Antoine Valentino Jr. (left) and Lawrence Luckett.
By Post Staff
A growing partnership among Fisk University, the West Contra Costa Unified School District and the For Richmond coalition is already yielding opportunities for several students at De Anza High School to visit Fisk in Nashville, Tennessee and in a few cases, to receive scholarships to attend the school.
Three De Anza students took advantage of an invitation to visit the historically Black College last week to see first-hand what life away at college might look like, thanks to a trip co-sponsored by the school district and For Richmond, a new, Richmond-based community-service organization.
For Lawrence Luckett, an 18-year-old De Anza High School senior, musician and hip hop dancer, the trip helped him realize that he could fulfill his dream of earning a music degree and that he could receive a scholarship to help pay for his studies.
“I’ve always wanted to study music and somehow work in the music business. This is my chance,” said Luckett, who struggled at school until about two years ago, when he started applying himself with the hope of earning a degree so that he could one day “take care of my family.”
Fisk, West Contra Costa Unified and For Richmond have invested significantly into their partnership to increase college access for high school seniors, particularly from underrepresented communities.
In addition to sponsoring two previous tours of historically Black southern colleges earlier this year, the For Richmond coalition helped facilitate the Fisk partnership by coordinating meetings and, most recently, co-sponsoring the college visit.
For Richmond staff have also helped students navigate the confusing maze of admissions and financial aid.
Luckett was not originally slated to receive a scholarship to attend Fisk, but because of the advocacy of For Richmond staff and the initiative Luckett showed by visiting the campus, Fisk created an opportunity for the young man.
De Anza Principal Robert Evans, who has worked hard to cultivate a college-going culture at his school, called both the district’s partnership and the help of For Richmond “phenomenal.”
“There is no way we could do this without the help of the district and For Richmond,” Evans said. “For Richmond has been amazing because this organization has a passion for the kids, and they will do whatever it takes to support our kids and make sure they can achieve.”
WCCUSD Board President Madeline Kronenberg, who also chairs For Richmond’s education committee, initiated the partnership, meeting the Fisk admissions director and flying to Nashville twice to discuss opportunities to collaborate on increasing college access for West Contra Costa County students.
She has long fought to increase college admission for Richmond students and co-founded a district program, the Ivy League Connection (www.IvyLeagueConnection.blogspot.com), with fellow school board member Charles Ramsey to promote a college-going culture within WCCUSD.
“I am proud of these students, and I look forward to having them come back from Nashville and share their experiences with the other students in the district,” she said.
Fisk has already committed to giving $50,000 in scholarships to De Anza students next year, and the school district and For Richmond are working to create similar college pipelines with other historically Black colleges.
De Anza senior Antoine Valentino Jr., 18, said Fisk was the first university to accept him – a tremendous relief as it confirmed that a four-year degree could be part of his future.
“I was very emotional that day,” he said.
Valentino said the college visit helped tremendously because, although he has mixed feelings about leaving his family behind in California, he realized what a supportive environment and great people would be there for him.
“It felt like a home away from home,” he said.