DENVER (KDVR) — About 86% of first-generation college students face unique challenges, and those barriers are even higher for immigrant youth, according to data gathered by TheDream.US.

TheDream.US created the National Scholarship and the goal is to help immigrant youth get money for college and to level the playing field.

Typically, federal financial aid is not available for students with DACA, TPS, or undocumented status. However, for the last 10 years, TheDream.US has gathered funds for a private scholarship to support young immigrant high school students.

They’ve partnered with several institutions across the nation to help students start their educational journey. In Colorado there are four partners: The Community College of Denver, Metro State, University of Colorado Denver, and this year, they’ve added Colorado State University Pueblo.

So far, 480 students in Colorado have received the scholarship.

“For undocumented people, the barriers are really high. We want to make sure that we provide at least a level playing field because at the end of the day, they’re a part of our communities, and their contributions are not going to be good just for them and their families but the countries and the communities that they live in,” said Gabby Pacheco with the TheDream.US. “We need teachers, we need nurses, and [scholarship recipients] are going to be filling in those gaps, and they’re going to be part of our community.”

Pachecho said providing these scholarships will result in educated and productive members of society to increase the workforce and fill labor gaps.

The thing is, Pacheco said immigrant students are often misinformed or scared about looking for options or asking for help which also comes with a stigma.

“A lot of undocumented people, especially that 17, 18-year-old that’s in high school, are usually scared to talk about their status. This is not something that their families and others do. They usually don’t know other undocumented people but themselves. So, a lot of the time they don’t ask for help, they don’t reach out for help, they don’t talk to their advisors and the people in their high school. So they’re kind of living in a world of a shadow and alone,” Pacheco said.

Who qualifies?

Applications are open to undocumented immigrant students with or without DACA or TPS who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and before Nov. 1, 2017. 

Applicants have to be a high school student about to graduate with a 2.5 GPA or higher, or they can also be a student who is currently enrolled in a community college and wants to get a bachelor’s degree.

Students have to apply and be accepted to one of the partner universities in their state.

They can earn up to $33,000 for a bachelor’s degree plus $6,000 dollars for books, supplies and transportation.

They award scholarships based on financial need, GPA, but also community involvement.

“A lot of the times, we know that these students are supporting and helping their families by being the translators; and if they’re the ones that have DACA, have the driver’s license helping mom and dad pick up the younger brother and sister from school. So we take into account not just what they’re doing in school, but also outside of school, if they’re involved in their church, if they’re involved in other clubs and organizations,” said Pacheco. “That, to us, is showing us the motivation that the student wants to succeed that wants to be involved, and that they’re part of the community.”

The award is renewable each year. The deadline for this scholarship is Feb. 28.