Your Mid-Week Pick Me Up


Apr 2020


Our team at Berkeley Community Scholars is eager to share with you a series of articles over the next few months about what you make possible through your support of our scholars and our programs. We hope you will find inspiration and hope in these stories that show not only the brilliance and perseverance of our scholars but also the power of community in creating positive social change. Be sure to sign up for the BCS Newsletter to get these in your inbox!

We are launching our series with an update on the realignment of our programs.

Berkeley Community Scholars — One Goal, Two Paths

Berkeley Community Scholars (formerly known as the Berkeley Community Fund) has been providing hope and opportunity to Berkeley youth since its founding. In 2007, we decided to focus solely on providing need-based scholarships to help promising and resilient Berkeley youth attend, succeed in, and graduate from college with a BA/BS degree. Our High Hopes Scholarship Program was born. 

For the first 10 years, we served Berkeley High School and B-Tech students entering bachelor’s degree programs upon graduation from high school. Our program worked — Over 90% of those scholars earned a degree and launched their careers or entered graduate school. Today, our scholar alumni are working as engineers, teachers, IT professionals, accountants, and attorneys. Some are about to finish medical school or nursing programs, thanks to the guidance of their BCS mentors, and are eager to put their skills to work. 

Over the years, for a variety of reasons, more BHS students started their journey toward a bachelor’s degree at a community college. So in 2017, we created an initiative to help these students in our community succeed, too (at the time called Promise, and part of a larger effort with other community partners). However, this year, since all of these scholars entered their higher education journey with the same goal—a bachelor’s degree— we decided to operationally merge our two programs, into one: 

One Goals, Two Paths

Our vision is for all of our scholars – who embody the diversity, spirit, and values of our community – to achieve their aspirations and become more economically secure. We believe that supporting our High Hopes Scholars narrows economic inequities and enhances the cultural and intellectual diversity of the Berkeley community. 

Degrees Still Matter

The goals of our High Hopes Program are for scholars to earn a bachelor’s degree within 6 years, with a manageable amount of debt, and with the tools they need to shape a successful career. It’s hard to quantify the full value of an education, but studies show a college degree increases lifetime earnings by $1 million, reduces the chances of unemployment, improves long-term health outcomes, and increases civic participation.

Narrowing Inequities, Enhancing Diversity

Each year, about 180 college-bound seniors graduating from Berkeley public high schools are:

  • living in the lowest economic quartile, 
  • in the first-generation of their family to go to college, and/or, 
  • students of color who are vastly underrepresented (African American, LatinX, Southeast Asian) in four-year college campuses. 

They have access to college but, due to life circumstances, face considerable headwinds while completing a degree. 

This spring, 120 BHS students applied for our scholarships. We anticipate interviewing 20-plus students for our Community College High Hopes program and 40 for our Bachelor Degree High Hopes (BDHH) program. They will join our 30 students at Berkeley City College, the 10 BCC graduates who have been accepted at a 4-year college and have been accepted into our BDHH program, and our current 100 scholars already at 4-year institutions.

This Is How We Do It

With community support we provide:

Scholarships to help close the gap between the true cost of attending college and financial aid — $16,000 over four years for Bachelor’s Degree students and $1,500 for Community College students

Case management and coaching by BCS professional staff — college success advisors — who help navigate the challenges of earning a college degree

Mentorship from community volunteers who share their social capital and connections — over 90 volunteers strong today

Peer Support and Programming — creating a community of fellow supporters

The coronavirus has turned all of our lives upside down—but for students and families with little means, the consequences are more dire. The impact on these families will take years, not months, to overcome. Your donation will help our scholars stay in college, pursuing their dreams, and provide economic stability. You can also help by donating airline miles; up-to-date computers with camera capabilities; tablets or phones with current technology; or a financial contribution to help cover a student’s immediate need. For non-financial donations, please call 510-542-2126 and leave us a message.

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