Meet the 12 winners of UC Berkeley’s African American Initiative scholarship

students celebrate at graduation

UC Berkeley’s African American Initiative scholarship honored 12 new undergraduates this year. (UC Berkeley photo by Elena Zhukova)

For the 2019–2020 academic year, Tim Henry and 11 other talented students have received AAI Scholarships alongside 26 continuing recipients.

Scholarship honorees include Bay Area native Farhiya Ali, the daughter of two refugees from a country undergoing a civil war. She credits her drive to pursue higher education to the lack of opportunities her parents have received. Suaad Nour is a first-generation Muslim Somali American. She was born and raised in San Diego and aspires to be a civil rights lawyer. Meanwhile, Sundiata “Chaka” Tellem plans to study political science, psychology, business, African American history and eventually attend law school.

Haas, Jr. Fund gift to African American Initiative and campus equity and inclusion efforts

The AAI Scholarship is a valuable tool to help draw African American students who have been admitted to Berkeley but would otherwise choose to go elsewhere. And it is just one part of the recent gift from the Haas, Jr. Fund, which supports a wide range of programs to transform the student population and create a more welcoming and inclusive campus.

Knowing that diversity, equity and inclusion are key to the university’s standing as a premier public institution, the investment by the Haas, Jr. Fund is designed to bolster the university’s African American student community and their overall campus experience.

The $2 million for the AAI Scholarship is also a challenge contribution, which calls on additional donors to step forward so that the gift is fully leveraged at $4 million. The scholarship program is a partnership of the San Francisco Foundation, the Cal Alumni Association, and the Haas, Jr. Fund.

“With this new partnership, we are hoping to build on UC Berkeley’s tradition of openness and inclusion,” said Cathy Cha, president of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. “We want to help make a Berkeley education more accessible for students and families who often face substantial barriers finding their way to Cal and other top-flight universities.”

The Haas, Jr. Fund gift will also support a variety of campus programs aimed at diversifying the student body and improving the experience of historically underrepresented students. In addition, it will boost efforts to maximize outreach to and recruitment of low-income, underrepresented minority students in the Bay Area and the rest of the state who are the first in their families to go to college. The broader effort also sets out to enhance the campus environment so that these students feel supported and respected.

Among the innovative programs to be supported by the investment is a series of bridging experiments led by UC Berkeley Professor of Law and Professor of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies john powell. These are designed to create life-changing experiences for students and expand practices that promote belonging, a more cohesive campus environment, and prepare students for the 21st century.

For students like Tim Henry, the scholarship has opened the door for life-changing experiences.

“When we found out I received the scholarship, it brought my mom to tears,” Henry said.

Now Henry said he’s 400 miles away from home, and that in and of itself is another opportunity to grow as a person as he begins his journey at Cal.