BCF kicking off celebration of 25 years of advancing the futures of Berkeley youth

September 8th, 2016 · No Comments

BERKELEY, CA.  On October 8, 2016 the Berkeley Community Fund (BCF) will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a festive gala at the historic UC Theatre in Berkeley. The event will honor Skip Battle with the 2016 Benjamin Ide Wheeler Award for “Berkeley’s Most Useful Citizen.” It also will recognize Dorothy Walker, Martin Paley, Narsai David and Jessica Pers for their deft guidance and support of BCF since its founding in 1991. Proceeds will go toward BCF’s High Hopes 100 Initiative to raise $2 million to fund 100 scholarships for Berkeley youth, support 100 enrolled scholars and to help those scholars achieve a 100% college graduation rate.

BCF was the brainchild of businessman Jeffrey Shattuck Leiter, a descendant of one of Berkeley’s founding families, who wanted to create a local philanthropic fund to help address social and economic inequities in Berkeley. His friends Dorothy Walker and Mal Warwick thought it was a great idea and soon they were recruiting fellow Berkeley residents, business leaders, UC chancellors and elected officials to join them in putting their ideals to work.

In its early days, BCF ran programs related to early childhood and young children in South and West Berkeley. It later gave small grants to numerous local, youth-oriented nonprofit organizations. In 2007, BCF leaders decided their work would have greater impact if the organization refined its focus. Inspired by the Oakland-oriented East Bay College Fund, BCF established the High Hopes Scholarship Program for Berkeley youth from lower income families and groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education. The program helps its scholars succeed in earning a college degree by providing direct financial support, guidance from a college success counselor who helps them navigate the various challenges faced by first-generation-to-college students, and connections to volunteer mentors who provide moral support, guidance and connections to their professional networks. The formula works: 92% of the program’s scholars have graduated or persist in earning a college degree compared to a 25% graduation/persistence rate for students from similar income quartiles. Because of this success, community support of the program has grown every year. BCF granted 8 High Hopes Scholarships in 2008. It now supports 107 matriculating students, 90% of whom are first generation college students. They attend colleges across the country, ranging from Cal State schools to Yale University.


BCF is thrilled to be giving this year’s Benjamin Ide Wheeler Award to A. George (“Skip”) Battle. Skip has devoted his career to helping businesses get established, grow and thrive. He has quietly done the same as a civic leader, supporting numerous local and global nonprofit organizations that serve the greater good. In the Berkeley community, those organizations include the Berkeley YMCA, Berkeley Public Library Foundation, Freight and Salvage, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, UC Theater and, especially, the High Hopes Scholarship Program of the Berkeley Community Fund. Inspired by his own experience, Skip was instrumental in directing BCF’s focus toward providing scholarships to motivated low-income Berkeley youth.

The Benjamin Ide Wheeler Medal was established in 1929 by the Service Club of Berkeley to honor the city’s “most useful citizen.” It is named after the University of California president who was best known for transforming the school from a small land grant college into a world-renowned university. President Wheeler recognized that the fundamental basis for democracy is drawn from healthy local communities. Today, the award honors individuals whose broad vision, community engagement, and actions improve the quality of life for a significant number of people in Berkeley and beyond.

For more information on the anniversary dinner, to purchase tickets or learn about sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.berkfund25.org

BCF Quick Facts:

  • $2.68 million in scholarships awarded 2008-2016
107 active scholars (as of Fall 2016)
  • 73% of scholars from families earning less than $50K/year
  • 27% of scholars from families earning less than $20K/year.
  • 90% first generation college students

“It is beautiful to see how our organization has been growing, not only in numbers, but the relationships between students, mentors and BCF alumni scholars,” said Fatima Rodriguez-Ortiz, a High Hopes Program alumna who graduated from UC Santa Cruz.