PRESS RELEASE: Meet Promise Scholars from Richmond, Oakland, and Stockton who are thriving at Cal

 In Press Release
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 31, 2019

Media Contact:

Jessie Stewart, Executive Director

Richmond Promise

510-620-6570

jessie.stewart@richmondpromise.org

Meet Promise Scholars from Richmond, Oakland, and Stockton who are thriving at Cal
UC Berkeley to host National PromiseNet Conference November 4th & 5th in collaboration with Richmond Promise and Contra Costa Community College District

What do a future social worker, trauma surgeon, and computer scientist have in common? They are all first-generation college students of color, all proud Cal Bears, and all Promise Scholars. Crystal Carter, a 4th-year African American Studies and Sociology double major, Gurleen Kaur, a 2nd-year intended Public Health major, and Jorge Luis Rosas, and 1st-year intended Electrical Engineering and Computer Science major, are all scholars representing Richmond Promise, Stockton Scholars, and Oakland Promise – local “Promise” Programs that collectively support thousands of students through post-secondary degrees and into the workforce each year. These three Promise programs are all place-based initiatives with the goal of supporting more students from their cities to and through higher education, and have the privilege of working with incredible individuals like Crystal, Gurleen, and Jorge.

With grim stats pointing to the facts that still in 2019 only 46% of Latinx/a/o and 38% of Black students can expect to earn a college degree within six years these three students remind us that the future is bright, and higher education institutions, government, nonprofits, corporations, and entire communities have a role and responsibility to invest in our young people to change the odds (NSCRC, 2017). There is no “one size fits all” in solving the degree divide– that’s the power of Promise programs. They are developed around the needs and assets of a community, they are uniquely equipped to incorporate best practices and also innovate local solutions to invest in higher education as a strategy to support their young people to define their trajectories, and build more healthy, vibrant, equitable communities.

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Gurleen Kaur, a Stockton Scholar, is breaking stereotypes about women in STEM as a future trauma surgeon and wants to empower others along the way.

In many ways, this local innovation has inspired the statewide, and now, national conversation and policy movement for higher education equity, access, and affordability – commonly known as the “Promise” movement. The growth of the Promise is illustrated in the now hundreds of local and statewide Promise initiatives across the country, and here in California through the growth of localized initiatives and the California Community College Promise that offers the first year of community college for free to all first-time, full-time students.

While college affordability is core to the Promise movement, equally as important is the role of local partnerships with colleges and universities, and building a sense of community among Scholars. While the conversation around college access often centers on students being “college ready,” increasingly, institutions like UC Berkeley, are asking themselves, how they can be “student ready.” This involves creating pathways to ensure Promise scholars access on-campus student-driven programs and pathways with a particular focus on community, navigation, and affirmation for first generation college students.

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Caption: Jorge Luis Rosas is hoping to join the Vex U Robotics club this semester and continue his journey in engineering and computer science. He wants to show students like him that, “ it is possible to break the boundaries and get into college… any college.”

For Crystal, Gurleen, and Jorge, life led them to UC Berkeley. While a student at El Cerrito High School, Crystal received early support through UC Berkeley’s Upward Bound Program and now as a student at Cal, has built a strong community, particularly amongst her fellow Black students, through involvement in the Black Student Union, the Afro Floor, and the Black Sociology Alliance. These spaces reminded her that, “I belong here.” She will be graduating early from Cal with the goal of beginning her Masters in Social Work in the coming year. Gurleen, like Crystal, found and built a strong Punjabi community at Cal interning for the Bhagat Puran Singh Health Initiative and the Jakara Movement Chapter. She also taps into resources like the Student Learning Center and the EOP Program, programs effectively supporting first-generation students of color. Jorge participated in the PREP (Pre-Engineering) Program before his first year and was able to meet other students of color and friends that have given him a positive experience in STEM at Cal. Their stories not only point to the initiative to seek spaces for themselves but also the wealth of resources for students of color at Cal.

Fortunately, this progress is not unique to Cal. In fact, the entire University of California system, The California State University system, California Community College System, and the Promise movement have been invigorated over the last decade to step up to ensure college is accessible and affordable to all students.

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Caption: Crystal Carter, a Richmond Promise Scholar, is graduating early from UC Berkeley this winter with two degrees in African American Studies and Sociology. She hopes to get her Masters in Social Work and give back to her home community of Richmond, California.

This is why UC Berkeley, the Richmond Promise, and Contra Costa Community College District are thrilled to bring PromiseNet 2019 national conference to California for the first time on November 4th and 5th.

This movement toward making higher education affordable, accessible, and equitable reminds students, as Jorge put, that “someone is in your corner.” It means, as Crystal shared, that when she’s walking from one class to another she can see another Richmond Promise Scholar in his signature Richmond Promise t-shirt, introduce herself, and leave with both of them knowing their community is bigger than they think. It means that Gurleen can reach out for advice to her Stockton Scholar mentor when she needs support. It means that not “despite of” but “because of” where these students come from– Richmond, Oakland, and Stockton, they have the power and unique perspectives that belong at the world’s best colleges and are necessary for a better, more inclusive tomorrow.

Passes for PromiseNet available for interested members of the media.

If interested in getting connected to any of these Promise Scholars at UC Berkeley, please contact promisenet@richmondpromise.org

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