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Access to Opportunities

November 18, 2019

By her own standards, Alishba Sardar ’23 isn’t from the most typical Pakistani family. Born in Pakistan as the youngest of six daughters, Alishba remembers her parents impressing upon her the importance of college from a very young age. “My parents wanted all of their daughters to go to college,” Alishba says. “It was expectation for us to go.”

Growing up, Alishba moved a lot because of her father’s army placement, and at age ten, her family immigrated to America in search of better opportunities. They settled in downtown Berkeley, where she remembers walking around the UC Berkeley campus often with her mom. Alishba fell in love with the school. Once one of her older sisters got into Cal, Alishba only became more motivated to attend Cal herself.

“I got that sense of community when I walked in… Everyone looked like me, and I felt like I belonged.”

Before Alishba started high school, her family moved to Richmond where they found comfort in being able to join a large, local Muslim community. At school, Alishba became deeply involved in advocacy work and studied hard. She joined the Youth Tobacco Advocacy Policy Project to help pass a ban on tobacco within 1,000 feet of any school building, and took history classes about diasporas and the absence of culture that later influenced her want to pursue an ethnic studies major at UC Berkeley.

Her high school counselor, a staff member at the Cal Alumni Association (CAA), was the one who encouraged Alishba to apply for The Achievement Award Program (TAAP) scholarship. “My counselor knew I wanted to find a community at Cal, and she knew TAAP would be a good way for me to find that,” Alishba recalls.

Now a freshman at Cal and a TAAP recipient, Alishba is grateful for the access and opportunities she has received through CAA’s Alumni Scholars Program. “Everyone at TAAP is so helpful and supportive,” she says. “I got that sense of community when I walked into one of the workshops. Everyone looked like me, and I felt like I belonged.”

Alishba Sardar with friends at a TAAP dinner.
Alishba Sardar (second from right) with other scholars at a TAAP dinner. Image courtesy of Alishba Sardar

Alishba has yet to officially declare her major, but she’s already formed her goals for the future. Among them include doing research while on campus at UC Berkeley about America’s high incarceration rates, creating a nonprofit in Richmond that enables students to get accepted at colleges and provides them the financial aid to attend and graduate, and becoming a social worker. “I see a lot of foster systems being broken in Richmond, and I want to help,” she explains.

With just one semester under her belt and a wealth of opportunities at her fingertips, Alishba will undoubtedly help her communities tremendously.