Leading By Example
In celebration of Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month, Richmond Promise is turning the spotlight onto one of its own who continues to make an unmistakable impact throughout the city of Richmond.
Rather than talk about himself, Miguel Molina would prefer to discuss the accomplishments of the hundreds of Richmond Promise Scholars he’s had the chance to interact with, counsel and offer guidance to.
Sometimes the work speaks for itself.
As Richmond Promise’s Director of Programs and Partnerships, Molina not only fills the role of program director and valued teammate, he also serves as a community leader.
Ask an RP Scholar, a community partner, teacher, or really anyone else who has interacted with the organization and chances are you stand a great chance of getting a positive reflection on their interaction with both Molina and Richmond Promise.
“Miguel is an incredible leader who is passionate about his work in the community of Richmond, California,” said Kennedy High teacher Jeff Pollock. “He believes in equity for all students and enjoys the process of meeting new students and working in groups and one on one scenarios with our students.”
When he graduated from Richmond High in 2012 and headed to UC Davis, the path to a career didn’t necessarily point him back towards Richmond. Instead, he planned to study international relations and possibly pursue working somewhere like the State Department.
“For many folks in high school, especially in that era of 2012, most people just kind of wanted to leave Richmond,” Molina said. “But I think many people from Richmond, once they got to college and were exposed to why there were so many flaws in certain communities in terms of lack of funding and lack of resources, it made them become more passionate (about helping).
“So in college, I definitely saw myself going back to Richmond and working in either education or the public sector, whatever I could to do work that would improve the community.”
After graduation, he joined Richmond Promise as an Americorps Vista focused on college access work. That eventually led to joining the team permanently, and today he serves as RP’s longest-tenured team member.
Since joining the organization, Molina has done a bit of everything. Whether it’s his work in the classroom to help students complete financial aid forms, assisting the College Success team in hosting on-campus hangouts for RP Scholars, or representing the city of Richmond at national conferences, it’s not hard to identify a work ethic that benefits Richmond youth on a daily basis.
“Hundreds of Richmond youth are in college today as a direct result of the care and dedication that Miguel brings to our College Access work,” said Richmond Promise Executive Director Christopher Whitmore. “He approaches his work with students with a level of intentionality, relatability, and helpfulness that can neither be taught nor replicated. Serving his hometown comes with a great sense of ease and familiarity, and it’s hard to think of someone who embodies the heart of our work more than Miguel.”
Added RP Chief Operating Officer Anjanine Bonet: “Miguel models what it means to be student-centered in his work everyday. From his work in the high schools to his relationships with our community partners, Miguel goes out and does his level best each day because he understands that every interaction can have a positive impact on our students’ futures.”
Motivation is easy to find for Molina, who has himself evolved since joining Richmond Promise.
For instance, one particular pride point he now references comes from the partnership Richmond Promise has established with nearby community colleges like Contra Costa College.
Molina didn’t attend community college himself, but by working closely with program leads, school administrators, staff and students at CCC, he has gained a deep appreciation for the value the system offers for so many Richmond students.
“Having so many students there that are successful, staying in school, transferring and doing all that good stuff, that’s definitely changing the vibes of what it’s like to be a local community college student,” Molina said. “I think a lot of people are starting to champion CCC a lot more, as well as schools like Berkeley City College and Diablo Valley College. It has been great to instill hope in youth that going to community college is a great choice for them and I think Richmond Promise plays a big part in that.”
With 65 percent of Richmond Promise Scholars identifying as Latinx/o/a, the diversity of RP’s staff plays a major role in its ability to connect with the community it serves.
That’s a particular benefit when working in local schools, especially for students and families who might face language and cultural barriers when trying to access pathways to postsecondary education.
“As a bilingual speaker, (Miguel) is able to communicate easily and fluently with our student populations at Kennedy,” Pollock said. “He is able to motivate our students to participate in the process and has increased our participation in FAFSA completion enormously to our current 75% participation rate. He is well organized and professional and able to recruit and retain former students who have gone through the college application process to work as workers for his program.”
Watching the evolution of Richmond students from middle school to high school to college graduate is something that drives Molina in his daily work.
And, it continues to provide hope for the future of Richmond. As more RP Scholars graduate and return to make a difference in their own community, they do so alongside community leaders like Molina who have invested in their success.
“There are so many kids here that have the ability to do such big things,” Molina said. “They just need a little push from somebody who’s done it before or someone who can help them get there.”