Cisneros Center Selects Next Cohort of Fellows


SAN ANTONIO, TX – – The Cisneros Center for New Americans, a nonpartisan, non-profit institution focused on immigrant integration, today announced the appointment of its second cohort of “American Dream Fellows.” The two Fellows will be apart of the Center’s nationally based operations and programs that creates clear avenues of opportunity for immigrants by aligning the resources in the community to the needs of the immigrant community.

The American Dream Fellowship, part of the Center’s American Dream Initiative, works to ensure that every American, whether native born or adopted by our nation, has the opportunity to achieve their American Dream.

Zessna Garcia – Rios from Northwest Arkansas and Emiy Hackerson from Warren, Vermont were selected as the 2015 – 2016 American Dream Fellows. The two Fellows, chosen from a field with applicants from across the U.S., underwent an extensive interview process, including a group exercise and individual interviews by a panel of distinguished San Antonio and Northwest Arkansas educators, community leaders and Center staff.

Over the last 2 years, more than 100 applicants from across the country have applied for the Fellowship. “This exceptional cohort of candidates and finalists is a testament to the importance of the integration and empowerment of New Americans. This is both a moral imperative and an economic necessity for the nation,” explains Nicolas Perilla, President of the Cisneros Center.

Over the course of their 13-month Fellowship, Fellows and community stakeholders work together to identify and develop plans to address barriers to immigrant integration. The American Dream Fellowship program begins in July and runs through August of the following year.

This new cohort of American Dream Fellows will engage in an intensive training this summer in San Antonio and in Arkansas before their deployment to the region. The Fellows will spend one year working to empowering immigrants as they strive to fully integrate into American Society.

The American Dream Fellows will continue to build on the Center’s success of the first year. In the Center’s inaugural year in the region, they developed a comprehensive resource guide of the services available in Northwest Arkansas, led the implementation and development of a region-wide immigrant integration strategy, and created the American Dream Leaders Program, an development program for college-aged leaders.


ZESSNA GARCIA-RIOS was born in the city of Gomez Palacio, Durango in Mexico but grew up in the heart of Bentonville, AR. For the past two years Zessna has worked with the Walton College of Business producing and creating video content and with Tyson Foods, Inc. as their Public Relations Intern. Before Zessna received relief through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals she was a long time DREAM activist with United We Dream and the Arkansas Natural DREAMers. She will receive her Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Arkansas in May of this year.


EMILY HACKERSON hails from Warren, Vermont, but traded mountains years ago for the chance to live in cities across the globe, including Rabat, Morocco, Buenos Aires, Argentina and New York City. Emily will receive her Masters degree in City and Regional Planning this spring from Cornell University, where her research centers on community-based, participatory planning and migration. Emily’s past work experience includes serving as a financial capabilities counselor with a housing non-profit in Buffalo, NY as well as consulting for a Mexico City based public policy think tank on themes of urban development.  

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