Alana Banks, now known as ab, is our first CAL Prep alum to graduate from UC Berkeley, spring 2016. She said that, “CAL Prep believed in me before I did.” That “CAL Prep was her gardener, they taught me that even a seed without light and water can grow through the dirt in the spring time.”

ab began CAL Prep in the 6th grade, was diagnosed as dyslexic with a speech impediment. At CAL Prep by 8th grade she became stellar in math—her favorite subject and thought of herself as a scientist.

ab says that, “….CAL Prep transformed an Oakland girl with no hopes into a cooperative citizen” and who is setting an example for the other young people in her family.

ab majored in Public Health, was an activist on campus participating in the Black Student Union, interning in the African American Student Development Office and the Multi-cultural Community Center, and elected Senator to the ASUC. This year she gave the UCB welcome at the CAL Prep graduation and is still confirming her plans for graduate school. 


Carlene Ervin was her own biggest obstacle. Growing up in the foster care system made her angry, bitter and untrusting - traits which don't lend themselves to working well with others. "I didn't trust anyone and felt like it was me against the world. My biggest obstacle was understanding that I wasn't alone and if you let them, people will conspire to help you." 

Aspire teachers were the team conspiring to help, encouraging her not just academically but also with her character. Carlene found a community of her own starting with her fifth grade teacher Ms. Chai to the Dean of Student life, Ms. Salazar at CAL Prep. 

"I am inspired by the work that Aspire does in communities. I want to change things on a grander scale so that opening Aspire Charter schools is an easier process."  

Carlene is now in her Junior year at Yale University, majoring in History.  She plans to go to law school when she graduates.