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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Local student wins big

Radford University's Student Management Investment Portfolio Organization. Giancarla Rojas is in the bottom row on the right.

Falls Church High school graduate and “dreamer” Giancarla Rojas Mendoza is the member of a Radford University team that won first place in a national investment competition.

Two years ago, Rojas, then 18, was struggling to afford college, because as the child of undocumented parents, she would have had to pay the much higher out-of-state tuition rate.

She had joined other “dreamers” – immigrant youths brought to the United States as children who wanted to go to college and pursue the American dream – in a lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Justice Center. The suit sought to overturn Virginia’s policy that called for students granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status by the federal government to pay the out-of-state tuition rate at state colleges and universities. 

That policy meant Rojas, who is from Bolivia, couldnt afford to enroll in George Mason University, so she attended Northern Virginia Community College, even though the higher out-of-state rate there was a burden. Then after Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring ruled that students with DACA status qualify for the in-state rate, she transferred to Radford, where she became the first dreamer accepted to the university and received a full-tuition scholarship.

Rojas will graduate in May with a degree in international economics and is applying to graduate school. Wall Street might figure in her future career plans, she says, but “for now I am going more toward policy-related work.”

At Radford, Rojas is vice president for operations at the Student Managed Investment Portfolio Organization (SMIPO). That organization earned first place in the value fund category at the Quinnipiac Global Asset Management Education (G.A.M.E.) VI Forum April 2 in New York City. SMIPO’s portfolio produced the highest risk-adjusted returns in that category. Representatives from more than 140 colleges participated in the event, which was sponsored by Quinnipiac University.

SMIPO was created to give Radford students the opportunity to gain real-world experience in investing money on behalf of an institutional client. The organization manages funds for the university foundations endowment. SMIPO started with an initial investment of $100,000; the current total investment is $600,000. The group netted a 3 percent gain for the year, compared to a 2 percent loss by the S&P 500.

Rojas is also vice president of Scholarship Sharing, a nonprofit that helps students gain access to resources with the goal of a debt-free college degree.


  1. Congratulations! What a great example of what hard work and perseverance in this country can achieve. I applaud her and I hope other young people struggling with making ends meet take a lesson from this young lady. Wonderful!

  2. Congratulations Giancarla, this is just the start of many more wonderful things to come! Giancarla is the perfect example of what our Dreamers can accomplish if only they are given a little room to spread their wings. There is so much human potential among our undocumented community.

  3. so proud of this young woman's accomplishment thus far. you will do great things Giancarla.