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Hundreds of Oakland public high school students received scholarships this month to follow their academic and career dreams.

Oakland Promise delivered again by giving out 730 college and career technical education scholarships to graduating seniors, according to preliminary data from the organization.

Oakland Promise is a six-year-old nonprofit that offers resources to Oakland families to help their children thrive in higher education and a subsequent career.

Oakland students, especially Black and Hispanic students, bucked national trends by showing their desire to advance their learning and likely their lifetime earnings.

“At Oakland Promise, we are encouraged that even in another very tough year for students, we experienced a record number of Black, Latinx and first-generation college students in Oakland who applied for and accepted their scholarships to attend a postsecondary program,” said Oakland Promise CEO Sandra Ernst in a statement.

“This is a step in a long road to creating educational equity that requires more financial, partnership and community support for our young people,” she said.

Oakland Promise alum and keynote speaker Julissa Perez Lima, a graduate of both Aspire Golden State College Preparatory and the University of California at Davis, told scholarship recipients during a May 20 awards ceremony, “For all of us in this room, we have worked hard to accomplish being here today. The journey has not been easy for most of us because nothing has been handed out.”

Applications up

More than 1,000 students applied for Oakland Promise scholarships this year, compared with 750 applicants last year. Three out of four Oakland public high school graduating seniors received a scholarship this year, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said.

Forty-three scholars were given Oakland Promise’s Great Expectation Scholarship, which comes with an award of $8,000 to $16,000 over four years. The balance of the 730 scholars received awards of $2,000 to $4,000 for their two-year or four-year college program.

“With this scholarship, I was able to choose the best college for me rather than attending a less expensive institution,” said Isaiah Smiley, a McClymonds High School senior, in a statement. “Being less stressed out about college fees will allow me to focus my attention on my studies and career by opening up doors for myself through internship opportunities.”

Over $3 million in scholarships was awarded by Oakland Promise this year.

Data from Oakland Promise shows about 19 percent of scholarship recipients were Black students and about 48 percent were Hispanic.

The number of Black students who received scholarships increased to 133 this year compared with 90 last year, an increase of 48 percent.

“With this scholarship, I was able to choose the best college for me rather than attending a less expensive institution. Being less stressed out about college fees will allow me to focus my attention on my studies and career by opening up doors for myself through internship opportunities.”

Isaiah Smiley, McClymonds High School senior

The number of Hispanic students who received scholarships rose to 357 this year from 254 last year, an increase of 41 percent.

Median lifetime earnings of college graduates with a bachelor’s degree are $2.8 million, compared with $1.6 million for people with no college education, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. That is a difference of more than $1 million.

Associate degree graduates see median lifetime earnings of $2 million, or about $400,000 more than someone without any college education.

Despite the challenges to learning during a pandemic, Black and Hispanic students are possibly more interested than ever in pursuing college and career-related education, according to Oakland Promise, whose mission is to eliminate those differences in lifetime earnings for Oaklanders.