Pupusas for Education: How One Food Truck Is Providing College Scholarships for Immigrants
“A taste of El Salvador with a side of social justice.”
Cecilia Polanco knows the cost of education. If she had not earned a full scholarship, she would have never been able to attend her alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill, she told local paper Indy Week in May of this year.
That’s why Polanco, now a graduate, is on a mission to help undocumented students pay for their educations. And she’s doing it in a unique way: by selling pupusas.
During her sophomore year, Polanco, born in California to Salvadoran parents, began to think about her identity, according to the Indy Week article. She especially thought about how her story isn’t the norm for many young Latinos across the country. Had she, or her parents, been undocumented, the scholarships that allowed her to graduate debt-free would not have been available.
Undocumented immigrants are required to pay out-of-state tuition and are ineligible for federal aid. Polanco told Remezcla that, without any financial assistance, it’s virtually impossible for undocumented students to fund their education.
But with her food truck, So Good Pupusas, Polanco is alleviating some financial burden for these students.
Polanco, who has run her food truck for over a year, has used the surplus profits from her mobile pupuseria to provided two students with a $1,000 renewable scholarship. She’s already chosen two new recipients for this year.
As more people learn about the mission of So Good Pupusas and the business gains popularity, Polanco hopes to provide $8,000 worth of scholarships each year.
The goal of So Good Pupusas, according to Polanco, goes beyond just providing scholarships. It is meant to bring awareness to social justice issues that often go unnoticed. For Latinos in her community, family food trucks and restaurants are their livelihood, but still many families find themselves without the means to start a family business, Indy Weekly reported.
For Polanco and her family, pupusas, thick homemade tortillas stuffed with various fillings, are more than just a tasty treat. They’re also a reminder of home.
Even the preparation of these Salvadoran delicacies includes, at its core, a social mission. Polanco’s mother and grandmother used to pray over pupusas as they made them, repeating: “I'm doing this for someone else—let it be the best.”