OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - It's estimated that only 10 percent of Oakland Unified School District students will go on to graduate college in within five years.
That's startling statistics from the East Bay College Fund. City leaders say those figures are unacceptable, which is why hundreds of college-bound seniors were given scholarships Friday night to help end that cycle.
"We believe in their brilliance and their potential. We believe that every child in this city is college material," says Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
The city along with East Bay College Fund is banking on that with a program called Oakland Promise. It gives need-based scholarships to Oakland high school graduates. The 300 students in attendance are the latest recipients and the largest class to date.
The organization has been around since 2003 and this year it’s giving $2.5 million combined for their college career.
"This means a lot since I'm the first one to actually graduate from high school. My parents are excited," says Oakland High School senior Nathalie Lopez.
"These kids made it against the odds and we're proud of them," says Rev. Jesse Jackson. He was on hand to tell the students. That he has hope in their future and sees a lot of promise in them.
"I want every child in this city to know that this community believes in them," says Schaaf.
Oakland's mayor isn't only saying that she actually helped raise part of the scholarship money for some of the students.
"When I turned 50 last year, my birthday wish was to raise a million dollars to send 50 kids who will be the first in their families off to college. Today I get to meet those 50 students," says Schaaf. Not only do they have the funding, each student will get a personal mentor to help them through their entire college experience, something they and their family are truly thankful for.
"The school I'm attending…it cost a lot to go there, so basically any money will help," says McClymond’s senior Dyllon Louis.
"Thank you Jesus. That's all I can say. Thank you! Thank you! Our prayers are answered," say Dyllon's mother Dione Camel. The students will receive between $3,000 to $10,000 for their college career.