Riverside Underground Scholars

Riverside Underground Scholars (RUS)




Our Mission

Riverside Underground Scholars (RUS) is an academic support program for formerly incarcerated and system-impacted students. In addition, it creates a pathway for incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, system-impacted individuals into higher education by building a prison-to-school pipeline through recruitment, retention, and advocacy.

We directly challenge the stigmas associated with our community. The program cultivates a sense of belonging and a healthy community for formerly incarcerated and system-impacted students to thrive at UCR.

While we prioritize our services for formerly incarcerated students, we are aware of the impact the carceral system has on family, friends, and the community. As such, we fully support and welcome system-impacted members. We define system impacted as those with arrests/convictions but no incarceration and those who have been directly affected by a loved one being incarcerated. Indeed, our partners, parents, children, and/or siblings often face the most significant disadvantages behind the absence of incarnated loved ones. Thus, this categorically merits the designation of system-impacted.

Interested in meeting with us, make an appointment here and join RUS here


RUS is dedicated to helping students access a range of resources both on and off campus. Below are resources available for you-

  • For a comprehensive guide to on-campus resources, please refer to THIS link below, where you'll find information on various departments along with their contact details.
  • Find both national and state-based resources for impacted people and family members, service providers, employers, landlords and more HERE!

Additionally, we facilitate connections with numerous community partners and non-profit organizations to further support our students in accessing valuable external resources.

Your success is our priority, and we are here to assist you every step of the way.


Ismael DavilaDirector 

Michael Corona, Ambassador Student Coordinator

Jennifer Guerra, Parent Student Coordinator

Luis Miranda, Retention and Transfer Student Coordinator

Art Valles, Outreach and Inreach Student Coordinator

Valicima Velasquez, Recruitment Student Coordinator

Interested in meeting with us, make an appointment here.

Our History 

Underground Scholars was established in the Spring of 2013 by formerly incarcerated and system-impacted students at UC Berkeley as the Underground Scholars Initiative (USI), a student organization.

In 2014, USI received funding from the University of California Berkeley through a fee referendum that students voted on. That funding made it possible for USI to secure office space on campus, hire their first director, transfer coordinator, and five formerly incarcerated students to work in their office. In 2016, they partnered with Senator Loni Hancock, who led an effort to secure funding from the state to develop an academic support program to serve formerly incarcerated students in addition to the student-operated organization, USI. Berkeley Underground Scholars (BUS) was born out of that effort, and the statewide movement of USI began.

As Berkeley’s USI members completed undergraduate coursework and advanced into graduate programs across the UC system, they began building chapters on other campuses. As of today, Underground Scholars is in nearly every UC campus. Establishment of Underground Scholars at UC Merced is currently in progress, at which point USI will have secured its presence on every University of California offering undergraduate instruction.

UC Riverside’s USI chapter was established in 2018 and has presented their work at the Beyond the Bars Conference at Columbia University, the National Conference on Higher Education in Prison in St. Louis, Missouri, and UCR’S Persist: Women’s Political Engagement Conference. Underground Scholars at UC Riverside is proud to proclaim they have earned supportive relationships with Assemblyman Jose Media as well as Congressman Mark Takano, member of the House Education and Labor Committee. Learn more about our student-led Underground Scholars Initiative chapter at UC Riverside here

Learn more about our AY '22-'23 recap here

UC Riverside Underground Scholars in the News