This Woman’s Pupusa Food Truck Provides Scholarships to Undocumented Students

Lead Photo: Creative Commons "Pupusas” by ceasol is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Creative Commons "Pupusas” by ceasol is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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During her time as a student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, California-born Cecilia Polanco started thinking about how her full-ride scholarship made higher education possible. For undocumented students, she realized, this wasn’t the case. Years later, Polanco is using her pupusa food truck to help right this injustice.

The cost of higher education can make pursuing a college degree impossible for undocumented students. Even with the President Barack Obama-enacted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – which made it easier for undocumented immigrants to access higher education – tuition is still a barrier. DACA doesn’t automatically make undocumented students eligible for federal aid, state or college financial aid, or in-state tuition. Loans are also out of the question in many cases.

In North Carolina – a state with one of the country’s biggest undocumented populations at 350,000 – foreign-born students cannot pay in-state tuition, even if they grew up in the state. So when Polanco set out to run So Good Pupusas – a pupusa food truck – alongside her family, she wanted to provide scholarships to undocumented students. So she launched Pupusas for Education.

“It makes it virtually impossible for them to fund their own education,” Polanco told Indy Week. “As a 20 year old, I didn’t have money or marketable skills, so I came up with the idea with my sister to use the profits from the food truck for a scholarship.”

So Good Pupusas – as the website states – is serving up “a taste of El Salvador” with a “side of social justice.” Polanco’s business leases out its second food truck to local restaurants. The profits go toward Pupusas for Education, which Polanco also started. The nonprofit currently offers two $1,000 scholarships to undocumented high school seniors. Eventually, Polanco hopes to provide 8 scholarships. “A thousand dollars for an undocumented student is really just a drop in the bucket,” she said.

It’s not just the undocumented students who Polanco is committed to helping, she’s also using her truck to give other Latinos a chance to get their businesses off the ground. “Many Latinos in the Triangle make and sell food out of their vehicles, without the means to start a food truck or brick-and-mortar restaurant of their own,” the So Good Pupusas website reads. “We hope to follow in their immigrant entrepreneurial spirit and create [a] mechanism for for community members to sell their food and make a living by buying and selling their food through our food truck.”

Learn more about So Good Pupusas here

Update, August 3, 2017 at 5:30 p.m.: In the month of August, Pupusas for Education is looking to raise $4,000 to fund three scholarships this fall. The non-profit’s goal is to award undocumented students in September. To help them reach this goal, hit up @pupusas4education on Venmo, Pupusas for Education on Paypal, or mail a check to 7 Providence Court, Durham, NC 27705.