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Meet the 30 Incoming Recipients of the 2021–22 African American Initiative Scholarship

This year’s recipients come from all around the world, including 27 students from California.

September 7, 2021
Group photo of AAI scholars standing in front of a room African American Initiative (AAI) Scholars

In 2018, the San Francisco Foundation funded the first set of African American Initiative (AAI) scholarships. Administered by the Cal Alumni Association (CAA), these scholarships have been awarded to more than 80 students. The continued support of this scholarship highlights CAA and UC Berkeley’s ongoing commitment to Black and African American student success.

The African American Initiative is UC Berkeley’s effort to address the underrepresentation of and campus climate for African American students, faculty, and staff and includes steps to improve recruitment, yield, retention, and graduation rates of African American students. The scholarship grants $8,000 annually for up to five years of undergraduate study. Students also receive supportive programming through the African American Student Development Office.

For the 2021–2022 academic year, 30 additional students will receive the AAI Scholarship. This year’s recipients come from all around the world, including 27 students from California. Given the social distancing restrictions of COVID-19, our finalists were interviewed virtually by alumni volunteers around the country.

hanifah abatcha
Image courtesy of Hanifah Abatcha

Hanifa Abatcha

Hanifah is a Nigerian-American who currently resides in Oakley, California. Her ethnic background is a lesson in the importance of bridging connections. At Cal, she hopes to start putting what she’s learned from her community into action and begin her journey as an environmental engineer.

Neeya Ahmed
Courtesy of Neeya Ahmed

Neeya Ahmed

Neeya is the daughter of Ethiopian-Muslim immigrants. With older sisters and hardworking parents as mentors, she acknowledges that she wouldn’t be able to reach this point without them as a support system.

samiyah alberto

Samiyah Alberto

Samiyah is a first-generation college student, born and raised in the Bay Area. Although her life was anything but traditional through all of the adversity she faced, Samiyah prevailed.

Morgan Apolonio

Morgan is a 17-year-old from Inglewood, California who relies on the support of her friends and family to achieve her goal of protecting her community from racism in its many forms and changing the way our society thinks about minorities and low-income individuals.

Zoe Blount

Zoe is an intended psychology major from Stockton, California. She is passionate about giving back to her community. In the future, she hopes to make a change by working with the youth and giving them the tools they need to succeed and achieve their goals.

Reed Broaders

Reed is a Danville, Illinois native who is passionate about improving healthcare in marginalized communities. She plans to major in cognitive science and ultimately become a physician. She is a competitive swimmer and will be joining Cal’s women’s swim team in the fall.

Marius Castro

Marius was born in Salinas, California, where he grew up closely with friends and family. His love for sports and his school community surpass other desires as he looks to push and better himself while making a difference among others around him.

Parker Jaiden Clemings

Parker has always been self-motivated. Academically, she is often in competition with herself, pushing herself to get better grades. Parker appears to be a quiet person on the outside, but there is a fierce competitor inside.

Tatiana Cluver

Tatiana was born in South Africa to a Mozambican mother and German-Brazilian father, and diversity has always been a core value of hers. She aims to implement this value at Cal, and with her experience teaching finance, make the voices of people of color heard and represented.

Chinyce Cole-Henry

Chinyce is a Northern California native and an intended psychology major. Coming from a blended family and a loving church community, Chinyce is motivated by the knowledge of all the people she’s working to make proud. Chinyce is exceptionally passionate about youth development and mentorship opportunities for students of color.

Kalani Dunn

Kalani is a 17-year-old student from the East Bay Area. Throughout high school, she was passionate about incorporating creativity into everything she does, from running a magazine to volunteering in her community. She intends to major in media studies, inspired by her work in communications and journalism.

Raquel Griffin

Raquel Griffin was born and raised in Victorville, California. She will be studying in the College of Letters and Science as an intended computer science major. Raquel is determined to get involved and make a difference in her community.

Samir Hooker

Samir is an ambitious, community-driven individual from San Francisco. The murder of his father and terminal sicknesses of his mother were early definers in his life. Samir will major in finance at Cal.

Yasmine Jalloh

Yasmine is an 18-year-old student ecstatic to begin her college life at UC Berkeley. She will be studying in the College of Letters and Science. She is a first-generation Sierra Leonean from Los Angeles.

