Meet the Richmond Promise Scholars, a growing movement of hundreds of students from Richmond and North Richmond who are currently attending over 100 colleges and universities. They are beneficiaries of the Richmond Promise college preparedness, scholarship and guidance program, which is part of a $35 million, 10-year investment by Chevron to help make college more affordable and attainable for local students. For some students, the Promise wasn’t just an opportunity to achieve their college dream, but also to help younger generations do the same. In this series, we feature interns from the Summer Associates program talking about their experience.
Merari Castillo is a proud Richmond Native. After graduating from Richmond High School, where Merari was actively involved with Police Explorers and within the CAPA Academy, Merari decided to attend CSU East Bay. Merari aspires to one day become a social worker and eventually create her own non-profit. On her spare time, Merari loves to spend time with her friends and volunteer in the community. Merari has been a Near-Peer Ambassador with the Richmond Promise for the last three years.
Q: Tell us about yourself, your aspirations. What motivates you?
A: “Hi, my name is Merari Castillo and I graduated from Richmond High in 2016, go Oilers! I am currently a fourth-year at Cal State East Bay pursuing a degree in Sociology with a minor in Human Development. Throughout the course of my life, I have developed a passion for working with youth within my community. I discovered this passion junior year in high school with Link Crew, a program that focused on guiding incoming freshmen that were transitioning into high school. The leadership group consisted of Juniors that were ready to take on the leadership responsibility of being in charge of almost 6 students for a whole year, along with a partner. I then realized that I enjoyed helping out the youth and that I could be hope and guidance for them as they learn from my own mistakes. Personally, one of my biggest struggles has been growing up in an immigrant household as an only child but at the same time, it has been my main motivation because it is for my parents that I do everything. I believe it is my responsibility as an only child to learn and to ask for help from others so I can help those around me.”
Q: How has the Richmond Promise played a role in your education?
A: “The Richmond Promise has changed my life around and has reinforced my path in life to be a leader in my community. My current major was influenced by the work that I have done with the Richmond Promise and the passion that I have grown stronger for caring for those around me, specifically those that are under-resourced and people of color.”
Q: What do you want to contribute to Richmond or the world?
A: “I want to contribute hope and guidance for all youth that may not have the support system at home to succeed in their aspirations. I want to help improve my community and make it a safer place by promoting further education after high school.”
Q: Can you tell us about your current college experience?
A: “My first year was very challenging with all honesty I can’t believe I survived. I commuted from Richmond to Hayward five days a week at 6:30 am to get to my class just in time at 8 am. Despite that being just one of the many struggles I had as a first-generation college student, I would have not traded my experience. I learned to manage my time better, stay organized, and develop self-discipline.”
Q: What are you looking forward after receiving your bachelor’s/transferring?
A: “I am looking forward to coming back to my community and working in the foster care system. I also plan to attend graduate school and receive my masters. I want to continue to work with nonprofits or any other youth-related programs. Or one day even get to start my own nonprofit! I know it won’t be easy, but it would be worth the try.”