Experiences of others who are part of the program and the impact it has made on their future.
“Underground Scholars does more than provide a support community to formerly incarcerated students on campus. They work to educate the campus community about the perspectives of and challenges faced by formerly incarcerated students, mobilize to overcome barriers to success, and proactively support formerly incarcerated students applying to join the campus community. And they have been core partners in building LIFTED, the first University of California bachelor’s program for incarcerated students.”
Keramet Reiter, Professor, UCI Social Ecology
“Underground Scholars provides a critical voice and support for our students here are UCI who are formerly justice-system-involved.”
Katie Tinto, Professor, UCI Law School
“As I awaited my decision from UCI’s admissions office in 2018, I received my second DUI and was jailed multiple times for fighting, public intoxication, and disturbing the peace. As a result, I began part of my first quarter at UCI on house arrest and spent some nights in jail. This made me feel as though I did not belong on campus. Fortunately, I met Hector from the Underground Scholars Initiative (USI) in the first weeks of the 2018 fall quarter before I began my house arrest, and he made me understand that the struggles that I had overcome up to that point made me deserving of the opportunity to study at UCI, for I had prevailed over barriers that other students would have faltered over.
His sentiments struck me, and I gained comfort in knowing that there were people with a similar background on campus—I was not alone. More importantly, after completing my house arrest, I began to attend USI meetings regularly, and it has changed my trajectory in a positive manner. Prior to making contact with the student-led organization, I did not ponder about graduate school, but now I plan to apply to graduate programs and continue my pursuit of knowledge. USI has facilitated my growth at UCI and motivated me to fulfill my true potential. In the summer of 2018, I was scared of the prospect of failing at UCI and succumbing to the negative perceptions that others had of my being; contrastingly, I am now going into the summer of 2020, and I am excited about the prospect of attending graduate school and confirming the perception of myself that the USI members have instilled in me—one of perseverance, success, strength, and triumph.”
Jesus Adan, UCI Student
“UC Irvine was a totally different encounter from my community college experience. Honestly, it has its pros and cons but just the simple fact that I had gotten as far as I did makes me appreciate the campus a lot more. My experience at UC Irvine turned phenomenally more fulfilling after I found the Underground Scholars of UC Irvine, I felt like I was at home again. Words cannot explain the feeling inside of me when I met the men and women that genuinely understand my struggles due to their own personal experiences.
The Underground Scholars of UC Irvine helped me navigate a vision for my higher educational plans and blessed me with friendships that are difficult to find for formerly incarcerated students in America. Statistics show that the majority of people that come out of prison or jail return eventually while students that get an education show an opposite trend. This organization at UC Irvine has assured my vision and hopes for having a flourishing future waiting for me. I hope and wish that the Underground Scholars of UC Irvine stay everlasting for future anteaters to experience this gift.”
Ester Mendez, UCI Student