SAN FRANCISCO - At Oracle Park in San Francisco Tuesday night, there was a special induction ceremony in the name of Giants legend Willie Mays. But the stars who took center stage were not athletes, but Black high school students who have displayed the ability to overcome challenges.
A program by the Giants Community Foundation provides scholarships and other resources to help them achieve their dreams of attending college.
Each of the five students named "Willie Mays Scholars" will receive a scholarship of up to $20,000 upon graduation from high school.
"It really opened my eyes to yeah, I'm really going to go to college," said Khalil Cohen. "If I wouldn't have got the scholarship, I wouldn't be able to attend college, or it is probably pretty rough for me to attend college."
He said he aspires an oncologist and that his grandmother's battle with breast cancer inspired him. The 17-year-old said growing up in the Bayview raised by a single mother, he saw the health problems brought on by poverty that the black community often faces with little or no resources.
He wanted to give back.
"I'm very dedicated. I'm very motivated. I'm determined," said Cohen.
The co-chair of the foundation said the program is designed to help make the college aspirations of black youth in San Francisco come true.
He said these students were selected largely based on their potential.
"Poise, preparation and determination and the kinds of things that they have already done," said Lindbergh Porter, co-chair of the San Francisco Giants Foundation.
Rikki Norris is among the five scholars who made the cut out of 24 applicants.
Each student was presented with a personalized Giants jersey.
The 16-year-old said she volunteers with a nonprofit to serve the homeless.
"I don't just want to be the kid, the average kid. I want to be something better," Norris said she wants to be a mental health therapist, having lost loved ones to Covid and overcoming the challenges of remote learning and transitioning back to in-person classes as she started high school.
Me being a teen, I know for a fact first hand, we went through a lot. And it was hard to deal with," said Norris.
Willie Mays was not able to participate in the ceremony but event organizers said his spirit is seen through the scholars who are being inducted into the scholarship program in his name.
These students are moving forward and overcoming barriers with joy.
"As they climb, they pull along their brothers and sisters, siblings and other people in the community watching them," said Porter.
This is the second class of students to be named "Willie Mays Scholars." They join five others selected last year.
Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at Amber.Lee@Fox.com or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU, Instagram @AmberKTVU or Twitter @AmberKTVU