Alaska’s newest Charity Miles partner brings dreams within reach for Black students

Dureti Jamal always knew she wanted to go to college. She just didn’t know how to get there.

As a first-generation college applicant, she didn’t know how to build a resume. She’d never heard of the Common App and didn’t know where to look for potential scholarships.

Then Jamal heard of the Portfolio Project, a program of UNCF that provides mentorship and guidance to minority high school students as they navigate the college application project.

“Neither of my parents went to college, so I knew I would have to find help with the applications,” she said. “I definitely could not have done that on my own. I didn’t know anything about the college process – I don’t know what I would have done.”

Two years later, Jamal is a senior at Franklin High School in Seattle and has already received acceptance letters from two of the schools she applied to.

UNCF was founded in 1944 to help more Black students attend and graduate from college. Since then, the organization has helped to nearly double the number of minorities attending college.

Today it is Alaska Airlines’ newest Charity Miles partner, joining nine other organizations supported year-round by Alaska Mileage Plan members through the donation of frequent flier miles.

“Our top focus is to increase the number of Black students who are entering college, staying in college and graduating college to then go on to meaningful and successful careers,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF president and CEO, “One of the big barriers for our students taking advantage of the opportunities we offer is that they may not have the means to travel. This partnership with Alaska Airlines will help remove that barrier for students who need it most.”

Miles donated will supplement a 1-million-mile seed gift from Alaska Airlines and will help students fly to college tours, travel back and forth between school and home, and participate in a variety of leadership development programs and other programming offered by UNCF.

“There are so many expenses when you’re in college or planning to go to college,” says Linda Thompson-Black, Pacific Northwest area development director for UNCF. “Many of our students are living in poverty and may be awarded a scholarship that they can’t afford to take advantage of because of the other costs. These miles will be so important in helping defray some of the expense – that’s why we’re so excited about this.”

Dae Durisko is a graduate of UNCF’s Portfolio Project and a current junior at Seattle University. She now interns with the program and is a mentor to students like her as they navigate the road to higher education.

“This program touched me emotionally as well as academically,” says Durisko. “It’s hard for me to put that impact into words. I’ve never had a program touch me in the way that this one does. It helps prepare students academically, but it also allows them to grow as individuals.”

She says she connected so deeply with her own mentor when she was in the program, that she was inspired to return and be part of the change for future students.

“People need to understand that these students want to succeed. They want to grow and they want to achieve greatness in the world,” she says. “Giving them an opportunity to do that not only benefits those students, but it benefits the world too.”

How to give

Mileage Plan members can donate as few as 1,000 miles through Alaska’s Charity Miles donation program at Bonus: donating will help keep your account active if you haven’t been flying or redeeming as frequently.

Since 2011, Mileage Plan members have donated more than 300 million miles to charitable organizations through Charity Miles.

UNCF also accepts cash donations for its various programs, including scholarships, mentorship and other programming. Learn more at



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