Ambassador Reyna Torres Mendivil, Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago, presents Liesl Downey, Executive Director of the NEIU Foundation, with the 2020 IME Becas grant on Oct. 19.

Consulate General of Mexico awards grant to Northeastern Illinois University

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Consulate General of Mexico has awarded a $9,000 IME Becas grant to Northeastern Illinois University. This is the fifth year Northeastern has received the grant.

The IME (Institute for Mexicans Abroad) Becas (scholarship in Spanish) program aims to improve access opportunities for Mexicans or people of Mexican origin living outside of Mexico. One of the ways IME achieves this mission is by supporting the education of the Mexican population based in the United States. Northeastern was also awarded IME Becas grants in 2011, 2016, 2017 and 2018. In total, these funds have helped 46 Northeastern students continue their education.

“We are glad to have received these funds to help our students through the IME Becas grant,” Director of Northeastern’s El Centro location Maria Luna-Duarte said. “These funds will really make a difference in the lives of our students.”

Luna-Duarte, who worked for the Mexican Consulate prior to working at Northeastern and who herself came to Northeastern as an undocumented student, knows firsthand how difficult it can be to attend college. She has also heard from many students who have been especially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many of our students have lost their jobs or had their hours at work cut,” Luna-Duarte said. “Their families are struggling. Some of their parents are out of work and it’s harder to make ends meet. Some of our students have gotten COVID-19, or someone in their family has, and they’ve had to withdraw from school. This money is more critical than ever to help our students stay in school. Some people don’t realize how $500 or $1,000 can really be the difference between a student completing their degree or stopping their education.”

Assistant Director of El Centro Rebeca Lamadrid-Quevedo was the lead writer of the grant and said she’s seen the impact this grant has had on the lives of students.

“This program will help students concentrate on their academic journey, especially since many don’t qualify for financial aid because of their citizenship status,” Lamadrid-Quevedo said. “We’ve seen, through the years, how the grant helps students. For some, it’s given them the ability to finish their last semester without worrying about where the money to pay for it is going to come from. Some of them already work two and three jobs to provide for themselves and their families. With the grant, it gives them a little help so they can graduate and continue to advance.”

Northeastern’s partnership with the Mexican Consulate is not only through the IME Becas grant. The University and the Consulate have had many collaborations over the years, including partnering on health fairs, art exhibits and other cultural activities. Students who receive this grant will also have the opportunity to volunteer or intern with the Mexican Consulate in the future.

“The grant and partnership is very beneficial to our students,” Luna-Duarte said. “Not only will they be able to receive scholarship funds, but the students selected will also be able to gain professional skills by volunteering or working—safely, of course—with the Mexican Consulate. They can hold internships to boost their résumés and increase their likelihood of earning a job once they graduate.”

Executive Director of the NEIU Foundation Liesl Downey was presented with the grant check by Ambassador Reyna Torres Mendivil, Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago, in October.

“We are deeply grateful to the IME Becas program and the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago for our long-standing partnership,” Downey said. “Northeastern, a Hispanic-Serving and Minority-Serving Institution, is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the state's No. 2 regional public university for social mobility—that is, moving our graduates from lower income status into the middle class and beyond.”

In addition to the IME Becas grant, a $1,500 grant is also expected from the Consulate later this year to support Northeastern students of Mexican heritage who are graduates of Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

“Collaborations such as this expand opportunities for our students and result in a win-win not only for our IME Becas recipients and their families, but for our community,” Downey said.

Students who meet select criteria as defined by the grants will be contacted through Proyecto Pa’Lante, El Centro or the Undocumented Student Resources program to apply for IME Becas and CPS grant funding.

Photo: Ambassador Reyna Torres Mendivil, Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago, presents Liesl Downey, Executive Director of the NEIU Foundation, with the 2020 IME Becas grant on Oct. 19.