UC Santa Cruz Underground Scholars

Our Mission & Who We Serve

The Santa Cruz Underground Scholars supports building a prison-to-school pathway through recruitment, retention, and advocacy. By creating a pathway for formerly incarcerated and system impacted individuals into higher education, we directly challenge the stigmas associated with our community. By supporting a prison-to-school pipeline, the Santa Cruz Underground Scholars Program cultivates a healthy community and pathway for formerly incarcerated and system impacted people to thrive in higher education.


Underground Scholars Initiative (USI) is the student org that works in partnership with Santa Cruz Underground Scholars. USI is completely student-run. The two organizations, Underground Scholars & USI, are separate and aligned. 


Our History

In the Spring of 2018, a group of formerly incarcerated and system-impacted students at UC Santa Cruz came together to co-found the Underground Scholars Initiative. This student organization aimed to build a program that would support the unique needs of formerly incarcerated and system impacted students.

In 2020, after tireless advocacy efforts by amazing students leaders and influential allies, UC Santa Cruz leaders made an investment to build capacity to support the development of the Santa Cruz Underground Scholars Program. Our goal is to create pathways into higher education and provide transitional support and opportunities for students that identify as formerly incarcerated and/or system impacted. Our efforts are rooted in the fundamental belief that higher education should provide the foundation for creativity, critical thinking, personal and professional development, and the means to achieve these and more.