“What are you doing after you graduate?” – The most nerve-racking question for a high school senior. Like most youth in East Oakland, I will be a first generation college student in my family – and won’t know what to expect the moment I leave high school behind.
The reality – in Oakland, where high school graduation rates are at a low 64 percent, college is not a promise for all students. Without looking at all of the resources available, it is easy to doubt our chance of succeeding in college.
“My family will not afford it, and I don’t want to drown in debt.”
“My family will not be able to help me with college work.”
“I need to support my family. I already have a job when I get out of high school.”
“College isn’t for me… nobody in my family attended it, yet they’ve survived.”
However, students in Oakland must not lose hope. Oakland youth have been undermined by negative stereotypes and low expectations about what post high school life should look like. Students who are unaware of programs or resources that will mentor and financially support them throughout college are often ambivalent about attending. However, there are resources and many college-preparedness programs and organizations in our community want to work with young people to succeed in higher education institutions.
Marcus Foster Education Institute (MFEI) is a foundation started by Dr. Marcus Foster , the Superintendent of Oakland schools who was murdered by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Since 1973, in memory of Dr. Foster, the organization has supported thousands of young people in Oakland and the Bay Area to attend college. Sending about 200 students to college with financial scholarships per year demonstrates how the Marcus Foster Education Institution embodies the vision of East Oakland Building Healthy Communities – “Building a healthy East Oakland is an act of love – for our children, our neighbors and this place we call home. It won’t be easy, but we’re used to hard work. By joining together, we will make our home what we dream it can be, for our families, friends and community.”
Through a series of programs and scholarships, Marcus Foster Education Institute (MFES) has tackled an educational barrier in Oakland for over four decades – bridging the gap between underrepresented brown/black youth and higher education. The first image to come across the screen as you log on to www.marcusfoster.org is of an auditorium African- American students – dressed in a black stole with red, gold and green stripes (kente cloth) over their buttoned shirts – about to receive their College Bound Brotherhood Scholarship.
College Bound Brotherhood Scholarship is one of a handful of opportunities and scholarships that MFEI offers; it’s specifically targeted at young black men who graduate from any high school in the greater Bay Area. Another scholarship through MFEI is the MFEI College Scholarship which is open to Bay Area High School seniors in Oakland Unified School District, Pleasanton Unified School District, and any African-American young men who are graduating high school in the Bay Area. Ultimately, MFEI offers high school seniors moving into college a college resources sheet – a great tool for undergraduate students. It includes financial aid applications, repositories containing scholarships, tips on managing money, resume writing, relationships and many best practice tips for a successful college life.
The 2017 Application period for MFEI scholarships and opportunities is February 1st – March 31st.
Ultimately, it is clear: Marcus Foster Education Institute is building Healthy Communities in East Oakland by supporting Oakland youth throughout their college journey. It was a safe bet for East Oakland Building Healthy Communities to grant MFEI funds to further support Oakland youth. More black and brown youth are graduating from high school and college, developing the generation of tomorrow’s leaders and professionals who will bring their work to improve their communities. With the access to resources like the MFEI, and other college readiness programs for Oakland youth, such as Students Rising Above, East Bay College Fund, Oakland Promise, College Track, and Summer Search – Oakland students are empowered to attain a higher education. With programs that prepare first- generation college students with mentorships and financial aid, youth are no longer stranded in a “What’s next!?” situation as they envision their post high school future.