Monday, October 15, 2007

Immigrant Gardeners Provide College Scholarships

As Kevin Johnson reported yesterday, it's disappointing that Governor Schwarzenneger vetoed California's version of the DREAM Act. It's also disappointing that Congress has not passed the federal version. But here's a nice story of hope and belief at the grassroots level.

Tyche Hendricks writes in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Catalino Tapia came to the United States at age 20 with $6 in his pocket. He worked hard, as a baker and a machine operator, and eventually started his own gardening business. He and his wife bought a home in Redwood City and raised their two sons, putting the eldest through college.

Though he never studied beyond sixth grade, Tapia was so inspired to see his son, Noel, graduate from Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley that he decided to help other young Peninsula people make it to college. Now 63, the Mexican immigrant is giving back to the country he says has given him so much.

With legal help from his son, Tapia established a nonprofit corporation, the Bay Area Gardeners Foundation, and recruited a dozen other immigrant gardeners to join the board. This year, the foundation gave out nine scholarships of $1,500, almost double what it distributed in 2006, its first year.

With his callused hands and burly shoulders, the Michoacán native does not fit the typical image of a philanthropist. When Tapia approached the Silicon Valley Community Foundation for a grant to help strengthen the fledgling organization's capacity, he was told the agency had never seen a foundation started by gardeners before. "Well," he replied, "We'll be the first."

When most people think of a philanthropist, they are likely to think of a society matron or millionaire business mogul, said Manuel Santamaría, a program manager at the community foundation.

"In fact, taking tamales to the church potluck or reading in the classroom - all those little acts are philanthropic," said Santamaría. "Philanthropy means love of humankind. We've got to spin a much better view of what immigrants are contributing. ... And Catalino is taking it to a different level."

Tapia expresses a vision - of passing along the prosperity he has earned, drawing community members together for a shared goal and being accountable for the well-being of the next generation - that is eminently philanthropic.

"I believe the education of our young people isn't just the responsibility of their parents, especially in the Latino community where some parents work two or three jobs," he said. "It's our obligation as community leaders, because young people sometimes wander without guidance." Click here for the full story.

bh

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2007/10/immigrant-garde.html

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