A restaurant in Ogden is trying to help first generation immigrant students finish college. On Thursday, the Sonora Grill will raise funds for a scholarship program. One hundred percent of all sales and contributions throughout the day will go directly to pay the tuition for immigrant students attending Weber State University. Sonora Grill owner Steven Ballard says he’s met a lot of immigrants working in the restaurant business.
“You really start to meet a lot of amazing people who are very brave and courageous, and have really sought out to make a better life for themselves and their families. You also see their plight and some of the challenges they have as an unprotected class of citizens in our communities,” Ballard says. “It really made me want to do something.”
Immigrant students who have graduated from a high school in Utah can get in-state tuition, but if they are undocumented, they are not eligible for the financial assistance that other students receive. Ballard says a small fraction of immigrant high school students make it to college, and cost is a big barrier.
“This is a place where government agencies can’t come in and help, but private businesses can step in and step over some of those boundaries and challenges and make a huge difference, and really lift up communities through access to education,” Ballard says.
This is the second year the Sonora Grill has held the Dining for Dollars event. Last year, the restaurant raised 29,000 dollars in sales and donations. This year, they are offering breakfast, and Ballard expects to raise more.