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Elmer Moreno ’16

Elmer MorenoFew students walk around Syracuse University’s campus with stories like that of Elmer Moreno ’16. The mechanical engineering major was chosen as one of 1,000 preliminary applicants from the Atlanta region to be considered for the Posse Scholarship Program. Founded in 1989, Posse identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes. Moreno fit that bill to a tee.

“My parents came to the United States from Honduras when I was just two years old, and I remained in my homeland with my grandparents until I was 11. When my parents decided to bring me to the U.S., they broke the news that I’d be an undocumented citizen,” Moreno says. “So I decided that I’d just do as well as I could in school, and everyone said things would work out if I did. I barely knew English and had to piece together sentences word by word.”

Moreno eventually overcame the challenges of a new language and culture. In high school he found his voice and cemented himself as an invaluable part of the school’s academic and extracurricular community.

“I set a goal for myself to be more outgoing,” he says. “I played four years of varsity soccer and joined as many organizations as possible, including the Science National Honor Society and the Student Government Association. I served as class president in 10th and 11th grade, and became student body president my senior year.”

With an exceptional pre-collegiate résumé, and outstanding grades and test scores, Moreno was the kind of student most schools would welcome. But he was devastated to learn his undocumented status deemed him ineligible to receive federal financial aid, along with many of the nation’s most prestigious scholarship programs.

Moreno feared his college dreams might be out of reach, until his guidance counselor found out about SU’s affiliation with the Posse Foundation. Posse extends an opportunity for students to pursue personal and academic excellence by placing them in supportive, multicultural teams—Posses—of 10 students. Posse partner colleges and universities award Posse Scholars four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships. As a private university SU could offer Moreno admission, unlike major public universities that operate off government funds.

“After the preliminary selection there was a comprehensive round of interviews,” Moreno says. “I explained my situation and was still accepted into the program. The Posse Scholarship literally changed my life.”

Today Moreno is happily pursuing his studies and all that life has to offer on campus.

“I love SU. The engineering program is unbelievable, and the people I’ve met so far have been amazing. There’s so much diversity here—much more than I thought when I applied,” he says.

Moreno even enjoys the Syracuse winter.

“When people back in Atlanta found out I was coming here, they’d say ‘do you know much it snows up there?’” he says. “I just laugh about that now and tell them I’m having too much fun to care.”