Achieving Dreams with a ‘Quermes’

By Carla Pineda

A “Quermes,” pronounced “kare-mais,” is a type of potluck party
organized in villages across Latin America with the purpose of
raising money for a specific cause. The numerous groups that
participated raised $1,400 for the Dream scholarship.

“The cause is to raise money for the Dream scholarship, which
will benefit AB 540 students on campus who are not eligible to
receive financial aid,” said Cecilia Santiago, coordinator of the
Cesar E. Chavez Center for Higher Education.

According to Immigrant Legal Resource Center, this California
law allows immigrant students to be exempt from paying high
nonimmigrant tuition fees. There are three conditions to this law:
the student must have attended a high school in California for at
least three years; he or she must have graduated from a California
high school or received an equivalent California high school
diploma; the student must sign an affidavit with the learning
institution of choice stating that he or she will legalize his or
her status as soon as possible.

While students are aided by only paying resident tuition, they
are not eligible for any financial assistance. This is what the
Dream scholarship will be used towards.

The amount of money awarded in the scholarship depends on the
donations received. For the following award, a restaurant made a
donation and it will be combined with the money collected at the
“quermes.” Last year, this scholarship gave a student full tuition

Most Latino campus organizations such as the Mexican American
Student Association, the Society of Hispanics in Science and
Engineering, Lambda Theta Phi and Alpha Pi Sigma participated by
selling food at the event and donating all the proceeds to the

“Immigration does not only affect the Latino community, it
affects a lot of people, but it seems that our community here at
Cal Poly has really been active in terms of bringing this issue to
the surface,” said Santiago.

A “quermes” is unique from other types of parties because of the
potluck aspect. Groups bring food and instead of collecting at
least the money they spent on ingredients, they donate all the

“Everyone donates a dish and they sell it at the party,” said
fourth-year political science student Maximiliano Cabellos,
co-chair of the Xicano Latino Heritage Month planning

Each club donated their specialty.

“Each organization is known for something,” said Santiago.
“Lambda Theta Alpha always makes choco-flan (…) and MASA is
always known for the bacon-wrapped hot dogs.”

The entertainment consisted of folkloric dancers, music and
dance performances by participants of the Cooperative Association
of States for Scholarships program.

“We want to acknowledge that our Latino community at Cal Poly is
diverse and that we have people from Central and South America and
the Caribbean,” said Santiago.

Carla Pineda can be reached by e-mail at or
by phone at (909) 869-3744.

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