The ‘Pelipost Overcoming Adversity Scholarship,’ led by Joe and Becky Calderon, was created to empower and reward (5) high school/undergraduate students seeking a college education while overcoming the challenges of having an incarcerated parent/guardian.
Joe Calderon was a freshman in college when his mother, Becky, was sentenced to three years in prison. His communication and support system were severed the instant she was booked. As Becky walked through the motions of getting settled into her new reality on the inside, Joe was left to pack her belongings, figure out arrangements and make sure all her outstanding needs were taken care of while she was away. He completed all these daunting, emotional tasks while grieving his mother’s support and absence in his life, juggling a loaded schedule of classes and a full-time job. To say, having a parent or guardian incarcerated is one of the hardest scenarios for a child, is an understatement.
The physical, financial, emotional, and educational impact of having your loved one incarcerated is an unbelievably heavy burden to bear, especially for a child. The National Institute of Corrections estimates roughly 2.7 million children have an incarcerated parent or guardian. These staggering statistics reveal that there are more children impacted by incarceration than adults currently in the prison system.
Joe’s ability to overcome the obstacles of having an incarcerated parent was largely due to his deliberate persistence to get a college education at all costs. Because of his grit and endurance to overcome adversity, he was able to graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Business and began serving families who are fighting the same battle to remain connected in such an isolating season. Through his obstacles to send photos and remain connected with his mother, and keep her updated on the outside world, he created a service (Pelipost) for uploading and delivering photos directly to incarcerated loved ones with ease. Pelipost provides an innovative solution to a time-consuming task, helping families and friends to navigate all the hurdles of life on the outside while remaining connected with those isolated on the inside. Now, with his mother running the business by his side, they are able to connect millions of incarcerated loved ones and their families through seamless photo delivery.
To enter, you must:
Be a U.S. Citizen.
Be a high school graduate or undergraduate student pursuing a college degree.
Submit an Essay (300-750 words) and share: 1) How has your loved one’s incarceration impacted your life, education and future goals? 2) How are you overcoming adversity through this experience?
Being incarcerated is one thing, and being a prisoner of your own mind is a different ballpark. When I was around the age of seven, I was with my father when he went to jail for the second time. He was caught with possession of an unregistered fire arm and a considerable amount of narcotics. Losing my father to the system was a bitter pill to swallow. The male father figure I needed in my life was absent, I looked to my mother to guide me the best way she could. I eventually grew up on my own, forced to adapt to my environment. When my father came home, I was exposed to what incarceration does to a person. Never able to pursue a normal career and unable to relinquish the shackles of his own intellect, he decided to make ends meet the way that was comfortable. I decided from that day I was going to go after my dreams relentlessly, I didn't want imprisonment or my upbringing to halt me from the life I knew I was destined to live. School, life, family, the importance of everything illuminated so fast. Losing my father to the system was my introduction to manhood.
Seeing the lifelong affects of a felony leaves an everlasting aftertaste in a person's mouth. I have an uncle who I love dearly, he too is a victim of the system [as well as his mind]. Due to his incarceration (as well as his record) it's almost impossible for him to live a normal life. He has a heart of pure gold, he'd give the shirt off his back to help someone. How can a real man look around at so much anguish and not be moved to do something about it... Witnessing post incarceration living pushes me to achieve my degree, go after every single dream I have wholeheartedly in order to rescue my family from their lives. Doing the best I can and making wise decisions everyday is overcoming adversity in my opinion. My entire family encourages me to continue on the road that I'm on, I'm surrounded by examples of those who did what they see fit, becoming incarcerated, and cannot escape their past. Their words of encouragement as well as their past mistakes motivates me to be a better person.
I was introduced the to life in prison early on. By the age of three, my father had been incarcerated an sentenced to 10 years in prison. By the time I was seven, my mother started her long pattern of being in and out of jail. This pattern shortly ended after she was sentenced to thirty three years in jail in my seventh grade year. My family's history of being in and out of prison didn't start with them, and I realized it definitely wouldn't end when my brother was recently sentenced to life.
There has been an immense amount of pressure on me to do well ever since my father had left. I am the youngest of six, and all my older siblings were deeply involved in the street life. My mother and father believed I was different because I spent more time inside the house reading than hanging out in our dangerous neighborhood. I have always carried the weight on my shoulders of being the one in our family who would write over the failures our last name has created.
The incarceration of my loved ones not only deeply traumatized me, but made me want to push harder to prove to myself that I could be bigger than a statistic. I wanted to break the chain of not only incarceration, but of drop outs, welfare dependents, and drug addicts. The fear of having a story close to the ones in my family who were incarcerated pushed me to set high academical goals for myself as well as pursue my hobbies that would keep me out of the streets. I started working full time as soon as I was able to to help keep me occupied in my down time. I also started to get into my love for literature as well. Writing school award winning contests, and creating stories on an online platform for millions of readers to read.
