UC Berkeley senior raises $2K for immigrant high school student scholarships

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Amanda Ramirez/Staff

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UC Berkeley senior Miles Aiello’s company, The One Eighty Brand, recently raised $2,000 for four $500 scholarships to be awarded to students at Oakland International High School on May 30.

The company worked with teachers and administration from the high school, which specifically supports newly arrived immigrants, to choose the recipients. The scholarships will be awarded at the school’s graduation.

Aiello and his fellow co-founders, Tushar Mishra, Keanu Munoz and Alma Flores, initially crowdfunded about $800 to make 110 of The One Eighty Brand’s T-shirts. They sold the shirts for $20 each, raising enough to create four $500 scholarships at the end of a 7-month period, according to Aiello.

“As student leaders, it’s our responsibility to keep pushing that envelope and creating new paths in our community to better it,” Aiello said.

Teachers at Oakland International High School were tasked with selecting nine students who have had to deal with past hardship but showed the determination and passion to attend college, Aiello said.

Oakland International High School has 400 students in total, all immigrants and refugees who have been in the United States for fewer than 3 years, according to the director of the school’s Learning Lab, Sailaja Suresh.

Many of the students have “huge gaps” in their learning, meaning they need to learn a large amount of content as well as English in a short amount of time, according to Suresh. She added that college affordability is a huge factor weighing on the students, as 96 percent of the school’s students qualify for free and reduced lunch.  

Suresh said one of the students who had been nominated for the scholarship reacted with disbelief.

“He thought I was joking. It was so out of the blue.” Suresh said.  “I think it was affirming that someone nominated them and they were being recognized as someone who had made a ‘180’ in their lives.”

Aiello said the idea behind the scholarship stemmed from his personal transition as a student, recalling how he enrolled at Cerritos College after graduating from high school with a 2.3 GPA. It was there, according to Aiello, that he became involved in the student government and in multiple clubs, eventually transferring into UC Berkeley.

Aiello said The One Eighty Brand hopes to expand its scholarship to serve more underserved and disadvantaged high schools.

Flores, one of the company’s co-founders, said the business taught her that change does not need to be as drastic or “as instant as many make it seem.”

“You don’t have to wait until you get your master’s and Ph.D. to make a systemic change,” Aiello said. “This is the most ideal time. We’re at a university with access to professors and resources and ideas to bounce around.”

Alicia Kim is the lead businesses and economy reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @aliciackim.