The Freedom to Shine

Despite obvious fatigue from the pressure of midterms, Jibril Kyser remains enthusiastic about Cal, and emphatic about the critical role his scholarships play. Jibril is a recipient of the Kruttschnitt Aspire Scholarship Program (KASP) and The Leadership Award.

“Freedom, that’s what it means. KASP freed me. It provides social and academic freedom. It liberates me from a cycle of debt,” Jibril says. “And the kindness and generosity of Ted Kruttschnitt and others at CAA is phenomenal. They have changed the course of my college education and allowed me to explore a multitude of options. ”

Like many CAA Alumni Scholars, Jibril has overcome his share of adversity. Neither of his parents attended college, although both of his paternal grandparents did. Raised in the “hood” of Sacramento, Jibril found an escape in the peaceful garden of his own backyard. Both of these realities shaped his future. Though absent through much of Jibril’s life, his father provided a male influence in his early years. He taught Jibril chess and gave him books. Jibril grew up knowing the stories of Frederick Douglas, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture, and Huey P. Newton. Transforming negative circumstances into motivation, Jibril saw a bigger picture for himself: “I always knew something greater was in my future.”

In high school Jibril qualified for the Program in America and California Explorations (PACE), an intensive four-year English/History honors program. “PACE fed our minds, exposed us to new things. It was a seminal point in time for me.” Through PACE Jibril met a fellow student who was reading Plato, Voltaire, and Aristotle. Together they started the General Honors Book Club. Jibril reached out to other students and formed a cohort of scholars who engaged in the independent study of great literary works. He used his chess skills to start the school’s first competitive chess club. Jibril’s commitment to community service grew through his work with Transforming the Hood for Good, a program in sustainable agriculture that teaches kids about community gardening and provides an alternative to a dangerous life on the streets. “Kids didn’t know that you can put a seed in the ground and it will grow food.”

At Cal Jibril plays a leadership role in the black community on campus and believes “we must make it a priority to exemplify the ethnic community’s value on campus by continuing to achieve the incredible goals we set for ourselves.” Jibril not only believes in giving back, he practices it. As Director of Publishing at Nova Mentoring, he mentors his students in creative writing and performance.

A Genetics and Plant Biology major, Jibril sees his future as dedicated to using his science education, and eventually a law degree, to address global issues. This includes one day becoming President of the United States, a lofty goal he states with such calm humility that one can’t help but see it as a possibility for this visionary young scholar.

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