I took the examples that were handed to me and decided that I deserved better. I decided that I was in control. I pushed myself hard to make it through honor roll classes, that would eventually lead me to open the doors for AP classes during the school year and summer. This academic consistency and motivation has ended me up at graduation with acceptance to a PrePharmacy program at SWCC.
Everyday that I make the right decisions, and stay on path to my goals I have set for myself, I am overcoming adversity. Not only the adversity that is written sourly into my blood, but the adversity I choose to rise from myself.
My loved one’s incarceration has impacted my life by shifting my thinking in every situation or in every decision I have had to make. As a teenager, I am sometimes expected to make mistakes, learn from them, and just take it day by day. I have not always been exactly comfortable with this idea because being the child of an incarcerated parent makes people view you differently, you can mess up one time and they assume that you’re going down the same path as that parent. With this idea in mind, I have always been hard on myself when it comes to anything because I don’t want people to assume the worst when it comes to me. I am known as a person who prefers to be a perfectionist, and that’s just because I feel as if any wrong turn can change my whole destination. Everyone who is incarcerated didn’t make a series of mistakes, sometimes it was just that one that changed their life forever, and I have always been cautious of that and tried to avoid anything that could possibly put me in that predicament. I’m considered the “mom” of the friend group or even the mature friend just because I think more into situations than my friends would, I feel as though this is because of the think shift with my parent that causes me to believe one mess up can change my life forever.
My parent’s incarceration has impacted my education by also causing me to be harder on myself when the topic is school. I am a first generation college student, which means I am held to a higher standard compared to some of my other friends or family members. Earlier I mentioned how people can expect the worst and this applies to education as well because they don’t always see you as someone who can be successful because of your parent’s past. I am the type of person who likes to be able to prove someone wrong (when there is a good reason for it). So when people expect me to not go to college because my incarcerated parent didn’t, I decide to go a year earlier just to show that it is possible and that it can be done. I am a hard-working person and I earn everything I deserve, so I don’t appreciate the assumptions when it comes to me being the child of an incarcerated parent because I work just as hard as anyone else. Although my parent was not able to complete college when they were expected to, I still applied to college, got into college, and worked hard every single day to show that I am not a reflection of them and that I am my own person.
Although I am not a reflection of my incarcerated parent, they do motivate me to be my best because they want me to beat the odds as well. My loved one’s incarceration is my motivation when it comes to my future goals because although they did something that caused them to be put behind bars, just knowing that they are there gives me a reason to work harder because I know that isn’t a place that I want to be. I want to work in the financial field and help people better manage their money and become financially free so that they don’t resort to crime as an idea to “help” them get out of the situations that they are in. I feel as though money has been an issue in many households and it causes some people to resort to crimes for fast money, but this fast money is not always good money. I want to help people understand that they have so many other paths to walk through, rather than running towards the path of crime, and my incarcerated parent’s situation has helped me develop this plan. I am overcoming adversity by constantly thinking of my future and constantly reminding myself that I can be the person that helps someone else, and by helping that person I could possibly help their loved one’s avoid a life of crime.
My parents have been incarcerated and have had long sentences for various amounts of time. In addition, both of my parents have struggled with mental illness, which has been a struggle for them. I have seven siblings, and my mom was incarcerated while pregnant with two of my other siblings, including myself. Nevertheless, my mother was able to take care of me in the mother-infant program until they took me away from her as an infant. My father would soon get custody of me but eventually be sent to prison for narcotics smuggling and child endangerment. I have always been in and out of foster care, along with my younger siblings. Our grandmother cared for my older siblings, and she couldn't understandably handle any more children. Growing up, it was challenging to see my mother come out of prison, go to a residential home, and promise change. Whenever DCFS opened my parent's cases, my parent's rap sheet was pages full. Many of my siblings have decided to go down the same path as my parents. It's was more devastating watching my three brothers go to prison. Recently my sister was just incarcerated and lost custody of her kids. After a while, I became so desensitized to these situations that it became normal. I had to learn that these are not normal or healthy family dynamics.
I had many emotional experiences, trauma, and my own struggle with mental health, such as severe dissociative disorder. I learned that my trauma was so bad that this was a way my body was protecting me. With therapy and forgiveness, I have chosen a better path for myself. Because of our genetics, I learned how to become a better person and sustain from substance abuse. I learned how to navigate life healthy and happy over the years while pursuing my educational goals. I have had many academic challenges and barriers that stopped me from pursuing higher education. I faced those challenges head-on and realized that I did not have to follow in my parent's footsteps. The cards dealt since birth were all stacked against me through my religion, and the strength and encouragement from mentors helped me keep going. I'm doing things that I have never thought I'd be doing, such as applying for scholarships, graduating with my associate's, and attending a university while interning for a nonprofit to help foster youth and at-risk homeless.
