Aug 7, 2014

Chevron Richmond’s pledge to give $35 million over 10 years toward college scholarships for local students – part of a $90 million community benefits package attached to the refinery’s planned Modernization Project – was touted by city leaders and educators Thursday as a game-changer not only for schools but for the city’s economic vitality.

With those funds, every Richmond public school graduate is guaranteed full college tuition, but city leaders say there are even more benefits.

Along with improving test scores, college entrance rates and school district enrollment, similar Promise Programs in other U.S. communities have had a positive economic impact on cities, in at least one case reversing a city’s population decline, said Councilmember Tom Butt, who accompanied fellow councilmembers Jael Myrick and Jim Rogers at a late-morning press conference at Kennedy High School.

In 2007, Murphy Oil Corp. pledged $50 million toward a similar program in El Dorado, Ark, an economically depressed community where it operates, Butt said.

“Enrollment in its school district has gone from negative to positive, and people are actually moving into El Dorado to take advantage of the program,” Butt said. “And the effect on the student performance is just what people expected and a lot more. Ninety-percent of graduates are now going to college, compared to 53 percent throughout the rest of Arkansas.”

Many students at Richmond schools simply can’t afford college and as a result are less invested in their education, said Precious Haynes, a Kennedy High sophomore.

“Getting in is only half the battle,” Haynes said, citing a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation study which found that 60-percent of students drop out of school due to financial reasons.

With students more invested in college, teacher performance will improve, said Randy Enos, a member of the West Contra Costa Unified School District board.

“Teachers do better when they understand that what they’re doing means something to somebody,” Enos said.

Myrick first pitched the scholarship program in Richmond while campaigning for City Council. He saw a golden opportunity with Chevron Richmond’s Modernization Project to honor that pledge.

WCCUSD board member Madeline Kronenberg said she’s been a supporter since Myrick pitched the program but added “the state of California wasn’t offering the funding.”

“This kind of program is growing; it’s picking up steam across the country,” Kronenberg said. “This opportunity with Chevron is here, and it will provide extraordinary new possibilities for our kids.”

Kronenberg said the $35 million contribution offers “enormous opportunities” to leverage more funding from other secondary sources, including nonprofits and Ivy League schools.

Asked by a television journalist whether Chevron’s $35 million was part of a “deal with the devil,” Myrick said it was the exact opposite.

“The [Chevron Richmond Modernization] project that we approved is going to reduce health risks…it’s going to make the refinery cleaner and safer, that’s a fact,” Myrick said. “Even Chevron’s toughest opponent, Communities for a Better Environment, said the project reperesents 70-percent of what they wanted.”

The controversy following the project’s approval has not been about the merits of modernization, Myrick said, but rather how much the community could get out of the deal.

“People wanted other things as well…I wish we would have gotten those things done, but you don’t always get everything you want,” Myrick said. “Should we have risked losing what we did get in order to get something else? My opinion on that was no.”

Details on the $35 million scholarship program are still being hammered out, but Myrick said the funds will be administered by a nonprofit.

“The community has gotten together and removed a big barrier for the students of Richmond,” she said.

“It’s not about kids getting paid to go to college, it’s about kids changing their attitudes, culture shift, wanting to go to college,” Rogers said.


  1. We all need to take our hat’s off to Chevron for their generosity and foresight . Thank God for Chevron .
    ” Promise Programs in other U.S. communities have had a positive economic impact on cities, ”
    The foresight of a well conceived bond program for the facilities construction of our schools , has resulted in the state of the art facilities . Now Chevron has filled one of the major missing element , a promise . I can’t image a child walking into a state of an art school in Richmond and knowing that collage isn’t a dream but a promise.
    A wonderful possible result could be from those that achieve a good education from the Chevron promise program , that go back and research how this opportunity came about , from a major employer giving back , updating and making a refinery state of the art and safe , and creating economic development .
    Who wouldn’t want to work for a company like that ?
    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a future president of Chevron came form the promise program in Richmond ?
    I hope a documentary film maker steps forward to show how Chevron changes the city and stops it’s economic decline .
    Richard R Poe

    Richard Poe | Aug 8th, 2014
  2. This is just wonderful. Kudos to Chevron for a really meaningful action that will benefit all of us actually. Giving our citizens opportunities like this should be an example to us all.

    Jsutton | Aug 14th, 2014
  3. With this program, Richmond could in a decade have one of the best educated work-age populace in the nation. What an opportunity for our youth! There is now a new bright light shining on a previously bleak-looking future. Its now essential that the community be educated about this program, that parents become informed and that both parents and educators work to the change the student culture. The potential is here for ALL of us to win…a RIchmond that people look up to with admiration. Thank you Chevron and those that negotiated this deal.

    Maurice Abraham | Aug 14th, 2014
  4. Being a product of the WCCUSD (aka Richmond Unified School District when I graduated from John F Kennedy High School “Eagel For Life) and having worked for WCCUSD for over 3 1/2 years, this is just the greatest news of a partnership in my beloved City and a proud moment for MY SCHOOL to host the announcement of this life changing program. Not only will OUR children benefit, so will OUR education system (curriculum, teachers, parents and supporting staff), OUR communities and OUR local businesses. PRIDE. This is the City of Richmond creed. It’s posted on EVERY thing that represents the City. OUR history has always been fearless in taking on a new way of doing things. With a great hope that this will make a difference….some people may feel that some of the past programs/projects failed…..some failed only because the money ran out before the outcome wanted didn’t have a chance to show itself…many did make a difference…NONE would exist without the failures, this is, as WE all know, how WE learn.

    I pray that we have learned from OUR mistakes, giving up before the miracle happens, is not a option…It’s mandatory!! Don’t let these two questions kill a goal…(a dream with a deadline)…1. How much is this going to cost?….2. Who’s going to pay for it?……the answer can determine if WE reach OUR goals or just spent a lot of money. OUR future depends on it…our PRIDE defines it!!

    Richmond and Chevron

    Toni Theoudele | Aug 14th, 2014

About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.