My name is Robert Sagastume, I am 32 years old and my motherland is Honduras, Central America. At an early age, I was brought to the United States as my parents had the courage to leave things behind to provide my siblings and myself a better future and an opportunity for an upward social and economic mobility. Obtaining a postsecondary education while being an undocumented student was not an easy task; luckily, my Kansas City community showed up and supported me in ways that allowed me to complete an undergraduate degree in Social Work from the University of Kansas. Subsequently, I continued my education journey, and I was able to obtain two master’s degrees from Washington University in St. Louis – Social Work with a specialization in management and policy and Social Policy.
I am a student advisor at The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis. The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, a nonprofit organization founded in 1920, is based upon the conviction that an educated society is essential to a healthy democracy. The Scholarship Foundation provides access to postsecondary education to members of our community who otherwise would not have the financial means to fulfill their educational goals. You can learn more about us by visiting our webpage.
My role as a student advisor at The Scholarship Foundation is student centered. This means that we will work to listen, support, and assist students as they consider their education plans regardless of the student’s background. We are able to do this in three different ways: (1) AWARDING: $5 million annually to 500 students, in the form of interest-free loans, scholarship grants, and paid internships – all need-based and last dollar. ADVISING: providing guidance and support to students and families as they navigate the admissions and financial aid systems of higher education – serving approximately 6,000 per year. ADVOCACY: engaging students and recent graduates to identify, analyze and lead efforts to influence policy that affects them at the school, state, and federal levels.
This is a heavy question. It truly meant the WORLD. During that time, I found myself navigating systems of oppression that yielded a path to no opportunities and as a result feeling the lack of existence or belongingness within a community I loved. Thanks to the advocacy of the Kansas Missouri Dream Alliance - KSMODA, I quickly learned about HDF and for the first time I felt I had an opportunity to apply to a scholarship as an undocumented student. During this period this was HUGE! There was no DACA and of course, no Dream ACT. Yet!
When I received a letter stating I was the recipient of an HDF award with Mayra Aguirre; signature, I quickly fell on my knees and cried for a good 15 minutes. After that Latinx dramatic reaction, I searched who Mayra Aguirre was to make sure I extended my gratitude because for the first time I felt SEEN and worthy of something that systems of oppression kept away from me.
This is a hard question to answer for myself. I truly do not have a clear definition on the term successful. I work everyday striving to be a better version of what I may have been in the past and intentionally choosing to support individuals with the most needs. I avoid using my own assumption of what may work for one person will work best for all individuals, rather, I ask what is needed and guide individuals through some of these solutions with and not for them. I think these are a few things I can say I learned as an HDF Scholar.
Lastly, I want to say that success to me will be the day everyone who desires to have a postsecondary education will have the means to do this without the financial burden that currently exists especially among Black and Brown communities.
Be thankful. Be open minded. Be kind. Love others and most importantly love yourself!