The nonprofit Central Valley Scholars came to fruition amid the pandemic and has grown rapidly.
Micheal Pina, a Kerman native and a current UC Berkley student, always aspired to help Central Valley students in underserved communities.
"Reflecting and identifying students who are often overlooked within the Central Valley like disability students, first-generation, low income, queer, and other students," said Pina.
In March of 2020, the student-found and led nonprofit launched with the mission of helping those students, but it didn't happen overnight.
"It started with me knocking on doors of local businesses trying to get funding," said Pina.
Those countless knocks paid off. Last year, four recipients from Fresno, Merced, Atwater, and Kerman received a scholarship.
Pina says what makes the nonprofit so unique are the non-traditional requirements needed to apply.
"We have no required GPA minimum, no letters of recommendation, no proof of social security for undocumented students," said Pina.
Applicants must be from the Central Valley and transitioning to a first-year undergrad school, a vocational school, or community college.
Kathia Osuna, also a Central Valley native and UC Berkeley student, says joining this nonprofit is exactly what she dreamed of doing, and she can't wait to grow alongside it.
"It's really great to see that we are able to put the money right back into the hands of Central Valley students. I hope to see continued growth and relationship building with students in the Central Valley, " said Kathia Osuna, event coordinator for Central Valley Scholars.
This year, the organization will award $12,000 in scholarships, which's more than double from last year.
Pina and Osuna say their aspirations remain high, and they can't wait for their team to continue helping Central Valley students get one step closer to their dreams, just like they are at UC Berkeley.
"I love the Central Valley, and I am going to devote my life and work to supporting my home," said Pina.
Find ways to donate or apply here.