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“Wasted Potential...Into Power and Purpose”
~ Cris Mercado
Our Story

From age 6 through high school, Cris worked really hard in school to escape living in a basement apartment in the Jamaica, Queens area of NYC. At age 17, he was accepted to a dual-degree STEM program at New York University- only to have all his scholarships rescinded because of immigration issues. 

At 21, Cris became a Ph.D. Candidate in Criminal Justice and earned free tuition and the CUNY's top Fellowship- only to have the nearly $100,000 in funding taken away again.

It was a story of wasted potential... until he reframed it into power and purpose. 

GrantAnswers was inspired by Cris's early career success at TRIO Upward Bound, where he helped hundreds of LIMFG (Low-Income, Minority, First-Generation) students ascend to top colleges and earn +$1 million in scholarships/grants. His award-winning social entrepreneurship, career development work, immigrant rights advocacy, and personal story has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, The New York Times, Forbes, and Time, as well as in keynotes and presentations for Teach For America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


He has also served as an Ambassador & Innovation Council Member of the political advocacy organization





·       Delegate, United Nations (2017): International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA) Global Summit 


·       Executive Management Certificate Program, BNY Mellon-CUNY-National Minority Business Council (2017)


·       Participant, UndocuHacks (2017): Prototyped & presented Havensent app to win immigrant health category in hackathon sponsored by ACLU, Univision, Fusion, UCLA Labor Center, Codesmith &


·       Ambassador & Innovation Council Member, (2015 – 2017): Advocate for immigrant rights, leading to 10+ meetings with presidential candidates, & members of Congress; Secured features/citations in NBC News, CNN Money, The New York Times & The Wall Street Journal; Featured in the I Am An Immigrant multimedia campaign that yielded 3 billion social media impressions


·       Delegate, The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (2015): The White House Summit on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders


·       Mentor/Career Coach & 2015 Young Leadership Board Member, America Needs You (2014 – 2016): Lead 1st-Generation college students in a 2-year career development & leadership training program; Fundraise in support of a $100,000 annual goal and help secure corporate partnerships





·       Panelist, Men of Color Leadership Conference, New York (Nov 16, 2017): “Millennial Mindset”


·       Panelist, E4FC National Convening, Nashville, TN (Oct 13, 2017): “Invest in the Dream”


·       Article, Forbes (Aug 21, 2017): “When Accidental Inspiration Sparks Entrepreneurial Ideas”


·       Panelist, IHM Campaign, New York (Jun 13, 2017): “I Stand With Immigrants”


·       Keynote, Teach for America’s Entrepreneurs United Conference, Houston TX (Apr 21, 2017): “Entrepreneurship, On My Terms”


·       Presenter, Asian American Community Development Conference, New York NY (Oct 19, 2016): “Equity”


·       Panelist, Techweek, New York NY (Oct 13, 2016): “Immigrant Entrepreneurship”


·       Op-Ed, Time (Jun 24, 2016): “The Supreme Court’s Immigration Decision Hurts Every Single American”


·       Panelist, US Chamber of Commerce, Washington DC (Apr 19, 2016): “Increased Security and Prosperity: The Immigration Reform Imperative”


·       Presenter, Latino College Expo, New York University (Mar 19, 2016): “Free Money for College”


·       Co-Presenter with the Morehouse School of Medicine, Sources of Urban Educational Excellence Conference, Georgia State University (May 2, 2015): “The Way Forward: Reimagining Public-Private Partnerships for 21st Century Global Workforce Development”


·       Keynote, Braven, Teach For America HQ (Apr 18, 2015): “Story of Self”

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