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Student leaders discuss new Magis Scholarship

Student leaders discuss new Magis Scholarship

Catalina Cipri, co-president of the Latin American Student Organization, was one of the driving forces behind the new Magis Scholarship Fund. “There are so many undocumented students who are working hard at Loyola but unfortunately can’t receive federal financial aid,” she said. (Photo: Mark Patton)

By Anna Gaynor

The Magis Scholarship Fund isn’t just unique because of who it benefits—it also has an origin story completely unique to the University.

Loyola students conceived the idea, stumped for it, and then overwhelmingly approved it in a spring 2015 vote. The scholarship’s mission is to not only help undocumented undergraduates with school costs but also to jumpstart conversations in and outside the classrooms.

“There are so many undocumented students who are working hard at Loyola but unfortunately can’t receive federal financial aid,” said Catalina Cipri, co-president of the Latin American Student Organization (LASO). “So it often compromises their ability to work as hard in school because they have to work to pay for their tuition.”

In December, the University’s Board of Trustees approved the students’ vote to add an individual $2.50 student fee each semester—raising roughly $50,000 each year for undocumented students. The initiative was a joint partnership between LASO and the Unified Student Government Association, now called the Student Government of Loyola Chicago.

Creating conversations

For Flavio Bravo (above), last year’s student body president, the Magis Scholarship Fund was an easy cause to support. During his freshman year, the Phoenix native won Loyola’s First-Year Text essay contest about Enrique’s Journey, the nonfiction book about a Honduran boy’s search to find his mother in the United States.

Also that year, Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., current chancellor and former president of Loyola, signed a statement of support for undocumented students along with other presidents from the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. About a month later, Bravo was invited to be a student representative at a Washington, D.C., meeting discussing the issue.

“As a freshman, that was really transformative to see that,” Bravo said. “It was a really big deal. For me from the beginning, it was a clear message: Our summer reading book was Enrique’s Journey, the head honcho, Father Garanzini is signing this statement. This is a great sign that this is the type of work Loyola is invested in.”

It was during his sophomore year that the idea for the scholarship came about. The two student groups held forums, visited classrooms, and met with faculty and staff to bring awareness and find fundraising support. But they also found something else coming from their efforts.

“A lot of people would come up to me and Flavio and say, ‘Because of this initiative I’ve had great conversations on campus, in my classes, or with my friends,’ ” Cipri said. “It was great to see that we started a conversation, and that was what surprised me most.”

A University-wide effort

The Magis Scholarship Fund is part of a larger effort to support undocumented students on Loyola’s campuses. In the fall, the University awarded five full scholarships to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students. (The DACA Scholarships will be renamed Magis Scholarships to honor the student-led effort.) At Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago, 35 of its 158 students are undocumented, and while they cannot apply for federal financial aid, they are receiving scholarships.

At the graduate level, Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine in 2014 became the first medical school in the United States to accept and admit qualified students with DACA status. The school now has 14 DACA-status students in its first-year medical class and six in its second-year medical class. (Read more about Stritch’s efforts to accept undocumented students in this Huffington Post story.)

“We couldn’t have done this if there wasn’t that conversation already on campus,” Bravo said.

For Cipri, a meeting with John P. Pelissero, PhD, Loyola’s interim president, a few weeks before the Board of Trustees meeting, showed her how much Loyola listens to its students.

“If the Board of Trustees wouldn’t have accepted this, or if Dr. Pelissero would not have allowed this, or if we wouldn’t have been able to do classroom visits, this initiative would not have been able to grow the way that it has,” she said.

After undergraduates voted to approve the fund in 2015, the initiative received some more good news. Don Graham, chairman and CEO of Graham Holdings Company and founder of TheDream.US, gave $50,000 to the University to match the student body’s fundraising efforts. Bravo hopes that they will be able to continue raising funds while also raising awareness.

“What started at $2.50 is over $100,000 now,” Bravo said. “Education is a process, and we don’t need necessarily to wait until we have our degrees in order to work on this type of initiative.”  

THE NEXT STEPS

Students admitted for the fall 2016 semester can apply for a Magis Scholarship through their application status page or on the Financial Aid website. The application is open to newly admitted freshmen (deadline: March 4, 2016) and to transfer students (deadline: May 2, 2016).

Finalists will participate in an on-campus interview, and five scholarships will be awarded to new incoming students in the fall. The scholarships are renewable.

To donate to the Magis Scholarship Fund, visit LUC.edu/give and write in “Magis Scholarship” to direct your gift.