Scholarship at SCC set up to help immigrants pay for college
“The life of an immigrant is always driven toward prosperity” and “hard work” are the family mottos that have guided Jose Herrera throughout his life. Herrera, a college student at Somerset Community College, is the recipient of the Dreamer’s Fund scholarship, a private donor fund at SCC that aids DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students in paying for college.
Herrera and his family, mother Evelia Castro de Herrera, father Jose Antonio Herrera, and brother Pedro Antonio Herrera-Castro, made the unpredictable journey from Veracruz, Mexico to Somerset, Kentucky when Jose was only four years old to find growth and advancement for their family.
“We have thrived here,” said Herrera.
A graduate of Southwestern High School, Herrera and his brother were both involved in sports in high school, playing football, baseball, tennis and captaining the soccer team. In college, Herrera is also thriving. He will complete his associate’s degree at SCC in May, 2018. He plans to then transfer to the University of Kentucky to major in philosophy. After that, law school and a future in politics may be in the cards.
“I’d like to work for people like me,” he said, stating the obstacles his family has had to overcome have been taxing at times.
“The biggest obstacles we’ve faced are, of course, the language barrier,” Herrera said. “But also in many situations my brother and I have had to do a lot of things for our parents that typically are not expected of a child. Like translating hospital visits, translation for a mortgage, ordering your parents food at the restaurant, completing legal paperwork and more.
But Herrera also says he doesn’t mind doing those things simply because it has taught him responsibility and the joy that can also come with family obligations.
“I chose to come to SCC in part because my dad was just opening his business, Herrera’s Body Shop, and I felt a duty to stay here and help him,” Herrera said. “I take care of building relationships with the customer, ordering parts, understanding the client's ambiguity, making phone calls, doing the marketing of the business and keeping track of paperwork.
Although he doesn’t want to make working on cars his future career, Herrera certainly is not fearful of hard work. He gets his hands dirty when needed, typically working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with his dad, and then reporting to his second job as a cook at Old Town Grill in Somerset. His cooking skills, he hopes, come from his mom, who owns and operates Evelia’s Catering.
“It’s pretty nice to have good, authentic Mexican food every night,” Herrera said of his mother’s cooking.
Herrera’s other obstacles include having no clear path to citizenship; he said, as well as not having a thorough understanding of his culture and family roots.
“I would like to be able to go back to meet my extended family someday,” Herrera said. “My mom is one of nine, and my dad is one of three, and I don’t know them.”
Herrera said he stays as involved with the community as he currently serves as the interim president of the Young Democrats organization, where he hopes to inspire change, particularly for underrepresented people.
“SCC helped me to ground myself,” Herrera said. “Coming here made me realize what college is like and helped give me a direction. I’ll be leaving here with clear goals.”
Whether in school, in life or work, Herrera said he believes it is important to know yourself and your goals.
“Failure is a part of success,” he said. “But education and tenacity will get you there.”
To find out more about the Dreamer’s Fund at Somerset Community College, contact Cindy Clouse, Chief Officer of Advancement, at email@example.com.