Hundreds of high school seniors from Richmond brought their families to Richmond Memorial Auditorium on Thursday, setting in motion the promise of a college-going culture in the city.
“I’m here to tell every single one of you that college is happening,” Moises Garcia, a Kennedy High senior and Richmond Promise scholarship recipient, told fellow students at the packed evening ceremony. “Because of your hard work and determination, everything that you have done up to this point, up to this second, up till this day, it matters.”
Garcia was among 382 students receiving the very first round of Richmond Promise college scholarships. They were honored with a ceremony and dinner on Thursday, with each student having the opportunity to shake hands with local elected officials, city leaders and Richmond natives who have gone on to live successful lives.
One of those success stories is investment banker-turned-venture capitalist Erik Moore (pictured below), who grew up in Richmond and talked about how he overcame the negatives stereotypes connected to crime and poverty.
“I was very lucky,” Moore said. “Luck to me is serendipity, but not just serendipity. It’s where preparation meets opportunity.”
The Richmond Promise program aims to provide the college preparedness that can create opportunities for low-income students seeking college degrees. The program provides all high school seniors who are Richmond and North Richmond residents up to $1,500 per year for college, along with a support system that guides students through the financial aid and grants process and prepares them for the rigors of extended education.
The aim of the program is to contribute to every Richmond student’s pursuit of a college degree and also to create a culture in Richmond where high school students can expect to go to college.
Richmond Promise was made possible by a $35 million grant from Chevron, which was part of a $90 million community benefits agreement connected to the upcoming $1 billion modernization of the Richmond Refinery.
The Promise’s Executive Director Jessie Stewart, pictured below, is credited with the miraculous effort of uniting community partners and stakeholders under a tight deadline in the program’s first year.
Jeff Hartwig, director of the Chevron Richmond Modernization Project, said Thursday he’s elated at how the program has evolved. The program was pitched several years ago by Richmond Councilman Jael Myrick, who joined Mayor Tom Butt in setting aside $35 million in Chevron community benefits funding for the Promise.
“I’m so proud of each and every one of you,” Myrick told Promise recipients Thursday. “This program is something that I’ve known we’ve needed in our community for a long time, as someone who grew up here.”
Fellow guest speaker Congressman Mark DeSaulnier praised the decision to put kids first.
“Thanks to the City Council, the business community, Chevron, the school district, to everyone who realized in this community where our priorities should be,” he said.