Zara Koroma

Raised in Santa Clarita, California, Zara Koroma is a first-generation African American who has always wanted to make her family proud. She hopes to combine two of her passions, storytelling and social justice, in order to fulfill her dreams of becoming a voice for her community.

Raquel Angeliki Iacovou

Rocky is a first-generation American whose happiness lies in the joy of achievement through taking on challenges. Her academic interests are molecular and cell biology, with an emphasis in neurobiology. She plans to study the pathology of Alzheimer’s Disease and complete her research paper on reducing neuroinflammation using CRISPR-Cas9 technology.

Nouhamin Haileyesus Leoulekal

Nouhamin is a first-generation, African American woman excited to study as a public health major. Her interests include youth advocacy, mutual-aid projects, and addressing the social determinants of health. She hopes to work in clinics in underserved communities after graduation.

Christian Lucas

Christian is currently attending Choate Rosemary Hall, where she is a participant in a highly competitive science research program in the biology cohort. Her experience working as an intern in Dr. Mattew State’s Neurodevelopment Lab at UCSF helped her decide to major in cell and molecular biology with an emphasis on neurobiology.

Isaac Lustig

Isaac is a proud native San Diegan, extrovert, and entrepreneur. He enjoys exploring new surroundings and meeting new people, so moving to Berkeley will be a real adventure. He is excited about the many opportunities Berkeley will provide to make new memories with new friends.

Sophia Martin

After the death of George Floyd, Sophia’s involvement in social justice took on a new purpose. Sophia applied to Cal to meet and collaborate with like-minded people who care as deeply about justice reform as she does.

Skyelar Montgomery

Skyelar is an empathetic, passionate, and creative young woman from Springfield, Virginia. Throughout her life, she has immensely enjoyed participating in service projects that focus on assisting those in underrepresented communities. Ultimately, Skyelar aspires to become a lawyer to assist those negatively impacted by the justice system.

Jakob Morgan

Jakob is from Orange County and is looking forward to attending Cal. He is planning on majoring in urban studies. Jakob enjoys playing music and being involved in his community. He plans on becoming a city planner after attending Cal.

Mayah Nkhume-Crecy

Mayah is an Oakland Tech Class of 2021 graduate who’ll be joining Cal’s Class of 2025. Her interest and work center around reform in the legal and public school system as well as building a career around advocating for a just society.

Elvis Obiorah

Elvis was born in Nigeria and immigrated to the United States during middle school. He has committed to UC Berkeley Rausser College of Natural Resources to major in genetics and plant biology. He aspires to be an orthodontist in the future.

Trenton O’Bannon

Trenton is a fun-loving, multi-talented young man. He enjoys baking, playing sports, and spending time with friends in his free time. Growing up in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, Trenton was one of few African American students at his high school. Following in the steps of his older brother, Trenton developed a passion for statistics and computer science and intends to major in data science. Trenton hopes to use the skills that he will strengthen and develop at Cal to pursue a career in the tech industry. He is very excited to come to Berkeley, make new friends, and take advantage of all the opportunities offered to him.

Madison Payne

Madison Payne is a scholar from Lafayette, California. She loves learning new skills and enjoys singing, acting, and writing poetry. She serves her community by nurturing younger students through tutoring and mentoring efforts and participating in equity work. Outgoing and optimistic, Madison cannot wait to join the Cal community.

Cal Live! Hany Farid

William Reed

William is a young Black man who is looking forward to making the world a better place. His personal experiences throughout secondary school have made him a strong advocate for the Black community both socially and politically. He cannot wait to use resources at Cal to continue making good trouble.

Lydia Sidhom

Lydia is a 17-year-old Bay Area native whose family immigrated from Egypt. She’s currently earning an associate degree in political science, and plans to pursue a pre-law track at Berkeley. Lydia enjoys making a difference in her community and is excited to contribute to social justice initiatives at Cal.

Nia Shelton

Nia is a 17-year-old student from San Diego and is ecstatic to be attending UC Berkeley. By being in peer mediation and Red Cross, she established that her goal is to help individuals in the Black community. She hopes to be a pediatrician and is a prospective psychology major.

Jasmine Turner

Jasmine Turner is a young woman who was born and raised in the Bay Area. As a sociology major with a keen interest in social justice, she remains involved in her community by working to provide information about health to youths. She also works to improve racial equity.

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Meet our past AAI Scholarship recipients: