OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Thanks to a bold promise, 400 Oakland public school seniors are graduating and headed to college.
"We are Oakland's promise," chanted the auditorium full of students at Oakland's Scottish Rite Center Tuesday night.
"I graduated top of my class," said student speaker Jorge Rosas to a room full of cheers.
As a senior at Oakland's Military Insitute, Rosas was the commander of the 700 person student body and is now headed to UC Berkeley in the fall. The scholarship is especially meaningful to his parents, who were new to the U.S. and homeless, while Jorge's mother was pregnant with him.
"They wanted to make sure that when I was born, that I would have the resources needed and ready for me so that I could become successful."
Newly merged nonprofits, Oakland Promise and East Bay College Fund, pledged to support every child in Oakland from birth to college graduation. They are awarding this year's students $2.5 million dollars in scholarships.
Thanks to the scholarship money, about $2,000 a year, the students say they'll be able to pay for college necessities, like textbooks, meal plans and housing.
"Our family is not able to afford college, because college is super expensive, so this definitely puts a little bit of weight off our shoulders," said Angela Drake, who was born in Oakland and raised by her mother and grandmother.
Drake just graduated from Castlemont High School and is now headed to her dream school, UC Davis. But she says that is not the path that all her peers took.
"Oakland, you think about graduating and getting straight to work, a lot of people do that, that's just kind of the culture, especially at Castlemont. It was really hard, but you have to know what journey you're on and what path you're on and not worry about the path that other people are taking."
This year, 35 students will receive scholarships from Warriors Head Coach, Steve Kerr, who donated his speaking fees to the non-profit.
Oakland High graduate, Khirah McCoy, is especially excited about the Warrior's connection. She played basketball on Oakland High's state championship basketball team and said, "if the Warrior's win, we get to all have a parade with them!"
McCoy was born and raised in Oakland and is the first in her family to attend college. She says her younger siblings look up to her, especially as she heads off to San Francisco State.
"They told me that if it wasn't for me getting good grades or playing basketball, that they wouldn't be on the path that they're on."
McCoy says she received a lot of support from people throughout her high school career and hopes that others will seek the same support.
"Find that mentor or person you look up to and also find help outside of school, like at a student center or after-school advisor. Never give up and always look to someone you look up to, to help you," wise words from 17-year-old McCoy.
Oakland students receive $2.5 million in college scholarships
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