July 4, 2011; Source: BakersfieldNow.com | The College Dream Fund, a nonprofit group in Bakersfield, Calif., awards scholarships to students who are denied access to government-sponsored financial aid and loans because of their immigration status. Its most recent fundraiser netted $25,000 — half of what it had hoped to raise.

The organization was founded by Sharon Mettler, a retired Kern County Superior Court Judge, and Jim Young, chancellor emeritus of the Kern Community College District. Mettler and Young believe that the American dream should be extended to deserving students who were brought to the United States at a very young age and know no other home. Young estimates that about 1,500 undocumented students graduated from Kern County high schools this year.

California might soon pitch in however and help these smart and hard-working young women and men get a college degree. Two bills have been introduced in the state legislature which would allow some undocumented students access to Cal grants, institutional aid and fee waivers at publicly funded colleges and would provide for the same privileges for private financial aid.

Until the federal government reforms our dysfunctional immigration system, states, nonprofits and private citizens will find ways to keep the dream alive for many young people who are American but in papers.— Erwin de Leon