Things That Matter

This Latina Used Her Business Savvy to Launch An App That Helps Undocumented Students Find Financial Aid

In senior year of high school, Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca was told by her school’s guidance counselor that her dream of attending a four-year college was not in the cards for her. Salamanca, who had just found out that she was undocumented, had worked up the courage to tell her counselor about her immigration status. Instead of the support she was looking for, she was instead met with a discouraging response. “…She said to me, ‘People like you don’t go to college,’” Salamanca recently told Remezcla. Salamanca, needless to say, was devastated. 

Unfortunately, due to Salamanca’s status as an undocumented immigrant, she wasn’t eligible for federal financial aid. And because Salamanca was one of 11 children, she didn’t have the financial means to pay for college out-of-pocket. According to Salamanca, the conversation with her guidance counselor broke her “into a million pieces”. “This was the moment where I lost all hopes of being the first in my family to go to college”. But in the end, Salamanca had the last laugh. 

Years later, Salamanca used this experience to inspire her to create “Dreamers Roadmap”–a free mobile app that helps undocumented students find financial aid for college. 

While Salamanca was unable to take the traditional educational route that many entrepreneurs take, she instead used her grit and business-savvy to commit to changing the system that had failed her. “It took me a while to realize that I was probably not the only one in this situation,” Salamanca told Forbes. Once she had that revelation, she decided it was up to her to fix the problem. Instead of taking the traditional four-year college route, Salamanca enrolled in community college and got to work building her own business.

First, Salamanca devoted herself to creating a blog that gave undocumented and low-income students information about scholarship opportunities. When realized that she was one of 3.6 million Dreamers in the U.S. who were unable to qualify for federal financial aid, Salamanca realized she had an un-tapped market on her hands. Deciding to go a step further, Salamanca decided to create an app specifically for undocumented students who were looking to fund their college education. Despite having no formal background in tech, she applied for tech competitions–like the 2013 Hackathon for Dreamers. She left that competition with renewed confidence in both her ideas and her leadership abilities. It was then that she committed to both bringing her app idea into fruition and taking on a role as CEO.

Spurred on by her initial success, Salamanca decided to try her hand at the Voto Latino Innovators Challenge in 2014.

At the time, Voto Latino (founded by Latina actress Rosario Dawson) had put out a call for “Millennial-led projects that will improve the lives of and expand opportunities for Latinos in the U.S.”. Taking a leap of faith Salamanca decided to apply for the priciest grant: $100,000. Although she had no idea if she’d win, she decided it was worth a try. ” I thought to myself, ‘Well if I win even half, that’s a huge win for my project'”. And it seems that Voto Latino recognized the potential of her project as well.

Salamanca was ultimately chosen as a finalist for the competition and entered the final rounds in Washington D.C. as the only community college student as well as the only sole-female founder. At the challenge, Salamanca pitched her project to a panel of all-star judges that included Rosario Dawson, America Ferrera, and Wilmer Valderrama. Apparently, Salamanca made an impression. Voto Latino gave “Dreamers Roadmap” a grant of $100,000 towards funding. 

Now that Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca is CEO of her own company, her future has never been brighter. 

Salamanca has come a long way from being told that college is “not for people like her”. Now, Dreamers Roadmap has over 30,000 users and is integral to the college-admission process for many undocumented students. Not only was Salamanca named a “Champion of Change” at the White House in 2014, but she also received a House of Representatives Award in 2015, and placed in Forbes’ prestigious 30 Under 30 list. Although she has encountered numerous obstacles in her life due to her ethnicity, gender, tax bracket, and immigration status, she has overcome them all through determination and perseverance. 

But more than any of these other accomplishments, it’s the impact she’s had on people’s lives that is the most impressive. To date, Dreamers Roadmap has helped over 20,000 students find scholarships for college. “We hear from our users via social media or email on how our app has changed their lives,” she said in an interview with Forbes. “Hearing their stories reminds me that we are doing a good job and fulfilling our mission of bringing hope and financial opportunities to immigrant communities”. 

