Richmond Promise executive director wins Oakland Half Marathon

Richmond Promise executive director wins Oakland Half Marathon
Photo credit: Oakland Running Festival

Last month, she emerged victorious in a tight race against a deadline for the Richmond Promise college scholarship program, which saw a sharp increase in the number local students completing applications.

But Jessie Stewart was not done with her winning ways.

On Sunday, the 32-year-old executive director of the multi-million dollar program that works to provide scholarships and guidance for every Richmond student intending to go to college won the female Open Division of the half-marathon at the Oakland Running Festival.

While repping Richmond Promise on her t-shirt, Stewart finished the 13.2-mile race in 1 hour, 22 minutes, 33 seconds, an average of 6:18 per mile. The time was about three minutes faster than second place Hallie Von Rock of Alameda. It was not a personal record, but Stewart remained happy with the result.

That’s partly because her race was also a fundraiser for the nonprofit Urban Tilth, which runs educational and resourceful gardens in West County. Stewart called Urban Tilth “an amazing program” that has held team fundraisers at the Oakland marathon event for several years.

“It was nice to be back out there…I haven’t hopped in a race for over a year,” Stewart said.

While it was her first half-marathon victory, the Oakland resident is a veteran runner who competed in cross country and track at the University of Michigan from 2002 to 2006. She was team captain her senior year and also coached cross country when she taught high school in Chicago.

She wishes she had more time to coach again. Stewart has been running around the clock trying to ensure the Richmond Promise program reaches its goals of providing up to $1,500 annually to hundreds of local students headed to 2 or 4 year colleges, guiding them through the financial aid process and ultimately creating a college-going culture in Richmond.

Stewart expressed interest in organizing a footrace for the Promise, perhaps along the Bay Trail, as a way to raise awareness about the program.

The Richmond Promise was made possible by a $35 million grant from Chevron — part of a $90 million community benefits agreement connected to the Richmond Refinery modernization project.