Opening Doors to HBCUs, How AIMS and the NAACP got $5 million in Scholarships for Oakland Kids

$5 million in scholarships. On the spot. 144 instant college acceptances. On the spot. That’s a lot of money for college a lot of Oakland public school students. 

Last week, American Indian Model Schools (AIMS) partnered with National College Resources, and the Oakland NAACP to host over 18 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUS)  at AIMS’ newly-renovated 12th Street campus.

“Any time we have students go on to colleges and universities, I feel like my own children are succeeding,” AIMS Superintendent Maya Woods-Cadiz said. “And many have full rides, or close to full rides, so they can focus what they’re supposed to focus on: getting a degree.”

The schools offering scholarships include top-ranked schools Tuskegee University, Florida A&M University, Grambling State and Morgan State. The schools were part of a Black College Expo caravan organized by National College Resources that stops in Los Angeles and numerous Bay Area cities. Cynthia Adams, National College Resources’ Director of Civic Engagement and a member of the Oakland NAACP, said the caravan stop at OUSD in February netted 391 scholarships. 

Adams said it is a “dream come true” to see so many students not only get accepted to college on the spot, but secure so much scholarship money. 

“That was the most joyful thing for me to see, all the kids coming together and so excited to be getting scholarships to go to college,” Adams said. “It has always been my dream and something I enjoy doing, a passion.”

AIMS College Prep high school principal Maurice Williams is an Oakland public school graduate who as an undergrad attended a HBCU, Stillman College. He’s also excited for the students to have this opportunity.  

“I’m proud of them,” he said. “That’s who we are. This is what we do. And they have options. We are a college prep school, and colleges from all over the country were accepting students on the spot. It sets them up for the future. Wouldn’t it be great if all of our schools had opportunities like this?”

There aren’t many schools like AIMS, where 75% of 1,300 students attending are from families who qualify for free or reduced lunch. African American students are AIMS’ second-largest demographic group, 25% of the students. Many of AIMS leaders are African American. 

“People don’t understand that here, the Superintendent is African American, I’m African American, our board members are African American,” Williams said. “Sometimes we don’t get the credit we deserve, though we’re not doing it to be recognized, we’re doing it because it’s the right thing. It’s appreciating people who want to make a difference.”

“This school has eliminated the achievement gap for African American students, time and time again,” he continued. “There’s something magical happening here.”

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