Maiya Newsome-Edgerly: Improving College Access in Richmond

blogimage.jpgWhen it comes to cultivating a college-going culture for West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) students, all stakeholders -- including parents, local school districts, and community members -- are equally accountable for the low percentage of youth pursuing a college education. Through the Richmond Promise and WCCUSD’s new Strategic Plan, local leaders are trying to do their part to increase the number of Richmond youth who make it to college.

In addition, Richmond students need to be aware of other alternate collegiate opportunities to increase student success rate.

Many inner-city youth make self-fulfilling prophecies of “not being college material.” In 2012, only 58% of WCCUSD students were enrolled in college immediately after high school. While these youth are bombarded with harsh realities that leave them paralyzed by their circumstances, there are tools that can increase confidence and create rich academic support.

The Richmond Promise is a 10-year program that will guarantee that every Richmond public school student who graduates from high school receives full tuition to attend college. The program will be sponsored by Chevron’s 90-million-dollar community benefits package; the students of the class of 2016 are expected to be the scholarship program’s first scholarship recipients.

In order for students to even be eligible for the Richmond Promise, however, they need to make it to high school graduation. In order to make sure that all of the 30,000 WCCUSD students receive their diplomas, the school district must address many complex issues, including the achievement gap, poor communication, academic counseling, lack of parent involvement and insufficient professional development for teachers.

The WCCUSD Strategic Plan for 2013-2018 is a plan that is rooted in reality, addressing the core needs of the community and providing an actionable blueprint to foster student success. The Strategic Plan is very promising and includes ambitious steps to address the issues that derail student success.

Within the plan, the District states that they will collaborate with more community stakeholders, including the West Contra College Access Network, to increase students’ access to and success in college.

It is going to take a community of devoted students, parents, educators and community organizations to make sure that this strategic plan fulfills its promise within the classrooms.

How long are we just going to sit back and watch everything unfold for the worst?
Not too long ago, I myself was once the WCCUSD student in the classroom who was unsure about my collegiate future. I knew I wanted to attend college, but I didn’t know if I would receive financial support to attend a large UC or any California State Universities.

In 2007, I was a high school senior at El Cerrito High School, and I knew I didn’t want to become another student ID number on my professor’s class attendance sheet. During my high school career I noticed that I worked well in small intimate classroom environments, and I also longed for mentorship from my teachers.

My mother and I decided to look into Historical Black Universities and Colleges (HBCUs), and the HBCU collegiate experience was a perfect fit for my academic needs.

While the school district is over 70% African-American and Latino, a very low percentage of African-American students, particularly African-American males, are aware of the information and opportunities available to them within the Historical Black College Network.

Many inner-city, low income students from other minority groups are also unaware of the fact that HBCU’s are available not only to African-American students, but to any racial group.

Beyond providing information, the most important element is to ensure success among Richmond student is academic confidence.

We need to find innovative ways to create safe and caring learning environments for our students, where academic success is both facilitated and valued. Culturally, being labeled as a “nerd” is considered uncool, but the students who skipped lunch to hang out in the school’s computer lab are now the millionaires creating notable smartphone apps we use today.

One reason for the growing gap in achievement is, researchers say, that affluent children spend 1,300 more hours than low-income children before the age of 6 years old in places other than their home, their daycare centers, or schools. By the time high-income children start school, they have spent about 400 hours more than low-income children in literacy activities.

Three Saturdays ago, at about 5:30pm, two young men were tragically killed on 4th street and Bissell Avenue in Richmond’s Iron Triangle. The Richmond community can no longer afford to lose lives to senseless acts of violence. We must all work together to get Richmond youth excited about furthering their education and most importantly their future. Only by increasing the focus on education will we be able to ensure that the city's youth are off the streets and on the right path to success. It is up to stakeholders, parents and community organizations to invest their time, funds, and efforts to build an effective system that ensures student success in Richmond.

The WCCUSD Board of Education meeting dates are usually held on Wednesdays at 6:30pm. For more information visit

By: Maiya Newsome-Edgerly, Richmond resident

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
    Fight your California speeding ticket and win here. Fight your red light camera ticket here. Fight your cell phone ticket here.