ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A University of Central Florida student will graduate with a biomedical sciences undergraduate degree thanks to a scholarship that helps DACA recipients and undocumented students.

What You Need To Know

  • Less than 10% of DACA recipients pursue higher learning

  • Undocumented college students are not eligible for federal aid

  • Ruben Mercado, 22, is graduating from UCF on Saturday with biomedical degree

According to, less than 10% of DACA recipients pursue higher learning.

“These students have to pay out of pocket," said Josefina Rosario, with UCF. "Remember, they’re not eligible for federal student loans or federal aid.” 

That’s why many turn to The DREAM.US Scholarship program, also known as the DREAMer Scholarship.

Ruben Mercado, 22, is one of the DACA students graduating from UCF on Saturday, thanks to that scholarship. He and his family left their home country of Honduras when he was 6 years old. 

“Due to some criminal activity against my father, we moved here to the United States of America,” Mercado said.

At first, the change was difficult for him.

“Everyone spoke a different language — just in terms of the culture and diversity here, it was a lot different compared to Honduras,” he said.

Mercado said he chose to pursue a medical degree because he wants to help others like him.

“Growing up undocumented, health insurance has always avoided our family,” Mercado said. “To be able to help people who’ve been in a worse situation than I have been, that’s something I love to do.”

He volunteers at Shepherd’s Hope Health Center, a Central Florida medical clinic that treats uninsured patients, to help people who are undocumented.

Mercado said he’ll be the first member of his family to graduate from college.

Currently, there are 80 UCF students pursuing their degrees through the DREAMer Scholarship, according to the university.