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$10 Million and Counting

September 16, 2009
by Adeel Iqbal

As it celebrates its tenth year, The Achievement Award Program (TAAP) is also celebrating an even bigger achievement—reaching its first fundraising goal of $10 million. And with that comes another challenge, as CAA plans to raise an additional $10 million over the next ten years.

The program, which began with just 15 students in 1999, has provided more than $9 million in aid to nearly 200 undergraduate students from low-income backgrounds. About 25 new scholars receive funding each year, and TAAP distributes more than $500,000 annually. What TAAP scholars give in return is a wealth of personal experience and diversity.

“The TAAP kids have had to make it on their own,” says Doug Adams ’59, who since 2002 has headed the TAAP development committee. “It’s very uplifting to read the applications and see how they’ve come through and survived out of their backgrounds. It gives you a lot of hope.”

Third-year student Salvador Limon, who was surrounded by gang activity in East Los Angeles during junior high, is just one example. “The influences in the streets were big on me,” he says. “I was badly guided, not by my parents but by friends. I actually gave in to this kind of life.”

But Limon broke out of that pattern and has found the financial, professional, and personal support of TAAP essential for his college success. “I have a support group here at Cal,” Limon says. “If anything ever happens to me, TAAP makes sure that there is someone there to help me.” The program offers personal and academic counseling, financial planning, and business etiquette workshops. This year, the program provided laptops for TAAP students, which Limon says lets him do his work “wherever and whenever.”

Limon also appreciates his connection with Cal alumni, whom he emails regularly. The connection allows him to grow beyond the campus boundaries and “network.” “I didn’t even know that word until I joined TAAP,” he says. That networking goes both ways, as alumni donors enjoy spending time with their scholarship recipients. “We feel so honored to meet the students,” says Arlene Willits ’63, who served on the CAA board when the scholarship was formed.

Willits stresses the importance of TAAP in the face of rising school fees and competition from private universities. “We are competing with the Harvards, the Yales, the Stanfords for top-quality students and for students who bring life experience and diverse backgrounds to the university,” she says. “Berkeley, while it does a good deal of financial aid, can’t always compete.”

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