Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Immigrant of the Day: Catalino Tapia (Mexico)

We learned about our ImmigrantCatalino200 of the Day from a NPR reportCatalino Tapia crossed the border from Mexico into the United States 40 years ago with a sixth-grade education and only $6 in his pocket. He became a legal resident and raised a family by working in a donut shop, a machine shop and then plant nurseries, before starting his own gardening business.

But Tapia, 63, always had his eyes on the future, especially for his children's education. Even before his first child was born, he says he was saving money for them to go to school. Tapia's youngest son attended UCLA and then went onto to the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. He is now a lawyer in Los Angeles.

Tapia wanted to do something to help the less-fortunate children in his community in Redwood City, south of San Francisco. His son suggested Tapia start a foundation that would give scholarships to students. It took a year and a half to prepare the legal documents, but then the Bay Area Gardeners Foundation was born. Tapia sent letters to his clients asking for donations. To his surprise, he raised $10,000 in two weeks. And the donations kept coming in, with $75,000 raised so far. But the foundation also needed startup money, so Tapia approached the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Program Officer Manuel Santamaria says his foundation was impressed with Tapia's approach.   And the success continues.

The Foundation does not ask the immigration status of the scholarship applicants.  Undocumented students, who are not eligible for federally-subsiddized financial aid, have benefited from the Foundation scholarships.


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