Brazilian Researchers 3D-Print Part Of The Face For Cancer Survivor

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Brazilian Researchers 3D-Print Part Of The Face For Cancer Survivor

@mr_nobody / Twitter

A Brazilian cancer survivor has been fitted with a prosthetic eye and face to cover the hole that a devastating bout of skin cancer left. Denise Vicentin, 52, beat her cancer a decade ago and has since been living without a part of her jaw and her right eye ever since. Vicentin was so self-conscious about her battle scars, she became afraid to go out in public. People would stare at her everywhere she went and, soon, her social life and marriage fell apart. “[Before] when I was on the metro or train, I tried not to pay attention to the stares. At places like the bowling alley, I felt them looking, and the person would even leave when they saw me,” she told the Daily Mail.

Ten years later, researchers were able to create a custom prosthetic using just a smartphone camera and a 3D printer. Now, she feels like she has her ‘missing piece’ and says she is so happy that she even sleeps with it on.

Years ago, she was offered a hand-made prosthetic, but it would have cost her half a million dollars.

CREDIT: @MR_NODOBY / TWITTER

A portion of her right jaw was removed, making it difficult for her to eat and slurring her speech. One of Vicentin’s most painful wounds left behind by the cancer was her inability to navigate throughout society without being ostracized or made to feel different. When doctors offered her the opportunity to have a prosthetic made for her, she had no choice but to turn it down. It would have cost over half a million U.S. dollars. 

Waiting for the right moment may have paid off for Vicentin. As technology has advanced, the capabilities of 3-D printing are only just now being realized. Vicentin sought out an alternative treatment at São Paulo’s Paulista University just last year and is already walking into 2020 with a new lease on self-confidence.

The final prosthesis just took 12 hours to create and a fraction of the cost thanks to 3-D printing technology.

CREDIT: @VAZIYETCOMTR / TWITTER

The research team at Paulista University formulated a plan to give Vicentin her ‘missing piece.’ Vicentin would have to undergo several surgeries over the next year in order to fit the prosthesis. Then, the doctors took 15 photos of Vicentin’s right eye socket from a simple smartphone. From there, they were able to use all the images to digitize a 3-D model that would eventually become the blueprint for the 3-D printer. 

The final model was printed and refined in just 12 hours, from a mixture of silicone, resin, and synthetic fibers. After the 3-D printer created the technical piece that would sit flush on Vicentin’s face, a bit of human artistry was applied to make the prosthetic as realistic as possible. The researchers painted the prosthetic to match Vicentin’s exact eye hue and skin color. They even individually secured lashes to resemble that of her other eyelid.

The research team has been perfecting 3-D prosthetics since 2016, offering new levels of confidence to over 50 patients so far.

CREDIT: @CANAL_44 / TWITTER

Dr. Rodrigo Salazar has specialized in maxillofacial prosthetics for the last few years and has married technology with medicine to create lasting change for his patients. In order to get a proper model for a prosthetic, he used to have to create a mold of the patient’s face, on the patient’s face. Today, he needs only a smartphone camera to capture the necessary data to create a model prosthetic. 

Vicentin never expected skin cancer to become a defining chapter of her life.

CREDIT: @VAZIYETCOMTR / TWITTER

When Vicentin was in her early 20s, she found a strange growth on her face and went to the doctor. It was a tumor, but it was benign, non-cancerous. She had it surgically removed and thought that was the end of it. It returned again, once again, benign. She had it removed a second time and enjoyed nearly 20 more years tumor-free. Ten years ago, the tumor came back, but it was malignant, slowly ravaging the right side of her face.

