Letter From the Director

Dear Community,

While the challenges our students and community have faced this past year are unprecedented, I am proud what our community of Scholars have accomplished.

I’m proud of the first graduating class of Richmond Promise Alumni, who are celebrating and navigating this milestone through a time of uncertainty, and who are the leaders we have been waiting for. I’m proud of the record breaking number of applications and our fifth rising class of 560+ Richmond Promise Scholars. I’m proud of how Scholars have raised their voices to lead in Richmond - in our programming, and in organizing demonstrations in support of Black Lives.

Finally, I'm proud of our Richmond Promise team, who have all risen to the occasion. From collaborating with our community to move all of our programming virtual to showing up for our Scholars and families through direct financial and virtual support, our work is having a positive impact.

Through this time of uncertainty, our Scholars continue to dream of and fight for a better future. They are the promise of future leaders that we need. If we continue to invest in our own and allow our young people to light the way, I know our future is bright. We have so much to celebrate, and I'm delighted to share our 2019-2020 highlights along with our hopes and plans for the future as we continue to invest in our young people and the future of our City.


Jessie Stewart, Executive Director

How We Support Young People

We invest in the future of Richmond now by building pathways to personal success through a college scholarship, inclusive student-centered programming, and meaningful community partnerships focused on four key areas:

Spotlight on 4 Richmond Promise Programs

1. Scholarship + Financial Aid

The Richmond Promise Scholarship is at the heart of our work. Since 2016, we have awarded 2,918 Scholarships Awarded to Richmond young people!

In 2019-20, we saw that students served by our program completed financial aid at higher rates than other students in West Contra Unified School District (WCCUSD) and the State of California.

As a requirement of our scholarship, all applicants must complete a financial aid application to ensure they are receiving the maximum financial support to go to college. In support of district-wide access to financial aid, we launched in-class financial aid programs in 2018 at Kennedy High School and DeAnza High School led by Richmond Promise Scholars. A key element of this programming is that current Richmond Promise Scholars are hired and trained to support high school seniors with financial aid and college access milestones.

Student Spotlight: Jazmelina Ledesma

Jazmelina is from a household that values education; a value that has stuck with her as both a Teachers Aid for the school district and a Near-Peer Ambassador for the Richmond Promise. Yet, she too struggled with the complex steps to access financial aid when she started at San Francisco State University even with the help of her sister, also a college student. That's why joining the Richmond Promise team to support others to complete their financial aid applications was so important to her.

In an effort to continue contributing to making college for accessible, Jazmelina is continuing on as a Summer Associate with the Richmond Promise this summer 2020 and plans to continue working in education to give back to her community. She wants all young people in Richmond to know, “We’re supporting you… you are not alone.”

“Maybe there’s people that don’t have that older sister to help them with their FAFSA. That’s why I wanted to help others with their financial aid with the Richmond Promise.” - Jazmelina Ledesma

2. College Success Partnerships

Partnerships are at the heart of our strategy for student success. We connect our Scholars to impactful resources on their college campuses and in their community that we know will support them towards degree completion. Current partnerships provide coaching, career development, community college transfer support, and more.

Student Spotlight: Peter Ligutan

Being the son of two deaf parents, Peter learned early on how to uniquely advocate, connect, and communicate with others. As he has grown up, the depth and power of his leadership has only become richer. Peter has been actively engaged in the Contra Costa College First Year Experience program. Being supported by his FYE Educational Coach has allowed him to succeed in academics and beyond, so much so that he even started his own student club, Compass Segway, to support other students adjust to and be successful in college! Peter plans to transfer to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health.

“My experience at CCC was life changing. It changed my view of community college… [My coach] is an amazing person.”

3. Summer Associates

Our Summer Associates program is essential to our work and represents our mission to support college success and build local leadership within our Scholars.

Student Spotlight: Jarschire Dennis

Jarschire Dennis, a two-time Summer Associate and Richmond Promise Scholar at UC Merced, embodies the breadth of this program. Whether he’s working 1-1 with a middle school student in Richmond or uplifting spaces for Black students at UC Merced, Jarschire is a community advocate dedicated to seeing his community of Richmond and fellow peers achieve lifelong success.

"My dream is to find myself at the top of the ladder doing something I love, helping the youth."
Components of the Summer Associate Program.

4. Career Mentoring

Career mentoring is key to young people building their network and necessary skills to translate their college degree into their desired career.

Student Spotlight: Stephanie Baer

Stephanie Baer, a Richmond Promise Scholar at Contra Costa College and future global nurse, wanted to connect in the public health field. Enter Feather Ives, a public health researcher at UC Berkeley.

“Everything felt so perfectly aligned when I met my mentor, Feather. I look up to her so much.”

Stephanie and Feather regularly touch base to ensure she is on track to meeting her goals, like transferring to a 4-year university to complete her Bachelors of Science in Nursing by Fall 2021. One day, Stephanie's goal is to make healthcare more accessible across the globe. Along the way, Feather is an essential support and cheerleader to achieve her dreams.

Graduating Scholars

Student Spotlight: Cynthia Ramirez-Parra

“Education has led me to my calling and passion -- educational equity.”

