Ready To Make A Promise?


The Richmond Promise — a scholarship program for students in Richmond, Calif. — is looking for its founding executive director.

From the Richmond Standard:

The leadership role packs an annual salary range of $90,000 to $150,000. The person hired will lead an effort to ensure every college-going high school senior who lives in Richmond gets a $1,500 annual boost to attend college for up to four years, as mandated by council. The person must also launch fundraising efforts in order to sustain and grow the program. At $1,500 annually per student, the program will last about eight years on the initial $35 million grant, city staff says.

Anyone interested should click here for details. Priority applications will be submitted by Dec. 18.

Who’s Promise Is It?


When a Promise program begins, there are all kinds of questions. Two of the most important ones are: “What are you trying to accomplish?” and “How can you ensure the money lasts?”

And while Promise scholarship dollars obviously benefit those who receive them, they can also be used to fortify a school system. Places like Kalamazoo, Mich., and New Haven, Conn., are quick to point out that enrollment in public schools have made a dramatic turn once a Promise is in place.

So last night in Richmond, Calif., the City Council was confronted with residents urging them to make Richmond Promise benefits available to charter and private school students. Those who were against a strict traditional public school element held signs and made pleas late into the evening.

Here’s one response — a single Promise program can’t do everything. What it can do is develop a culture and leave room for additional programs to be established by motivated individuals who feel the need to address a gap. The nation’s first Promise program — the Bernard Daly Scholarship Fund in Lake County, Ore. — began in 1922 and 18 years later others started a similar program focused on funding out-of-state students that the Daly Fund wouldn’t cover. Both programs still exist.

The issue hanging out there for the City Council, which has vowed to submit a final Richmond Promise Strategic Action Plan at its next meeting, is whether its Promise will be used as an incentive to bolster its public schools.

It’s a question that many places have faced, including down in Greensboro, N.C., where Say Yes To Education recently set up shop. Should a component of a Promise program’s mission be to uplift a city’s school system by investing in those who’ve invested in it?

The answer is not an easy one.

Chevron Cuts Large Promise Check


There is a broad range of Promise programs, but there are a small number of large comprehensive programs that supply millions of dollars in scholarships each year. The Richmond Promise in California is about to join them.

The Chevron Corporation — which has committed $35 million in agreement with a $1 billion modernization of its Richmond refinery — recently handed over its first check, a large one of $8 million to get the Promise started. The first recipients are expected to be the rising high school seniors of the Class of 2016.

Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay — who was part of a six-person exploratory team at PromiseNet in November — told the Richmond Standard that college readiness was going to be an important component to the programming. He also said that the city hoped to leverage the Chevron commitment into $150 million in additional funds from foundations and private individuals.

Community leaders and school officials have yet to determine how funds will be distributed, but there is a call to make college both “attainable and affordable” for the most possible students. Vice Mayor Jael Myrick — who led the charge for the Richmond Promise as a city councilor — called the opportunity “transformative” and “game-changing.”

“This is real; this is happening,” Myrick said. “We expect young people after high school to still be in school.”

No, Not A Pet Project


One of the exciting developments in the Promise movement in 2014 was the establishment of the Richmond Promise in California’s Bay Area, which was announced in August.

The man credited with its founding was city council member Jael Myrick, who negotiated the package with Chevron Richmond as part of the Richmond Refinery Modernization Project. While the funding has yet to begin to flow, students in the city will soon have college options previously unavailable.

Myrick was one of six local officials to fly across the country in November to attend PromiseNet 2014 in New Haven, Conn., and admitted afterward that the delegation learned so much that they’d need some time to decompress and assess.

Since then, Myrick — who is not yet 30 — has been named the vice mayor of the City of Richmond for 2015. His closest council ally on the Richmond Promise project was Tom Butt, who is now the mayor. Expect a lot of movement with the Promise in 2015.

Myrick — pictured at left above with Von Washington of the Kalamazoo Promise at the Yale University Art Gallery in November — recently posted a suggestion regarding the initiative to his Facebook page:

The next person who refers to the Richmond Promise as a “pet project” has to come with me to Kennedy High (better yet Gompers) and give their Bachelor’s Degree to a deserving but struggling High School Senior, quit their job and then go online to find a new job with no degree or certification.

Yes, the commitment stands.