Today, Vicentin has titanium hooks surgically placed around her eye socket in order to be able to securely wear the prosthesis and take it off when she pleases. So far, Vicentin has been wearing the prosthetic for just a month and she loves it. ‘It was a long time looking at a face which was missing a piece, so I am so happy. I only took it off to clean it – I even slept with it,” Vicentin told the Daily Mail

Travel Restrictions Limit Americans To Only Flying Into Havana But Sube Let’s Americans Explore The Island

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Travel Restrictions Limit Americans To Only Flying Into Havana But Sube Let’s Americans Explore The Island

subecuba / Instagram

The progression of Cuba’s modern world has been a slow one, but it’s also been eager to thrive thanks to the younger generation. The integration of the internet didn’t arrive on the island until the late aughts. Back then, when U.S. relations with Cuba became friendlier under the Obama Administration, it looked as if Cuba was ready to get online. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that Cuba decided to team up with Venezuela in order for the country to help them venture into the digital age. Now, under the Trump Administration, who is putting the breaks on the Cuba/U.S. relationship, the Cuban people have something more to aspire to. 

A Cuban startup has launched a cab service that will help tourists get around the island now that the Trump Administration has blocked airline travel to all areas of Cuba except Havana.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

The company is called Sube (which translations to “get on” or “hop on”), and it’s basically a ride-share service like Uber and Lyft, although their intention is to seek out tourists who wish to visit the areas outside of Havana. 

Late last year, the Trump Administration issued a travel ban throughout the island, which meant that American airlines could only fly into Havana. All other airports in Cuba were forbidden. The announcement didn’t automatically erase flights that were already booked. U.S. travelers can only arrive in Havana, so if they have plans outside of the capital, getting there is trickier and expensive. The solution is Sube. 

Sube wants tourists to know that their service is safe and that they can provide an exciting and fun way to get around the island.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“Sube is a ridesharing app founded in Cuba,” their About section states. “Our drivers will help you move around safely and fast while sharing their knowledge of our customs and culture.”

One of the most popular attractions in Cuba is their vintage cars. So how can these old cars keep up with this new motive of transportation? Sube owners say all cars, vintage ones as well, are in perfect condition and can drive long distances. All drivers have verified licenses as well. 

The app launched in 2018, and since then, the app has been downloaded at least 10,000 times and so far has 6,000 registered users.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“We knew the trouble people go through in Cuba to get to work every day, to get home, or if they just want to go out,” Claudia Cuevas Alarcón told NBC News. Aside from Cuevas Alarcón, a 27-year-old, Sube’s creators include 26-year-old Damián Martín, 26, and 27-year-old Darién González. 

What makes this company even more fascinating is that these young entrepreneurs have found a way to work the system to their benefit. For example, U.S. credit cards are prohibited on the island, which means travelers can only use cash. 

Sube creators registered their company in the U.S., so this makes it possible for travelers to download the app before they leave their home country, upload their credit card information. Once they arrive on the island, they have already reserved their car service, and the exchange of payment is not needed. 

It’s not just tourists who use the app, locals are using Sube to get around the island as well.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“If you are visiting Cuba this December, move with SUBE and pay from abroad,” one of their beautiful Instagram posts says. “We have 70 registered and available taxis, which will make your trips more enjoyable and safe. You can book them before your arrival at the airport, until departure. Do not hesitate.”

Other ways to use Sube is pretty straightforward. You can use Whatsapp or Facebook to reserve a cab. Travel experts also suggest that if you’re traveling to Cuba, you should also download apps that will help not only with travel information but translation, money exchange, and texting capabilities. Here are some useful apps that extremely useful: Maps.me, XE currency, Google Translate, Pocket, Havanatrans, Zapya, AlaMesa, CubaMessenger, and ProtonVPN. And, of course, Whatsapp and Airbnb. 

It’s very exciting to see young Cubans not allowing connectivity or travel regulations (or any sort of limitation) stop them from progressing into a new frontier of digital capabilities.

READ: The Trump Administration Took Another Swipe At Cuba By Banning Almost All Flights To The Island