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UCOP gives back: Staff talk about mentoring East Bay College Fund students

In early 2016, UCOP became a partner in Mayor Libby Schaaf’s Oakland Promise Initiative in conjunction with the East Bay College Fund (EBCF) and other organizations. Each EBCF scholar is a first-generation college student from a low-income family in Oakland. Each is awarded a four-year scholarship — $2,000 per semester for a total of $16,000. UCOP has awarded six $5,000 scholarships to EBCF scholars.

As part of our active partnership with Oakland Promise, UCOP employees have the opportunity to become EBCF mentors. Mentors help EBCF scholarship recipients receive the social and emotional support they need while transitioning to college and during their college careers. The amount of time required for volunteering is very reasonable: Mentors commit to at least one interaction per month with the student they are mentoring, either in-person or by phone, text, Google Hangout or Skype.

Two UCOP staff members recently talked to Link about their EBCF mentoring experiences in the hopes of inspiring their co-workers to choose this rewarding opportunity to help. If you find what they have to say intriguing, please consider attending the EBCF Summer BBQ on Saturday, July 23 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the MLK Shoreline Park on Edgewater Drive in Oakland. You’ll have a chance to meet other mentors and students and find out more about the program. (View event details and RSVP.)

In addition, an EBCF mentor retreat will be held on Saturday, Aug. 6 (time and location TBA). For more information about becoming an EBCF mentor, contact Jill Butler, director of Constituent Partnerships, and complete a volunteer interest form.


Veronica Cummings, senior events planner in the Business Resource Center, talks about why she’s an EBCF mentor:

I signed up to be a mentor because I can relate to the EBCF scholars. Like them, I come from a low-income household and was the first one to graduate from college. I will never forget how proud my parents were when I graduated from UC Davis. My father passed away from stomach cancer two months ago, and when we were cleaning out his belongings, we found so much UC Davis paraphernalia that I didn’t know he had been collecting. I suppose when first-generation college students graduate, degrees aren’t the only things that are earned; our parents earn lifelong bragging rights too!

When I was a student at UC Davis, I had a tremendously difficult time navigating from start to graduation. Because I did not have parental guidance about college, I relied on the benevolence of mentors I accumulated throughout my college experience. However, I still made a lot of mistakes. I became an EBCF mentor so that I could help a college student avoid the mistakes that I made, as well as to maximize his or her college experience and all of the opportunities that come with it. When I was a Program Administrator at UCDC, I helped hundreds of first-generation college students navigate through unfamiliar circumstances, and I loved the reward of seeing them blossom.

My mentee just graduated from Oakland High School and will be attending college out-of-state. We were paired together in May and have spent time with each other this summer to build as strong a foundation as possible, since we will not have the opportunity to meet up during the academic year. We will use text messaging and Google Hangout to check in and then spend time together when she comes home for breaks.

When we first met, I could sense that it was slightly awkward and uncomfortable for my mentee, so I had to keep our conversation basic. However, I can see my mentee loosening up and becoming more comfortable with me with each interaction. I took a picture of us recently and told her I can’t wait to look back at the picture in four years after she has graduated from college. The smile she gave me solidified my decision and commitment to being an EBCF mentor.


Jill Butler, director of Constituent Partnerships, on why she’s an EBCF mentor:

The EBCF has been a name in my household for years. My mother is a mentor and donor and encouraged me to look into the organization when I returned to Oakland earlier this year. I’m so happy I took her advice. The majority of EBCF scholars, including my mentee, have persevered through great adversity to graduate from high school and attend college. I decided to be a mentor so that I could help guide a college student through the growing pains all college students go through. My mentee is a first-generation college student and is a bit nervous about college. I hope to provide a listening ear, help her find the resources she needs to be successful and use my experiences to ensure her success in college and beyond. It is also my hope to create a life-long friendship with her and I’m happy to report that we are off to a good start. In the short time I’ve been in her life, she has told me numerous times how appreciative she is of my guidance and assistance. I appreciate her as well and I continue to be inspired by her work ethic, resilience and spirit despite the struggles she’s faced.

For anyone who is interested in being a mentor, go for it. Although it takes a little time to be a good mentor, it is time that is truly well-spent and provides a very direct and rewarding way to give back to the community and be a positive force in a young person’s life.

About EBCF:

Each East Bay College Fund (EBCF) scholar is awarded a four-year scholarship; $2,000 per semester for a total of $16,000.

Scholars are first-generation college students from low-income families in Oakland.

300 scholarships were awarded to the Class of 2016.

UCOP awarded six $5,000 scholarships to EBCF scholars through the Oakland Promise, which is encompassed within the UC Oakland Partnership Initiative.

Each EBCF scholar is paired with a mentor; EBCF mentors work with their scholars throughout their four-year college career.

Mentors are interviewed, go through orientation once selected, and attend other trainings and retreats.

EBCF organizes several events that help mentors and scholars get to know each other.



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  1. Tom Gold July 19, 2016 Reply

    I have been on the Board of EBCF since the beginning and have observed its growth and evolution. We follow an “it takes a village” approach of community involvement at all stages from selection of scholars to mentoring and donating. The challenges are great but with the support of Mayor Schaff, UCOP and many other organizations and individuals we can make continued progress in changing the lives of individuals and communities. A significant percentage of our scholars attend UCs.

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