Who are we: The Underground Scholars Initiative (USI) is a student group at UC Berkeley that supports all current and prospective students impacted by mass incarceration, imprisonment, and involuntary detainment of any kind. One of our defining goals is to bridge the topic of mass incarceration that has been popularized in academia as a field of interest, and a subject of study, with one that is grounded in the lived experiences of UC Berkeley students.
USI is working as a catalyst for the development of a Prison-to-School pipeline within the University of California.
Some of our work includes a “Ban the Box” campaign at UC Berkeley (Ban the Box, the brainchild of the All of Us or None movement, seeks to remove questions pertaining to arrest and conviction histories from job applications, ameliorating the collateral consequences of unemployment and poverty that unjustly follow a person after they leave jail or prison), mentoring prospective UC applicants through the application process, and facilitating concurrent enrollment in the UC of formerly incarcerated community college students -- which gives community college students a chance to experience the academic rigor at UCB, our goal is to increase their confindence and self esteem in their ability to perform at the #1 Public University in the world.
Since 2013 USI has impacted over 2000 students through workshops, class presentations, conferences, panel discusisons, and more. We have family that are formerly or currently incarcerated, and student allies who have made the stand with us is in the fight to gain the right of all students to benefit from a University of California education.
What we are raising money for: Our goal is to fundraise $32,900 in order to provide fifteen $2,000 transitional scholarships to the 15 formerly incarcerated students graduating, as well as to finance the necessary supplies and food for the ceremony (Additional money raised will go towards our orgazational capacity building including programs for summer and fall). This scholarship will aid graduates with expenses such as housing, transportation and other costly incidentals associated with leaving the university. The majority of the graduating class is also student parents, presenting an even greater hardship while relocating. Most student parents live in the student parent housing area and are immediately evicted once they graduate without any additional time to prepare, and most low-income housing facilities are not available for our population, people with records. The Underground Scholars Initiative has brought this to the ASUC student government attention in hopes we can join forces to create a policy that will give an option of extended stay after student parents graduate, for purposes of preparing to relocate. This process will take some, we are not sure how long, this is why we have created this fundraiser because our group is in serious need of support. The Underground Scholar Initiative members deal with all kinds of discrimination due to our backgrounds and most do not qualify for low-income housing programs, this makes securing housing one of the most critical issues that we have to deal with, especially those of us that are student parents. Some of our graduating members will be relocating to Southern California. This is why we are asking for financial support to make post graduation process a little bit less of a hardship.
We would need these financial resources as soon as possible for graduating students to have for use of storage, moving truck, other moving costs, security deposits, traveling support, and child care assistance while moving.
This opportunity for post-graduation financial support means that our population is being valued and cared for. Members of the Underground Scholars Initiative have already broken so many barriers and surpassed larger society’s expectations of formerly incarcerated people. This means a new opportunity for our group to break the stigma and bring light to a vision where many see darkness. With all this said, we will be extremely thankful to say the least, and we will forever remember this act of generosity.
The University does not formally endorse the crowdfunding campaign and is not a recipient of any funds raised.