The University of Colorado at Boulder’s Public Interest Internship Experience (PIIE) Program has awarded the first Casey Feldman Memorial Scholarship. The first award in Casey’s memory will be given to Mercedes Ruiz at an Alumni Association event on May 5, 2010. The Public Interest Internship Experience Award aims to encourage civic leadership by promoting internship opportunities and supporting students interested in bringing about change in the public sector. The scholarship will provide funding to Ms. Ruiz for a summer internship at the I Have a Dream, Boulder County, which is dedicated to helping low-income youths achieve a brighter future.
Ms. Ruiz is a nontraditional student who has sought a college education after owning and operating her own cleaning business for the past 15 years. She is a single mother whose youngest daughter is also a full time college student. Her sole source of income to support herself and her family comes from the financial aid that she receives at CU.
According to Ruiz, “Giving back to the community and being a mentor is what interests me the most. I would like to focus on providing educational opportunities for young people in the fields of education, youth services, and women’s issues….”
The I Have a Dream Foundation “adopts” groups of 50 low-income students, “Dreamers” in third grade who are deemed to be at high risk of dropping out of school. They hire a project coordinator and establish a learning center exclusively for that group and provide the Dreamers a year-round program of tutoring, mentoring, after-school enrichment, computer technology training, life and social skills, and college and career preparation until they finish high school. The Dreamers ultimately receive a four-year tuition-assistance scholarship for college or vocational school.
Ruiz hopes to eventually work with a non-profit organization or develop her own organization that provides youth with the resources that will make a college education a part of their educational future: “My own education is benefitting my future so that I can assist others in succeeding in theirs…”
Due to the generosity of the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation, Mercedes will have the funding to be able to reach her goal of giving back to the community, something that was also important to Casey.