If I didn't walk this path, my story would be completely rewritten and would no longer be me. Instead, I've allowed my story to become part of my identity, giving me a different perspective and lens. The past teaches life lessons and helps me create the best versions of myself. Today, all the tears and scars are battle wounds turned into strength and forgiveness. These life experiences have taught me empathy, compassion, determination, vulnerability, and strength. Thus, has given me a unique advantage in society without knowing it until now.
University of Southern CaliforniaHacienda Heights, CA
When I tell people that I aspire to be a lawyer, a common reaction is general surprise that’s followed by a scrunching of the nose and the exasperating question: “Why?” For years, I have repeated the same knee-jerk response: “What can I say? I like to argue.” In reality, I don’t know how to tell people that my father was deported when I was six years old. At that age, I was confused, searching for the meaning of the word that would torment me for years to come - deported. I didn’t know why I was being forced to look at my father through a plexiglass window, which, in retrospect, was more frightening than any wall that America could ever build. He was criminalized in the eyes of society, but as far as I could tell, his only crime was loving me too much.
With my father locked in a holding cell in a Kern County detention center, I was forced to abandon my childish frivolities. My mother needed me to be adaptable since we spent the next few years bouncing around from place to place. I needed to be independent and do my homework without instruction because I couldn’t bring myself to burden her with even an ounce of stress. My life no longer revolved around Nintendos and cartoons. Instead, it orbited around my father and the four-hour drives to see him for a mere half-hour every weekend. Seemingly overnight, I was molded by loss into a resilient young lady, wise beyond my years all before I could even ride a bike.
As I grew older, I realized that my experiences have given me the courage to look at myself as more than a victim of America’s broken immigration system. The loss of my father shaped my fight for equality. Since my freshman year of high school, I have given presentations at my economically disadvantaged middle school, informing students about different pre-college programs and financial aid resources that are available to them. I want to inspire these students to go after their dreams, despite the odds. The students are comforted by the idea that people like them could be in control of their education.
Now that I am attending USC, I have sought out opportunities that would not only prepare me for my future career as a lawyer, but put me in a position to help others. Currently, I am a member of the USC Trial Advocacy Program that competes in mock trial competitions and takes part in civil advocacy work, which ranges from fighting against police brutality to helping detained migrants at the border by training pro-bono attorneys. I am also one of twelve students selected as a part of the inaugural USC Agents of Change: Civil Rights Advocacy Initiative - the first civil rights advocacy clinic for undergraduate students in the country. Our work consists of partnerships with a variety of civil rights organizations and government agencies to foster social change.
Through Agents of Change, I have secured an internship at the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, where I help protect civil rights in the appeals and legal investigation unit. I have also completed an internship with Al Otro Lado, an organization that fights to help undocumented immigrants through activism and legal advocacy. In my role as an intern, I was able to conduct legal intakes, serve as a translator, and file petitions. Most importantly, I was able to be a beacon of hope for the migrants at the border by providing them with essential resources and listening to their stories with an open heart.
In this day and age, we are in desperate need of people who desire to protect those who cannot defend themselves. My purpose in life is to be one of those people. I will make it my life’s work to prove that undocumented people like my father deserve el sueño Americano- the American dream.
The application deadline is Jan 1, 2022. Winners will be announced on Jan 31, 2022.
How will scholarship application information be used?
What is the scholarship award?
Award amounts per winner are designated by the donor. Check the award amount for a detailed breakdown.
When will the scholarship winner be chosen? How will they be notified?
The winner will be publicly announced on Jan 31, 2022. Prior to the announcement date, we may contact finalists with additional questions about their application. We will work with donors to review all applications according to the scholarship criteria. Winners will be chosen based on the merit of their application.
How will the scholarship award be paid?
Award checks will be sent to the financial aid office of the winner's academic institution or future academic institution in their name to be applied to their tuition, and in the name of their institution (depending on the school's requirements). If the award is for a qualified educational non-tuition expense, we will work with the winner directly to distribute the award and make sure it goes towards qualified expenses.
How will my scholarship application be verified?
Before we award the scholarship, the winner will be required to confirm their academic enrollment status. Depending on the circumstances, verification of Student ID and/or their most recent transcript will be required.
How should I get in touch with questions?
If you have any questions about this scholarship or the Bold.org platform, just email email@example.com and we’ll get back to you as quickly as we can.
Does the scholarship have terms and conditions?
Yes. The terms and conditions for this scholarship can be found here.
This scholarship has been awarded, but we have hundreds more!