Dozens of Kennedy High seniors filed into a classroom at their school on Tuesday morning in order to log onto RichmondPromise.org, where they began the process of applying for their share of the $35 million Richmond Promise college scholarship program.
The scene, which marked the official launch of the highly-anticipated Richmond Promise, brought hope to a community where having good grades is only half the battle for families struggling to afford a college education.
“Personally, my goal is to attend and graduate from either UCLA or Grambling State University,” Kennedy High senior Alize Johnson said in a speech at the launch event, where she cited shocking statistics on ever-increasing college costs. “The Richmond Promise scholarships can go a long way to ensure that once we get in college, we stay there.”
A large crowd that included officials with the city of Richmond, City Council, Chevron and West Contra Costa Unified attended Tuesday’s launch of the program, which City Manager Bill Lindsay called a “game-changer” for the community. The program will ensure a college-going culture that hasn’t been present in the Richmond community where many families are lower-income, Lindsay said. See a video capturing part of his speech:
The scholarship program was made possible by a $90 million community benefits agreement with Chevron Richmond connected to the upcoming $1 billion modernization of the Richmond Refinery. It offers all high school students living in Richmond and North Richmond up to $1,500 each year, or $6,000 for four years, to attend a community college or four-year college or university.
“This is more than writing a check; this is an investment in your future, the future of this city and the future of the city’s refinery,” said Patty Canessa, the Refinery’s public affairs manager. “We know that an educated and skilled workforce leads to economic growth. We’re hoping through this investment, in the years to come we can hire the next wave of engineers, operators, and scientists who are the beneficiaries of the Richmond Promise.”
In his remarks Tuesday, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt (pictured below) praised fellow Councilmember Jael Myrick for joining him in ensuring that a large portion of the community benefits agreement with Chevron was set aside for local youth.
“It is anticipated that over a million new jobs in the Bay Area will require a Bachelor’s degree over the next 10 years,” Butt said. “Richmond Promise helps ensure that Richmond’s youth will be well-prepared to compete for those careers.”
To put the program together, the city formed an ad-hoc committee of community stakeholders and studied similar Promise programs in cities like Kalamazoo, MI, where college graduation rates have increased significantly as a result.
In fact, Richmond has tapped Kalamazoo native Jessie Stewart, a beneficiary of the Promise program, as executive director of Richmond Promise. She spoke briefly at Tuesday’s launch ceremony:
To be eligible for Richmond Promise, students must have been living in Richmond for at least four years, or in other words all of their high school years. Students who attend charter and private schools are included in the program as long as their school is located within the West Contra Costa Unified School District catchment area.
Students in community college can continue to receive funding beyond two years only if they continue their education at a four-year school.
Applications are due March 17. Students wanting guidance on the application process can attend two community workshops, including on Wednesday, Jan. 27, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Richmond City Council Chambers, 440 Civic Center Plaza. The second workshop will be held Feb. 11 in the DeJean Middle School Multipurpose Room at 3400 Macdonald Ave.
See the flyer below for more information on the application process: