Why has the BCF concentrated on college scholarships and why support the BCF?
Providing support to help financially needy, resilient high school graduates attend and graduate from four year colleges is an important step toward ending the cycle of poverty and tapping into the talents and energy of our community. The Berkeley Community Fund had been granting scholarships to high school seniors for years when we realized that no program in Berkeley provided four years of support and mentoring to students who are often the first in their families to attend college. In 2007, we decided to focus all of our attention in providing four year scholarships and mentoring support, believing that would be the most effective way a small community fund could serve our community. We believe that our decision has resonated with the people of Berkeley. Our donations have been increasing since 2007 and we are able to support a larger group of students every year.
Who are the students to whom you give support?
We choose students who have already shown the energy, drive and commitment to attend and graduate from a four year college. They are often recent immigrants, whose first language is not English and whose parents have not attended college. They have performed well in high school, even though they have had to deal with outside pressures and issues that affect their work. They are leaders in schools, community organizations and church groups. Although all of our scholars generally receive financial aid from the schools they attend, they almost always are asked to provide additional funds for tuition, living expenses or their other needs while in college. As college attendance has become ever more expensive, it is even more difficult for these students and their families to make up the difference between financial aid awards and the real cost of attending school. Because of these financial challenges, many of the students we serve do not think four-year college is even a possibility, and many others who start college will not be able to finish without additional financial support and help from a dedicated mentor. These are the target group of High Hopes Scholars. We hope that our grants of $4,000 per year for four years, along with mentoring, will get these students through both the financial and educational issues they will face.