Allen is proud to say he is “from Oakland.” But his Oakland pride came later in life—there was a time when he wanted nothing more than to get out of Oakland.
At 13, Allen’s close friend, Lee Weathersby lll, was killed due to gun violence. It was the first time Allen experienced death first-hand, and it was life altering.
“Lee looked so much like me. Like every young man in my neighborhood … His death made me realize that [dying due to gun violence] was a possibility for me too,” said Allen. “It hit me that if I’m not doing everything I can to go above the expectations that are set for me, as a Black person from Oakland’s inner city, I was going to get stuck in a cycle.”
Allen was accepted into Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, California: a high school for students historically under-represented in higher education. While he was away at school, his mother went back to college and earned a bachelor’s degree.
“My Mom grew up in the foster care system and had me at 15. My biological father wasn’t in the picture. She struggled, and I was proud to see her strive for an education and graduate,” said Allen.
As a teenager, Allen realized he had a knack for business. He gained confidence in his ideas and abilities while doing door-to-door sales and completing an internship at a Venture Capital Firm.
Allen didn’t expect to go to a college in Oakland. In fact, he was set against the idea. But when he realized he was needed at home to help take care of his four younger siblings, he started looking at colleges in the East Bay.
“I knew I wanted to get into a good business program. I knew that I didn’t want to go to a big school with, like 100 people in a lecture hall, and having to compete for classes,” said Allen.
“Holy Names University checked those boxes. I also grew up in church and was drawn to HNU’s values.”
It was Allen’s visit to campus that cemented his decision to go to HNU, “I came for a campus visit and when I walked by McLean Chapel, I saw the view. It was so breathtaking and beautiful. It made me feel like I belonged. I felt comfortable—I was right in the city I grew up in. I thought ‘This is home right here'”
Allen says he’s still living for his childhood friend, Lee. It inspires him to take advantage of every opportunity that comes his way. In addition to going to school full-time, Allen serves as an executive for HNU’s Black Student Union, works part-time, and runs two of his own businesses—an online health and wellness store and a certified travel consultancy.