Advancing College Opportunity for Justice-Impacted Students

Advancing College Opportunity for Justice-Impacted Students

Building a strong prison-to-school pipeline is necessary as we continue fighting for equal access to higher education. As more institutions begin to diversify their student populations and highlight the several student identities that tend to overlap, there is still one group that is often left out of many significant conversations — those who have been negatively affected by the carceral system. Formerly incarcerated and justice-impacted students are often left feeling unwelcome in spaces of higher education because of the many barriers present for them. Barriers to college access include background checks and inadequate student services, leading to a decrease in retention rates amongst this student population. A justice-impacted student includes someone at risk of being incarcerated or who has been formerly incarcerated, someone who has been legally, economically, or familially affected in a negative way by the incarceration of a close relative; this also includes people who have been arrested, and/or convicted without incarceration.


While it is important to note that higher-ed institutions still have a lot to learn when it comes to serving justice-impacted students, there are current programs already in place dedicated to helping such students succeed. These programs are essential and vital to increasing retention rates amongst formerly incarcerated and justice-impacted students. 


Here is a list of current programs available: 


CC Level: 

CA Community Colleges: Rising Scholars Network

To find further information on a specific Community College 

use this program directory to learn more:  

Rising Scholars Network Program Directory 


CSU Level: 

Currently, 14 CSU campuses have Project Rebound programs working with formerly incarcerated students. To find information on a specific college campus, scroll down to the bottom page 

Cal State University: Project Rebound


UC Level: 

Currently, there are 9 UC campuses that have the Underground Scholars Initiative working with formerly incarcerated scholars throughout the state. We have listed the main page to learn more about the program’s mission and history along with links to each UC chapter available across CA. 

The Underground Scholars Initiative 



Link to Join:



Bruin Underground Scholars Program Website:

Bruin Underground Scholars Program Email: 

USI UCLA Student Org Email:



Facebook: USIatUCI




Facebook: Underground Scholars Initiative, UCR

Twitter: @undergroundSch3



Facebook: Underground Scholars Santa Barbara 


Website: and









Intake Form:


Edith Ramirez, Underground Scholars Program Coordinator

    Undocumented Student Resource Centers

    Undocumented Student Resource Centers

    Higher education institutions in California have established statewide programs to provide resources for undocumented students. These programs offer support for applying to the California Dream Act, AB 540 information, scholarships and even more. The type of resources these programs provide varies widely across campuses and it can be different within the same segment of higher education. Some California campuses have physical centers while others don’t. The center or programs do not necessarily need to have the word “undocumented” in its name, you can also look for dreamers, dream or multicultural. Use this interactive map to learn about resources at each California campus.

    student resource centers for undocumented students

    Disability Services for Students

    Disability Services for Students

    Students who attend public colleges and universities are protected against disability discrimination by Title II under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Many campuses are equipped with offices and services for college students with disabilities. The goal of these offices and services is to address accessibility, accommodation, and assistive technology for a diverse range of needs.

    To begin receiving accommodations you must first register as a student with disabilities, this is done with the disabilities service office in your school. Disabilities offices have instructions for how to register for services on their website. Remember the name of the office does not necessarily need to have the word “disability” in its name, you can also look for words such as access, equity, or accommodations. You also need to provide evidence of a disability to get accommodations but remember that disclosing your disability to your school is completely optional. 

    Examples of disabilities are, but are not limited to: 

    • Neurological conditions
    • Sense organ impairments
    • Musculoskeletal impairments
    • Emotional or mental illness
    • Respiratory conditions
    • Digestive ailments
    • Learning disabilities 
    • Organic brain syndrome 

    However, you will need to disclose this information if you wish to receive academic adjustments. All colleges receiving federal funding must ensure equal access to students with disabilities, meaning they have to provide “reasonable” accommodations. 

    Here are some typical academic adjustments institutions provide:

    • Sound amplification aids
    • Speech to text software
    • Accessible testing locations
    • Note-taking services
    • Priority class registration
    • Sign language interpretation
    • Course substitutions


    Foster Youth Services: CAFYES and Guardian Scholars

    Foster Youth Services: CAFYES and Guardian Scholars

    In college, there are programs that provide additional assistance if you or anyone you may know is a current or former foster youth. Programs such as NextUP and Guardian Scholars can offer personalized support throughout your college journey. Being in a community of students and dedicated staff can ensure you get the help that you need. Here’s a breakdown of the programs and how to apply:

    What is CAFYES?

    • CAFYES(Cooperating Agencies Foster Youth Educational Support) is now known as NextUP. NextUp is a program offered to community college students to provide support services. These services include resources for financial support, transportation, textbooks, supplies, food, and emergency housing.

    Who is eligible to apply?

    • Former or current foster youth students that attend a California community college may apply if:
    • You are a California resident
    • You were established or continued as a dependent in court on or after your 16th birthday
    • Proof of written verification of foster status(i.e. Court dependency letter)
    • Under the age of 26 years old

    Where should I apply?

    • Students who are interested in applying for this program should visit their local EOPS office for more details.

    Guardian Scholars Program 

    What is the Guardian Scholars Program?

    • Guardian Scholars is another program that also caters to foster youth but on a larger scale. This program is available to students who attend community college, a CSU, UC campus or a private university. Services include individualized counseling, housing assistance, financial resources, and community-building workshops/events! The name of this program may vary by campus, but please contact your student services department to point you in the right direction.

    Who is eligible to apply?

    • Identify as a current or former foster youth that has been in the foster care system or has a status as an Independent, homeless or emancipated
    • Able to provide a status verification letter
    • Under the age of 26 years old
    • Maintain a good academic standing

    Where should I apply? 

    If you are interested in applying, you can visit your campus website and type “Guardian Scholars” in the search bar, or you can contact your Student Affairs department for more details.

    NextUP and Guardian Scholars have helped thousands of students across California on their pathway through higher education. Although each campus offers its own particular services, their ultimate goal is to support the personal and academic goals of current or former foster youth students. Find out more information through the links below!

    For community college students, click here

    For CSU students, click here

    For UC students, click here

    For private universities, visit the campus website for their eligibility and selection process.

    Here are a few examples of program benefits:

    LMU Guardian Scholars

    Trojan Guardian Scholars

    Torero Renaissance Scholars

    Student Support Programs: EOP, EOPS, and TRIO

    Student Support Programs: EOP, EOPS, and TRIO

    As a college student, you may feel completely fine one day. The next day, you may feel overwhelmed when it comes to calculating various college costs and fees. Fortunately, there are statewide programs that can help students like yourself with course materials, textbooks, and much more. Student success programs such as EOP, EOPS, and TRIO were developed to streamline a supportive pathway with additional resources. Here’s a breakdown of the programs and the services they provide:

    What is EOP?

    The Educational Opportunity Program was created to assist students, in order for them to receive support services to ensure academic success. Support services include but are not limited to tutoring, financial assistance, personal counseling, academic advising, graduate school prep, and more.

    Who is eligible for EOP? 

    Undergraduate students who are:

    • A California resident
    • A First-generation college student(Neither of your parents has received a bachelor’s degree)
    • Academically disadvantaged and/or come from a low-income background
    • Enrolled full-time(Part-time students need to request approval)

    Why is EOP important?

    • EOP provides grants to students who participate
    • Access to extensive workshops for academic and personal success
    • Networking opportunities for community events

    What is EOPS? 

    Extended Opportunity Programs and Services is a support program that is offered to community college students to encourage college completion. EOPS offers similar benefits to EOP, such as tutoring, individualized counseling, and financial support.

    Who is eligible for EOPS?

     Community college students who are:

    •  A California resident
    • Eligible for California College Promise Grant Fee Waiver
    •  Enrolled full-time (12 units of more)
    • Have completed less than 70 degree-applicable units 
    • Academically disadvantaged
    • Pursuing an Associate’s degree

    Why is EOPS important?

    • EOPS provides financial assistance for textbooks, reduced student bus pass/parking permits and meal vouchers 
    • Participants receive priority registration for classes
    • Opportunities for professional development and networking

    What is TRIO?

    TRIO is also a statewide program that aims to directly support students throughout college. This program was created to promote social, academic, personal and professional development.

    Who is eligible for TRIO?

    An undergraduate student that is:

    • A US Citizen, Permanent Resident, or a U.S National
    • A first-generation college student
    • Able to provide proof of physical or learning disability
    • Low-income

    Why is TRIO important?

    •  TRIO can offer graduate school advising and exam prep, career counseling, and professional development skills
    •  Students are able to receive priority registration
    • Students also have the opportunity to receive a peer mentor for navigating student life on campus


    These programs collectively provide various ways for students to be successful throughout college. To apply for the TRIO program in any college system, you can contact the student services department at your campus for program eligibility, forms, and deadlines. If you or a colleague is interested in applying for EOP, click the following links below.

    To apply for a EOPS at a community college, click here

    To apply for CSU EOP, click here 

    To apply for UC EOP, click here

    Checklist for Commuter Students

    Checklist for Commuter Students

    Everyone says that starting college is a very exciting part of your life but no one really talks about the stress that comes with preparing for college. There are things you need to figure out such as: will you be living on campus or with family? How will you get to and from school? When thinking of commuting you need to take in consideration a checklist that would make your commuting experience more enjoyable. Here are some tips to make your commute easier:

    Staying Safe

    Whether you are commuting by public transportation or by your own vehicle, one of the most important things is staying safe. Sometimes you may stay in school very late and by the time you head home it is dark or you may need to leave home very early in the morning. No matter the time, here are some tips on staying safe:

    • Tools*

    Pepper spray, taser and emergency car kit are all helpful tools that can be used during an emergency. Read the instructions on how to properly use these tools and only use them for emergencies. 

    • Emergency SOS programs

    Android and Apple have an emergency mode on smartphones to help during difficult situations. Depending on the company, these programs allow you to add emergency contacts, call emergency services and put your phone on ultra power saving mode. 

    More information for apple users, samsung, and android users.


    Sometimes you are running late and forget to make yourself breakfast or maybe you did not pack lunch. One way to avoid this is by meal planning! There are many ways to meal plan, it is done according to your lifestyle. If you have never meal planned before, here is a some tips for beginners:

     When meal planning, it is important to save on produce! Here are some guides to CalFresh, SNAP, and food banks that may be available near you. 


    Have a long commute? One of the discouraging things about having a long commute is knowing how to fill in the time. 

    • Listening to a podcast, music, or audiobook  

    Student discounts for Apple Music and Spotify

    • Studying

    If you have an exam that day, you can review your notes or study guides on the way to school. This is helpful because you are briefly reviewing your notes before your exam to make sure you don’t forget some last minute details. 

    Discounted Bus Passes for Students

    If you will be taking public transportation to get to and from school, you will need a bus pass. The cost for a bus pass can accumulate but luckily there are programs that offer discounts for students! Additionally, these offers have unlimited rides for your semester/quarter.**

    • Orange County and Irvine Students
    • Bay Area Students
      • Clipper Card 
        • Will be able to use on Caltrain Golden Gate Transit, Marin Transit, Muni, SamTrans, etc… Check the FAQ for more information
        • Must have an income level below $89,320

    *keep in mind some places do not allow pepper spray, tasers or anything sharp inside their perimeters 

    **rules may vary, visit websites for more information

    How Volunteering is Beneficial

    How Volunteering is Beneficial


    First-generation brown girl. Born and raised in LA. Street food, earring, and cumbia enthusiast.

    COVID is limiting normal experiences like volunteering. As a result, volunteer opportunities have been adjusted and are limited. As a student, you should take full advantage of volunteering! Read what our team has to say about volunteering:

    Why Volunteer?

    Here are just a few reasons why you should.

    Explore your interests

    If you’re still unsure of your interests, you can volunteer to start narrowing your focus. It’s a good idea to expose yourself to what’s out there. In addition, employers and graduate schools alike value experience strongly; the sooner you find a sector/field to grow in, the more impressive you can be! 

    Develop Skills

    Now it’s time to enhance your skills! When you begin volunteering, you may find that your responsibilities grow. You will develop skills that school is sometimes unable to teach you. Additionally, these skills are often transferable and can be taken with you at multiple jobs!

    Boost your resume

    Not to mention, volunteer experience looks great on your resume. It lets employers know that you care about local organizations! Also, it is a good idea to begin volunteering during your high school years or early college years so that you can eventually begin applying for paid internships.

    Make connections

    Organizations and companies have tons of connections. belonging to these networks will allow you to have connections within this field that can lead to bigger opportunities. 

    Let’s Get Started

    1. First, find your interests: 
      • Brainstorm the fields that interest you. 
    2. Then, google organizations near you: 
      • Use Google to find organizations near you! Try something as simple as “immigration law office near me.”
    3. Finally, send emails: 
      • Now, go to their website and email them to ask about volunteer opportunities. 
      • After finding a contact email, try a template like this:

    Template for sending an email

    This is just one example to get you started! In addition, you can also search up templates free on Google.

    ” Hello [person you are addressing]!

    My name is [your name] and I am a current [grade level] at [your school]. I am writing to express interest in your organization/company. I have always been interested in [the field the organization is in]. Is there space at [organization/company name] for me to volunteer with your day-to-day tasks? 

    I would love to chat with you about myself and my current abilities. I look forward to hearing back from you!


    [your name] ” 

    Ultimately, volunteering helps you gain experience! You got this. Best of luck! Go put yourself out there!

    Campus Resources for Undocumented Students

    Campus Resources for Undocumented Students

    While California has established statewide programs so undocumented students can safely apply for financial aid, such as California Dream Act, there is a lack of coordination and consistency in how these and other resources are made available to students. The resources vary widely across campuses, and can even be different within the same segment of higher education. This can often confuse or misinform students about critical information. Colleges and universities need to ensure they provide consistent and adequate information and support services for undocumented students that are readily available on their campuses.

    The interactive map below serves as a guide to find information about campus centers for undocumented students, support programs, website address with relevant information, and contact information of undocumented allies/liaisons. This information is critical to improve access and success for undocumented students in higher education. 

    California Undocumented Student Resources Map

    Source: Campaign for College Opportunity and CA Undocumented HIgher-Ed Coalition


    Chrome Extensions You Need for College!

    Chrome Extensions You Need for College!


    Boba-drinking, Zelda-playing, Horror-watching brown girl from Oaxacalifornia.

    Inspired by @envikatonya’s viral Tiktok video sharing her favorite chrome extensions to use for online learning, we have gathered other extensions that can be useful for you as a college student! These extensions vary from cite machines, studying timers, online highlighters and notetaking, and more. Check them out and download them to get the most out of your Google Chrome experience.

    Essay Writing

    One Tab: Puts all open tabs into one 

    Workona: Separate tabs into different folders and saved for the next time you need them

    Weava: separates tabs into different workspace and all tabs you need are ready, rest are saved  

    Zotero/MyBib:  citing your sources

    Grammarly: spelling and grammar check


    PodCastle: converts website into realistic podcasts for when you have to read longer articles 

    Pomodoro Timer: timer to keep track of your studying 

    Picture-by-Picture: video watching while on another tab

    OneLine: highlights one line of text making it easier for folks w/ dyslexia, ADHD

    Night Shift Redux: changes the color of webpages to restrict eye-straining


    Coffeeling: daily mood tracker

    2048: a puzzle game for a brain break