Get to know Jessie Stewart, Executive Director of the Richmond Promise Program


Title: Executive Director, Richmond Promise Program

Education: BA in History, Political Science, Education from the University of Michigan; Masters in City and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon

Tell us about the vision behind the Richmond Promise program

As the mission implies, the Richmond Promise is envisioned as a transformational opportunity for the community – making college graduation a reality for all Richmond students. Our goal is for every young person from Richmond to be college and career-bound – with the knowledge that there is a community of support invested in their success.

Why is a college-graduating culture so important for Richmond?

We hear ‘college-going’ all the time, but it is a shift to the ‘college-graduating’ culture that is so critical to cultivate within and beyond a classroom. This mindset begins to allow young people to see themselves differently, navigate pathways to opportunity and go to college with confidence. It is important to instill this culture at a young age because it builds an expectation that college is not a privilege, but a right, and a prerequisite…with a community of support behind each young person.

What does it mean for a company like Chevron be a part of the Promise program?

Chevron is a partner beyond their investment, working to identify and align the Promise with other existing initiatives that are related to our mission. To me, that demonstrates their commitment to educational equity in Richmond. My experience has solidified the role that Chevron plays in the larger community: Not just a funder, but a real partner in both thought and action.

Who are some other partners in the Promise program?

Contra Costa College (CCC) has been a great partner, working with us to forge this seamless transition from high school to college. In fact, one-fourth of our 2016 recipients are attending CCC this fall. The West Contra Costa Unified School District has also been essential in cultivating a college-going culture, helping us maximize our reach and qualify as many students as possible. And the City of Richmond has also been a crucial partner. Not a lot of cities see education as their business. Here in Richmond, they really do see prioritizing education as a pillar of the city’s economic vitality.

What do you like to do in Richmond?

My favorite restaurant is Houng Tra – I really love their spring rolls with a side of peanut sauce! The Bay Trail has unparalleled views and is great for biking and running. And recently, I was part of the Rosie the Riveter Guinness Record event. It was really awesome to see the pride our community members have for Richmond’s past, present and future.

What advice would you give to students to prepare for college?

You are your best advocate. Visit your college and career center and identify the people at your school and in your community that are capable of helping you. Get involved early in college readiness and access programs, starting freshman year. Lastly, we are fortunate to live in a state that provides the most generous state funding for students. Fill out your financial aid and Richmond Promise applications. Know your deadlines so you can access as much free money as possible.