A college degree can open many doors of opportunity. However, asylum seekers are not allowed to apply for federal student aid, and college can seem unaffordable. So in 2018, ProsperityME launched the PROSPER scholarship, a program specially designed to provide funding for asylum seekers to continue their education past high school.

Over the last four years, 29 asylum seekers have received the scholarship, which has awarded up to two years of funding to attend a Maine community college. The ProsperityME scholarship can be applied to any associate’s or bachelor’s degree program, and provides tuition as well as covering the cost of books.

So far, our scholarship awardees have had a variety of interests and have entered a range of fields. Pie Kiduga graduated in May 2020 from Southern Maine Community College, where he studied fire science and paramedics. Now he works for the Falmouth Fire Department. “My favorite college experience was when two students wrote on the board, ‘Do not be afraid – you are not alone,’ and ‘Do not be afraid – they don’t bite!’ These two phrases gave me strength to know that there is no obstacle to fulfilling my dream, as long as I eliminate fear.”

Lea Yere, a 2021 scholarship awardee, is a recent graduate of Deering High School and the Make It Happen! college readiness program for multilingual students (see the July issue of Amjambo Africa for more about MIH). She is a leader in and out of the classroom, and mentors younger students who are learning English. “I always try to lead and to give a voice to all my classmates,” said Yere. Regarding a future career, she said, “I haven’t decided on what I want to do in the future as a career. Right now, I am thinking of pursuing social work or business, and I hope the career I choose in the future will enable me to stay part of my community.”

Allan Monga is another 2021 awardee. He is studying nursing and working as a certified residential aide with the goal of eventually becoming a physician. “My ability to communicate with multicultural patients is a big deal for people who could find comfort talking with someone conversant in their language,” he said. Monga also loves to read and write poetry. This interest led him to the state of Maine’s “Poetry Out Loud!” competition, which he won. However, because his immigration status barred him from participating in the national competition, Monga and his school district filed a federal lawsuit against the National Endowment for the Arts that permanently changed the rules to allow students to participate regardless of immigration status.

To be eligible for the PROSPER scholarship, candidates must:
• Be ineligible for federal financial aid
• Be living in Maine
• Sustain a minimum GPA of 2.5 or higher
• Plan to enroll in a Maine college or university
• Demonstrate financial need

The scholarship application period opens in December of each year. Interested applicants should talk with ProsperityME staff ahead of the application period to learn more about the scholarship and other funding options for college students. Contact ProsperityME at www.prosperityme.org, 207-797-7890.