By Matt Larson
We can’t promise that all students in West County will pursue a higher education, but something called The Promise Movement is a force embarking toward just that.
At only three years in operations, Richmond Promise has provided scholarships to more than 900 students attending 97 colleges across the country. The number of scholarship recipients has grown every year, and 2019 is looking to continue that trend.
With a mission of creating pathways for success via community partnerships and student-driven programming, scholarships are at the core of the work being done at Richmond Promise. It’s a $1,500 scholarship that can be annually renewed, and it can be used at any 2-year, 4-year, or career technical school.
Unlike most scholarships, income and GPA do not play a factor when it comes to Richmond Promise. “We award scholarships to any student in Richmond who has dreams of going to higher education,” said Development Manager Grace Peter. “We don’t ask for financial information to determine eligibility.”
After all is said and done, Richmond Promise then asks for those details, but only to make sure that they’re reaching the entire populace and not just a certain demographic. “We want to be reflective of the Richmond community,” Grace explained. “And I think we’ve done a pretty good job of doing that.”
The main requirement is that students must also apply for financial aid (FAFSA or Dream Act) to receive the scholarship, which is a very difficult task. So difficult, that Richmond Promise provides mandatory Summer Success Workshops to help ensure that these recipients have completed all the necessary paperwork, in addition to resources and guidance, so they’re fully prepared to embark upon the next stage of their academic career.
“The time between high school and college is a really critical time,” Grace explained. “There are a lot of deadlines, like accepting financial aid (it’s not enough to just apply, you have to actually accept), choosing classes when enrolling in school, actually physically moving—many for the first time—so there’s just a lot of obstacles facing students in that very short time frame.”
Making friends is another important part of starting at a new school, so at Richmond Promise’s workshops, students that will be attending the same college will be grouped together at the workshop, to hopefully get to know each other and establish a few more friendly faces to look for after settling in to the dorms. “That builds a bridge before they even get to school,” Grace said. “It creates community, so they’re not feeling like they’re going in alone.”
Richmond Promise is giving a lot, and their only want is that someday these scholars return home to give back. “We’re hoping to see a day where we’ve built a pipeline of leadership; that our scholars and eventual alumni are coming back, running the Richmond Promise, and becoming leaders in Richmond,” Grace said. “So that’s really our vision: that every young person is involved, and has the resources and opportunities to fully define their future.”
This year’s scholarship deadline has passed (March 8th) but look for Richmond Promise’s annual scholar celebration at the Civic Center on May 3rd, around graduation time. Tickets are not yet available but keep checking their website or sign up for their newsletter for updates, at richmondpromise.org.
If you’re interested in volunteering, email Grace right away (firstname.lastname@example.org). There’s a few ways to help out … One way is to help at their public events, another is to help review applications, or you can become a mentor.
“We’re piloting a very small mentorship program with about 20 students and community members to really focus on career readiness,” Grace said. “Any community members who are feeling like they want to give back in a way that is pretty impactful, and pretty deep—its a year-long commitment—we’re going to need more mentors.” So send that email before you forget! Let us know how it goes.
Richmond Promise’s Annual Scholar Celebration at the Civic Center