Hector Cervantes

Associate Specialist, Underground Scholars Program


Hector Cervantes’s work focuses on providing services to students directly and indirectly impacted by the justice system and advocating for broader criminal justice reform. Having experienced both incarceration and higher education, Hector uses this unique combination of life experiences to combat the pervasiveness of carceral system effects and to work to increase access to the university for justice-impacted persons. While completing his undergraduate and graduate studies here at UCI, Cervantes set out to help build a prison-to-school pipeline within his community.

Cervantes received his Bachelor of Arts in History and Master of Urban and Regional Planning at UCI. Raised in nearby Santa Ana, Calif., Cervantes continues to strengthen his ties to UCI and surrounding communities. In 2017, as a Policy Advocacy Fellow with Human Rights Watch, Cervantes participated in a statewide effort to pass California Senate Bill 1391. In 2018, this bill was signed into law by former Governor Jerry Brown, ending the practice of sentencing 14 and 15-year-olds as adults.

In 2018, Cervantes was part of a group effort to establish the Underground Scholars Initiative at the University of California, Irvine (USI at UCI), a student group of and for formerly incarcerated and system impacted students. USI at UCI hosts events to raise awareness of formerly incarcerated students, and to provide information for community college students interested in attending UCI. Most importantly, the group continues to provide a safe space that fosters growth and empowerment amongst formerly incarcerated and system impacted students on campus.