Grant awarded to develop counseling services

State allocates $750,000 in College Promise funding to CCC

By Anthony Kinney, News Editor

A grant of $750,000 was awarded to Contra Costa College to fund the College Promise program, in partnership with the Richmond Promise scholarship, to propel Richmond High School graduates into college.

The Richmond Promise is offered to Richmond residents who graduate from any high school in the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD).

The grant will allow the creation of a program to develop and implement counseling courses and an extensive support network designed to ensure the maximum success rate among Richmond Promise scholars.

College President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh said, “Creating an environment that provides that support structure and helps our students maneuver through the educational system is paramount.”

Although 38 California community college districts applied, CCC was one of only eight California colleges awarded the grant, under the California College Promise Innovation Grant Program, regulated by the chancellor of California Community Colleges.

According to the California Community Colleges’ Chancellor’s office’s official website, “College Promise programs are partnerships which align local K-12 school districts, community colleges and public university segments to provide clear pathways for students to follow in order to achieve their educational goals.”

The Innovation Grant program was constructed after Assembly Bill 1741 passed last September, appropriating a one-time fund of $15 million to be distributed to selected community college districts to construct their own Promise programs.

The newly-awarded $750,000 will come to CCC as a 26-month grant for planning and implementing the college’s “Promise Program,” to help Richmond Promise scholars.

District Director of Communications and Community Relations Tim Leong said the grant will look to provide substantial support and services, so that when these students come to CCC, all can be ensured that scholars are going to meet their education goals.

Mehdizadeh said she believes what made CCC’s application stand out, compared to the other colleges that also applied for the grant, was the ongoing work the college and the Richmond Promise have already conducted together.

In 2016 the city of Richmond and the energy corporation, Chevron, formed the community-wide scholarship fund and college success program, the Richmond Promise. 

The program provides scholarships up to $1,500 a year, for up to four years, to Richmond residents that graduated from a high school in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. Scholarship amounts are based on the applicant’s length of time as a Richmond resident and what grades they achieved at WCCUSD schools.

CCC is currently home to 55 Richmond Promise scholars.

“It’s wonderful to provide a monetary incentive and assist students to come to college and overcome some of their financial barriers,” Mehdizadeh said. “But when they get to our college what we find is that often many of our students are first generation college students and they need more in terms of guidance and support, so that’s what our college promise program and the $750,000 grant will help us do.”

Mehdizadeh said CCC’s Promise Program’s focus will be to provide Richmond Promise scholars with a college graduating culture and an extensive system of support services, two components that are crucial for education success.

The grant will implement near-peer mentoring through “completion coaches,” a strategy Mehdizadeh said college Promise programs across the country have already tested and proved successful.

Mentors will be recent college graduates from the community, young people who CCC students can easily relate to, that will essentially keep in direct contact with scholars as they go through the Promise program to ensure they’re staying on track and that all their questions are promptly answered.

Mehdizadeh said that scholars usually come to CCC undecided on their major and take general education classes until they eventually find in what field their passion lies.

The program will develop counseling courses and “wrap-around” support services to help students identify early what their desired field of study will be reduce students taking unnecessary classes.

“In the scholars’ first semester, we work with them to develop expansive ‘ed plans’ and really help them complete assessments to identify who they really want to be,” Mehdizadeh said.

In scholars’ second semesters, the program shift gear and will help them decide if they want to transfer to a four-year university, and if so, which one. Along with the more frequent college fairs on campus, Richmond Promise scholars will also get opportunities to go on college campus tours to the various CSU and UC campuses, as well as HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) around the country.

The second semester’s focus is to help connect the scholars with the potential schools they want to transfer to so they take courses at CCC they are perfectly in line to transfer to the institution of their choice.

“We want to make it easy for them to get in, get through and move on,” Mehdizadeh said.

Economics major Ivan Herrera recently applied for this year’s Richmond Promise program and is eager to hear if he was one of those selected.

Herrera said he heard about the Richmond Promise program while campaigning for former Richmond City Council candidate Uche Uwahemu last year.

“A lot of candidates running for City Council would talk about (Richmond Promise) during debates,” he said.

“It’s great to see them allocating our public dollars to something good, like helping empower our youth to be successful and go to college.”