José Luis Bedolla, Class of 1992, Major in Political Economics, Hometown: Pomona, and
Professor Lisa Garcia Bedolla, Class of 1992, Double Major in Latin American Studies and Comparative Literature, Hometown: Downey

Flourishing in Difficult Circumstances: Cal alumni endow a scholarship for undocumented students

José Luis Bedolla attended Berkeley as an undocumented student, became an inventor who holds patents, founded a business, and — with his wife, Berkeley professor and alumna Lisa Garcia Bedolla — recently endowed a scholarship for undocumented students at UC Berkeley. As José Luis explains, when he attended Berkeley it was easier. His parents, who didn’t go beyond elementary school, supported him with care packages, money they scraped together for months to save, and most importantly, with the “idea of schooling as a way to better yourself.” The Miguel and Elvira Bedolla Scholarship is named in their honor.

“What I see in the world today is that the roadblocks for students, particularly Dreamers, are so much greater than they were before,” observed José Luis. His wife, Professor of Education Lisa Garcia Bedolla agrees. As Cuban refugees, her parents had to leave everything behind. “As a faculty member, I see lots of students who need help. But the ones who are the least able to access financial aid are the undocumented students. These students have managed to flourish in the most difficult of circumstances. Rather than deporting them, we should be appreciating their contributions.”

The couple established their endowed scholarship with $50,000, and recently doubled their endowment. They chose Berkeley to host the scholarship because it is an engine of upward mobility, and “upward mobility is a good thing for democracy,” says José Luis. They are hoping to be models for other Berkeley alumni to give back, noting that anyone can make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

The Bedollas met their first scholarship recipient last month, and what they are hoping the scholarship means to him is that he is seen. As José Luis says, “It’s a small amount of money. It’s the symbolism that somebody thinks you are worth giving money to. You’re valued. You belong here. You’re part of the community here.”

You can help the Bedollas  make a difference in the lives of these vulnerable students by contributing to the Miguel and Elvira Bedolla Scholarship.