More than a scholarship for East Bay students

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At the July meeting of the East Bay Leadership Council’s Workforce Development and Education Task Force, Jessie Stewart, Executive Director of the Richmond Promise joined us to speak on the progress of her phenomenal organization. Thanks to a 10 year environmental and community investment agreement from Chevron, the Promise provides a $1,500 per year scholarship (up to 4 years) for every Richmond student enrolled full time in college. But the Richmond Promise as Jessie put it, “is much more than a scholarship”. It is a college success initiative that provides financial aid workshops, Spring and Summer college success workshops, and sends an encouraging message to students: we support your ambitions.

Over the past two years, Jessie and her team have worked closely with students to evolve the program into what it is today. One recent development is the launch of a mentor program in which local business leaders help students prepare to attend college out of state. They hope this will continue to decrease “summer melt”, a phenomenon referring to students who intend to attend college, but who do not follow through. Already, summer melt decreased from 33% to 12% in the second year with the aid of new programs like the summer success workshop. 

Laura Szabo-Kubitz, Associate California Program Director at The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), continued the conversation on higher education by clarifying the potential of AB 19 funding to increase success and equity at California community colleges. Before colleges receive the funding, they are incentivized to better the student-experience with the required implementation of student-focused reforms. This means preparing local high school students to tackle the college application process, collecting data to assess academic readiness, creating solutions to ease the completion of degrees and other programs, and connecting students to financial aid.

After requirements are met and AB 19 funds are distributed to community colleges, they may be used for more than just covering the cost of tuition for those who do not qualify for the California College Promise Grant. Even when tuition is paid for, there are plenty of potential obstacles students face when completing a degree: finding adequate and affordable childcare, paying for books and transportation, and navigating complex degree programs. Laura described AB 19 funding as potential solutions to any of these problems. 

The East Bay Leadership Council applauds the innovative efforts and legislative advancements of The Richmond Promise and The Institute for College Access & Success. Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce and it is imperative that employers engage in this critical work.

In order to continue growing their work and supporting Richmond students, the Richmond Promise needs community action. If you want to contribute to the mission of the Richmond Promise, donate here. You can also sign up to volunteer as a mentor. Learn more about the accomplishments of the Richmond Promise in their Year 2 Progress Report.
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