Source: Christopher Whitmore, Executive Director
Organization: Richmond Promise, a member of the NCCPC, is a community-wide college success initiative that is actively building a college graduating culture in Richmond.
Mission: The Richmond Promise was created with the belief that all Richmond students should have the opportunity to develop their skills and reach their full potential, regardless of race, income level, or personal background.
Vision: We see a day when all children in Richmond have access to high-quality education, excel from high school to higher education, attain a postsecondary degree or certification, thrive in the field of their choice, and become a leader of positive change in their community and the world.
Launched in January 2016, the Richmond Promise is a community-wide postsecondary access and success initiative that is actively building a college graduating culture in Richmond, CA. Through a college scholarship, collaborative cross-sector partnerships, and supportive programming, the Richmond Promise aims to ensure all students in Richmond excel to and through higher education, reach their career goals, and become change-making leaders in the Richmond community.
Through our work with the Northern California College Promise Coalition (NCCPC), we proudly take our mission, vision, and goals for Richmond youth and apply them to the success of young people throughout our region.
Photo credit: Richmond Promise
“Through a college scholarship, collaborative cross-sector partnerships, and supportive programming, the Richmond Promise aims to ensure all students in Richmond excel to and through higher education, reach their career goals, and become change-making leaders in the Richmond community.”
— Christopher Whitmore, Executive Director
A FOUNDING STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBER
OUR WORK WITH NCCPC
The Richmond Promise joined NCCPC as a founding Steering Committee member because we believe and understand that long-term sustainable change is best achieved through meaningful collaboration. Through NCCPC, the Richmond Promise has been able to learn from and collaborate with numerous partners throughout the region who have similar goals in making higher education and career pathways more equitable, inclusive, and attainable – especially for young people from backgrounds that have been historically shut out from the world-class educational and career opportunities that help define Northern California.
Following in the footsteps of my predecessor, Jessie Stewart, the Richmond Promise’s first Executive Director, I represent the Richmond Promise on NCCPC’s Steering Committee. The Richmond Promise is also represented at NCCPC by Miguel Molina, Associate Director of Programs and Partnerships.
WHAT COLLABORATION LOOKS LIKE
In addition to sitting on the NCCPC Steering Committee, the Richmond Promise is a member of the Policy, Workforce, and Campus Partnerships committees. Each of these committees connect with and support the mission and values of our organization. At the Richmond Promise, we understand that in addition to helping young people from our community prepare for higher education, we must also advocate for higher education systems to be more equitable and inclusive in their service to all students. Through the Policy Committee, the Richmond Promise has an opportunity to contribute to system changes by way of legislation, including our support for Assembly Bill 288 which aims to ban scholarship displacement throughout the State of California.
As an organization dedicated to building and maintaining strong partnerships with institutions of higher education, NCCPC’s Campus Partnerships Committee provides a collaborative venue to share information about how promise programs are working with local colleges to ensure student retention, effective delivery of services to students, and degree completion for our hard-working scholars.
Finally, as other promise programs may agree, while significant portions of our work focus on preparing young people access higher education and helping them complete their degree or certificate once admitted, the highest end goal of the Richmond Promise is that our scholars use their education to enter career pathways that generate economic mobility and community leadership opportunities here in Richmond and beyond. Through the Workforce Committee, Richmond Promise staff have an opportunity to think strategically with regional colleagues to help scholars turn generational economic mobility from a dream to a reality. The Workforce Committee space allows us to think on a broad and holistic level when exploring the types of partnerships and initiatives that can help students gain internships, entry-level paid work experience, and other career exposure opportunities.
By working closely with business partners and community stakeholders invested in workforce development, the Richmond Promise and our fellow NCCPC members can keep a pulse on what employers in Northern California’s competitive job market are looking for in their future employees. For me, as Executive Director of the Richmond Promise, I hope investing in workforce development as a regional coalition will help our students secure career-track jobs within a couple of weeks after graduation instead of a couple months or years, as is often experienced by recent grads.
Photo credit: Richmond Promise
GOALS FOR 2022 AND BEYOND
Within the next three years, the Richmond Promise’s top three goals for NCCPC include increased higher education-related policy advocacy, developing a robust data collection and evaluation model that can help inform how to most effectively work towards equity in higher education and workforce development, and strengthening campus partnerships between institutions of higher education and NCCPC-member organizations.
The Richmond Promise wants scholars to know how important their engagement and voices are to the work we do in Richmond and at a regional level with NCCPC. The success and well-being of our scholars is at the core of everything we do as an organization and a regional coalition, and our ability to make the greatest impact possible only increases when we receive input and feedback from the students we serve. As Executive Director of the Richmond Promise, I’ve started a practice of calling scholars every Friday afternoon to learn about their college experiences, understand how they believe our organization has supported them, and get their feedback on how we can better serve them through their pursuit of a degree or certificate. Student voices matter, and I hope our scholars know how central their engagement and empowerment are to our work.
WHY NCCPC AND WHY NOW
In Richmond and throughout the greater Bay Area, a common sentiment in community service is that too many organizations and people work in silos. Thanks to coalitions like NCCPC, Northern California has one of most robust college promise networks in the country, and the collaborative-based approach of the coalition helps do away with any sense that nonprofits, government offices, or any other stakeholders are doing their work alone. If the Richmond Promise was not a member of NCCPC, we may have had a harder time navigating the best practices of operating in the postsecondary access and scholar success space.
If NCCPC didn’t exist, it’s possible that promise programs throughout Northern California would be competitors more so than collaborators. Considering that Northern California and the Bay Area have one of the largest concentrations of nonprofits in the country, it is not uncommon for programs with similar missions, goals, and service populations to compete for the same funding opportunities, working relationships, and influence. In Northern California, much like other regions of our state and country, social trends and inequity knows no city limit, county line, or state border. Although educational or workforce inequity in Richmond may sometimes look a little different than it does in cities like Oakland, Stockton, or Rancho Cordova, there is so much that unites our communities and their ambitions than differences that separate them. At NCCPC, we strive to scale our successes together just as much as we rally around each other to address our challenges because we understand that true sustainable change in our region is contingent on the well-being of all of our communities.
Other organizations should know that NCCPC is here to help them in their service to scholars in Northern California. Through NCCPC, dozens of organizations and cities are building capacity, best practice knowledge, and student success pathways through community. Organizations that are not currently members of NCCPC should know that there’s more than enough space here in our coalition for their engagement, and that the young people we serve will be better off due to our regional action and meeting of the minds.
Funders and policymakers should know that their impact on equity in higher education is amplified through the NCCPC’s coalition building. Philanthropic partners and elected officials have an opportunity to support more students in Northern California than ever before and do so with the expertise of dozens of daily practitioners in the college access and success space. The NCCPC’s members are dedicated to maximizing our impact on student’s lives. Our collaboration provides funders and allies a unique opportunity to extend the reach of their financial and legislative support so we can all help achieve a more equitable and thriving Northern California for all.