Cynthia just earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from UC Berkeley. We are so proud to have been able to support her throughout her college journey!

If you know Cynthia, then you know she is a powerful force. While in college, she could regularly be found supporting others whether that be a fellow Latina in Hermanas Unidas or a first-generation student when she was an EOP Peer Advisor. As a first-generation Latina student herself, she has used her identity, what once felt to her like something to overcome, as a source of power to uplift herself and others.

Now with her college degree, she plans to dedicate her career to education starting here at the Richmond Promise as our College & Career Success Manager!

Innovation & Support Through & Beyond COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has held a mirror to existing equity gaps and pushed us to re-examine what we “Promise” to ensure all Scholars have the support they need to begin and achieve their college goals. It has also revealed the ability and agility of local place-based organizations to effectively and quickly listen and respond to student and community needs. We are currently reflecting and transforming lessons learned through the pandemic to holistically support RP Scholars beyond and through COVID. Here is how we have pivoted programming and innovated to support our Scholars while prioritizing their health and safety. Until it is safe to offer in-person programming again, we have shifted all programming to be virtual. We have had unprecedented engagement throughout the Spring and Summer months through innovative programming and support that has proved relevant and impactful:

  • Virtual Spring College Transition Support & Office Hours: Hosted eight bilingual “Next Steps for College Success Workshops” with college partners that engaged over 700 Richmond/WCC high school seniors. Hosted over 100 hours of virtual 1-on-1 office hours with RP Staff.
  • Summer College Transition Support: Hosted 30+ College Success Workshops for rising and current Richmond Promise Scholars, engaging over 800 Scholars. We also employed 21 Summer Associates, current Richmond Promise Scholars, who collectively provided over 300 hours of one-on-one near-peer coaching to rising Scholars.
  • Rapid Relief: Initiated a rapid relief fund to meet the short-term needs of current Scholars: From March - June 2020, we raised over $75,000 to support over 450 Scholars with necessities such as travel home, groceries, computers, rent assistance, to continue their education.
  • Closing the Digital Divide: Launched a campaign to “Bridge the Digital Divide” in Richmond and ensure our Scholars have access to appropriate equipment for online learning. We will carry this initiative through subsequent years to ensure every rising Scholar goes to college with a personal computer.
  • Listen To Our Students: Continue to engage and include student voice in all aspects of our work, including through the launch of our Scholar Board, regular surveys, and check-in opportunities for students to communicate their needs, access to Richmond Promise staff, and our numerous student employment and leadership opportunities. We will use their voice to guide our work and our direction during and beyond the pandemic to move from recovery to reinvention.

Black Lives Matter

The Richmond Promise stands with and supports Black Lives. As oppression and disproportionate killing of Black people continue to plague our communities, we denounce all forms of oppression and racism aimed at our Black communities. We continue to channel our energy to our community of nearly 1,500 Scholars and provide support and programming for our Scholars with a significant focus on Black Scholars. Here are the specific ways we plan on strengthening our work to make higher education accessible for young Black Scholars in Richmond:

  • Supporting Our Black Scholars: We must be actively engaged in anti-racism work to play our part in fighting for a brighter and more just future for our Black community. We will ensure our staff and leadership are continually learning, listening, and educating ourselves, and proactively supporting our Black Scholars to close equity gaps and provide culturally appropriate and inclusive support. This looks like centering Black student voices through our numerous student leadership opportunities, such as our Scholar Board, Alumni Association, and providing additional 1-1 wraparound support by matching Black students with educational coaches and mentors.
  • Becoming an Antiracist Organization: Currently, we exercise anti-racist practices by implementing organizational policies that promote equity and inclusion, recruit a diverse workforce, and celebrate diversity. Moving forward, we will explicitly work to close equity gaps and lead with transparency and collaboration to work with internal and external community leadership to dialogue about policies and practices that best benefit and serve our Black Scholars. We will continue to intentionally focus on recruiting board members, senior leaders, staff, mentors, and coaches reflective of the students and community we serve. We will also continue to build pathways for internal leadership development and leadership promotion within the organization. We will make space for our student’s celebrations, identities, and beliefs and not be prescriptive. This looks like centering student voice across communications platforms, engaging Scholars as leaders and facilitators of our programming, and creating a safe space for Scholars and community to be their true selves.
  • Daylighting Outcomes & Centering Black Student Experience to Move Partnerships & Pathways: We will intentionally enhance, expand, and form partnerships and pathways that support our Black students. We will interrogate equity gaps, and continue to use what we learn from our Black students and community to inform our programming, and partner with organizations that are actively working toward becoming anti-racist. We will also work with leadership to use our platform to advocate for local, state, and federal policies that support the movement toward equity in higher education for Black students.

2019-20 News Highlights

Why Give

Help us keep the Promise forever and give the gift of college today:

  • $1,500: Provides a one-year scholarship to a Richmond Promise Scholar
  • $500: Provides one year of Educational Coaching for a Scholar
  • $300: Provides a computer for a Scholar

Contribute your time and expertise to support the growth and development of the Richmond Promise.

Officially endorse the Richmond Promise. Contribute programmatic resources and help spread the word to ensure eligible students access the scholarship.


Fiscal Year July 2019- June 2020 Budget