Cris Mercado, an alumnus of The College of New York, is a social entrepreneur living in New York. His early work in college & career readiness helped over 200 LIMFG (Low-income, underrepresented minority, first-generation) students in NYC ascend to college and earn $1.5 million in scholarships & grants, and led to creating GrantAnswers, a B2B firm providing career & college readiness solutions. In 2016, Cris received a grant from Immigrants Rising’s Fund for Undocumented Social Entrepreneurs (FUSE) to develop a free mobile career app, KeyJargon, which helps young professionals learn about organizations and industries to build a professional network.
How did you get connected with our organization?
I saw E4FC [Educators for Fair Consideration, now known as Immigrants Rising] via some Facebook contacts online. I visited the website to share scholarships for students that I work with, but it wasn’t until the FUSE grant when I really got to know your work.
Getting the grant was a big sigh of relief for me, so that I could explore my ideas better, and in full. I learned a lot from trying to manage a business and build an app. I’ve had the chance to go to San Francisco and meet other entrepreneurs who I still keep in touch with. Now we share resources with one another.
A few months ago, I was able to nominate other undocumented people that I knew were really talented and had some good ideas, and then people I nominated were able to come here and learn from the Immigrants Rising community. Being involved really strengthened and multiplied connections that I would otherwise not have in the undocumented community.
What is most unique about our organization?
I love that the organization is led by people who know intimately how it feels to be undocumented. The organization sees talent around them, that just happened to be undocumented, and then provides various roles for them to take leadership.
I have a greater sense of gratitude, because of Immigrants Rising’s belief in me and my idea. For undocumented people, it’s rare to find either a person or an institution that validates your experiences and your achievements.
What are your hopes for our organization and community?
I wish there was an East Coast version, E4FC of New York. I’d be more than happy to help out with that one. More people outside of California need to know the power of E4FC.
What I really like about E4FC is that regardless of the political climate, they provide resources, and they don’t shift as far as philosophy is concerned. That stability and consistency is rare. That’s what makes it unique, and powerful, and reliable.