On Monday night the Berkeley Community Fund (BCF) honored a new cohort of seniors with High Hopes scholarships. A total of $432,000 was awarded to 27 students who will receive the funds over the course of the next four years.
The High Hopes scholarships have been awarded since 2008, and BCF College Success Coordinator Lynn Walker said the program is doing a great job of living up to its purpose — to provide students with the necessary resources to ensure they thrive not only in college, but well past graduation.
“BCF was started with the intent of providing resources to students who needed them,” said Walker. “At BCF we understand that not everyone is born into privilege. We wanted to find a way to level the playing field. The High Hopes scholarship is a step in that direction.”
The program provides need-based scholarships worth $16,000 each to Berkeley High school students identified as being “talented and resilient.” The financial support helps close the gap between the true cost of attending college and the typical financial aid award, BCF states on its website, and the scholarships are funded through generous donations from the community.
Along with the financial element, the program also helps students by providing support services, including one-to-one mentorship, financial literacy training, transition-to-college workshops and support from a college success coordinator.
Walker, who is in her second year with BCF, said she can see the improvements the program is making with each graduating class. She said it’s been a journey, and that she’s most proud of the way the students have become more integrated into the program.
“The students have become much more involved,” she said. “We now have them leading workshops, acting as mentors to one another. It is really nice seeing them lend a hand to one another.”
Most of the students involved in the High Hopes program are first-generation college students. They often have little, or no, insight, into the many facets that accompany the transition to college. That is where BCF steps in. Through its High Hopes program it partners students with mentors and a staff who have all been through the college experience.
BCF President Chuck Fanning knows first-hand how important it is for students to be able to speak to people who have been through the process. He has two kids who are about to graduate Berkeley High, and he said the fact that the scholarship recipients are classmates of his children makes their issues personal for him. Fanning said he is determined to do right by all the students involved with the program.
“My twin boys know they can go to their mother or myself when they have questions,” he said. “Take the application process, for example. Many of our students grew up in homes where no-one went to college. How can you expect them to provide them with the necessary information?”
Berkeley High senior Bryant Monroe echoes Fanning when talking about how helpful BCF has been to him since he joined the program earlier this year. Monroe was referred to BCF by a counselor at another youth program. He is set to attend UC Riverside in the fall, and is excited for the work he’ll be able to do with the High Hopes program over the next four years.
“Of course I value the financial portion of the scholarship,” he said. “But all the other types of help the program offers are amazing as well. I’ll have this huge network of support to help see me through.”
Monroe plans on studying business and computer science at UCR, and says he would like to get into marketing — his goal is to one day be the general manager of an NBA team. He knows the journey through school won’t be easy, but he thinks the support he will receive from the Berkeley Community Fund will help him persevere.
“It’s nice to know I have people in my corner,” he said.
Congratulations to the 27 High Hopes scholarship recipients: Aia Abushareefh; Laila Bendrai; Rogelio Castro; Ernesto Garcia Jr.; Ana Hernandez-Tijero; Wun-Ci Hou; Daniel Jones; Jeremy Jones; Bubacarr Kora; Emily Lam; Felipe Leon; Alejandra Leon-Herrera; Enrique Lopez; Emily Maciel; Alexandria Miles; Bryant Monroe; Kristian Overbey; Katherine Pham; Andrew Pongtananon; Donna Ramirez-Cruz; Daan Reyes; Carena Ridgeway; Angel Robinson; Jessaly Sinchico Andrango; Jacari Trent-Pontoon; Mi Anna Wiggins; and Jeffrey Yu.
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