In its second year of operation the Richmond Promise Scholarship Program held a celebration on 25 May to honor the 440 recipients of the scholarship. The program, held at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium, was yet another attempt to recognize those Richmond students who are making the effort to attend college.
The Richmond Promise Scholarship Program is the result of a $35 million investment over a ten year period by Chevron in the youth of Richmond. Per the rules established by the Richmond City Council, each recipient is eligible for as much as $1500 per year for four years to attend an accredited two or four year college or trade school.
The celebration this year started with a buffet supper for the recipients and their families as they perused the numerous tables set up by colleges and other businesses that might be of help in their educational efforts.
The assembled crowd heard from Contra College student Oscar Mendoza, Contra Costa College President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh, Mayor Tom Butt, Councilmember Jael Myrick, City Manager Bill Lindsay and Demnlus Johnson—a Richmond HS alum.
Richmond Promise Executive Director Jessie Stewart was the mistress of ceremonies and the WCCUSD Superintendent Matt Duffy Closed the celebration.
Current Kennedy High senior—and future UC San Diego Titon—Elexis Webster spoke for the students with an inspiring speech:
Good Evening everyone,
I’d like to thank God for bringing me this far. I’d like to thank my Mom and sisters for supporting and encouraging me every step of the way. I’d like thank all of those who came together to make this event possible, especially you, Jessie, for this amazing opportunity Thank you!!
And now—onto us—the last class of the 90’s class of 2017… Because we are here we are Destined to Succeed.
We are a light in this cold and dark world—by refusing to do the cold and dark things this world has to offer us.
We must keep doing great and amazing things, we are a light!!! Here we are at the end… well the beginning of a new life. A new time to learn and discover the world and ourselves. It’s time for us to write our stories. Every experience—Every moment—and every step we take, let’s make it our own.
But, don’t forget those people who helped you get to where you are now and where you’re going to be. Whether they simply said some encouraging words or they played a pivotal role in your life. Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, guardian, teacher or mentor. Don’t ever think you did it alone because there’s always a higher power that watches over all us.
We come from Richmond—one of the toughest cities to make it out of. We’ve lost friends, family, and everyone in between to the violence that’s all around us, but in spite of it all we made it!!!
God has a plan for us. What that plan is I can’t say but I know we have to stay on the path. I know every single person has an amazing story about the challenges they’ve overcome just living here in Richmond.
I’m just going to share a little of the challenges I’ve overcome in my 19 years. For most of my childhood I remember sleeping on park benches and in the baseball dugouts in Hayward while my sister slept in a cardboard lined shopping cart.
I still remember the hunger pains, the growling of my stomach, the dryness of my mouth, the cracks in my windburned lips. And I remember singing with my sister to keep from crying and making up weird games for us to play while our mom disappeared with her new ‘friend’.
I think about the bruises my mom left us when she would beat us every New Year’s Eve and say this is for what you plan to do.
I still feel the ache in my chest from when she stomped me because I lost her baseball cap. The grip of her hand in my hair as she threw me to the floor, my salty tears running into my mouth and the bitter taste of blood from the inside of my lip.
At one period in my life I was so sick I felt my breathe leaving my body and that was the first time my mom ever really listened to me because I told her “I Loved her and was saying goodbye”.
She rushed me to the local clinic in a shopping cart and that’s when the Doctors told her I only had 12% oxygen left in my body. Yet, through all of this I remember how bad I wanted to give up.
But, God had a plan for me just like he does for all of us. I was saved from my nightmare of a life when I was 14 years old and placed into the home of an amazing woman.
She taught me that My Past Does Not Dictate My Future. She taught me to focus on myself and work hard at getting good grades so I could go onto a college or university so I don’t end up like my mom or older brothers. I am so happy that she was more than willing to help me and I let her and I listened.
So, class of 2017 because we are entering into a new life we need to continue to listen to our parents, teachers, mentors or whoever else is helping us because guess what? No matter how far we go or how many degrees we get we will never be as smart as they are because they have aged wisdom. Parents, teachers, mentors, and whoever else I’m forgetting to name thank you for watching over us!!
And to the Richmond Promise team.. Everyone who put this scholarship fund together thank you because it is more than just a check. It’s hope and it’s proof that our community supports us in our pursuit of higher education. Once again thank you!!!