Foundation, labor unions, agricultural business leaders and generous donors who want to help the children of farmworkers get an equal shot at the American Dream.
Two of the donors are actually high-school students themselves. Izabella Ciello Vasquez and Anuar Powell-Gonzalez II are the grandchildren of the Hacienda AG Company founder, and they worked in the summer fields to earn money and donate it to the scholarship fund.
In a statement, Izabella Ciello Vasquez and Anuar Powell-Gonzalez said, “Being the grandchildren of farm laborer immigrants, we grew up hearing stories from our grandparents and their struggles to reach “El Sueno Americano,” but the one thing that was instilled in us is not to forget our roots and why we are able to live the American Dream.”
Senator Melissa Hurtado continued, “The stories of students across my Senate District inspired me and emphasized the need to do more to invest in the future of our Valley. Stories like that of Abraham who recalled his summer experiences working with his father in 109 degrees and realizing from his father’s hopeful eyes what it meant to cherish that work ethic and to persist when all options seem exhausted – to create the American Dream.
“Or like the story of Yesenia, the daughter of immigrant parents from El Salvador who described her passion for agriculture derived from those sacrifices her parents made and making sure their sacrifices were not in vain.
“I was also touched by Daniel’s story, a student who is driven to change the culture of meth and gangs in Fresno for the love and well being of his younger sisters.”
The scholarships were made possible by:
Izabella Ciello Vasquez & Anuar Powell-Gonzalez II
Kern, Inyo, & Mono Building Trades
IBEW Local 428
Filbert Comm Prop Tr,
California Citrus Mutual
The Wonderful Company
The Hilmar Cheese Company
LIUNA Local 220
Senator Melissa Hurtado was first elected to the California State Senate in 2018, flipping the 14th Senate District from red to blue. The daughter of immigrant parents and the first in her family to graduate from college, Hurtado is the youngest woman ever elected to the State Senate and has fought for all families to have access to healthcare, quality schools, good paying jobs and the opportunity for a better life.
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