For many of Oakland’s college-bound students, mentors play critical roles in their success. The East Bay College Fund in Oakland is seeking new mentors to assist 50 new scholars to make it through to graduation.

This past summer, a powerful three-part series, Even Odds, ran in the Chronicle about young African-American males in Oakland. The premise, and the basis of the headline, was that “Being male and black in Oakland means being about as likely to be killed as to graduate from high school ready for college.”

It was an important series, but also wearying for some working hard to change these odds to read through yet another set of grim statistics that reinforce negative stereotypes. Part one of the series told the parallel stories of two young men from Castlemont High School. One is murdered and one graduates, ready for college.

While that story ended on the page, the East Bay College Fund continues it. Thomas Logwood, the Castlemont student profiled in this piece started his first year of college at UC Santa Cruz with the help of a 4-year scholarship (now accepting applications) from the East Bay College Fund and the commitment of a mentor, Diedra Barber, to help support him through those four years with monthly check-ins.

For over a decade, the East Bay College Fund has been perfecting a model to help students facing long odds. Nationally, only 20% of students like those the East Bay College Fund supports end up graduating.

By contrast, an average of 80% of the East Bay College Fund’s students (low-income, first in their family to attend college, African-American, dreamers, and others) walk across the stage for their diploma.

Thomas Logwood, as well as 40 of his peers selected for their resilience and abilities, were matched with mentors this past spring. The East Bay College Fund is now looking for 50 new mentors this winter to help make a qualitative difference in a student’s life.

At a recent retreat, the East Bay College Fund helped students with life-skills training, arts, and leadership-building exercises to push students out of their comfort zones and into confidence, feeling that they are part of a community. There, Thomas and nearly 150 other East Bay College Fund scholars did a valuable check-in with their mentors.

So much work is done to help youth who are low-income, first-in-their-family, African-American, dreamers (undocumented) and others facing long odds get into college, but not enough is done to help them succeed to graduation.

For many of the students the East Bay College Fund supports, it isn’t just about the money. The money is a key factor, but it doesn’t get these youth through college. Mentoring, including on-campus peer mentoring, support, community, the feeling that we are all rooting for them, as well as acknowledging that they are beating the odds each day, helps them stay on a path to college graduation. A college education is still the single-best thing to improve the economic odds in this country.

Find out more about becoming a mentor by visiting the East Bay College Fund’s website. Come to a mentor open house or contact the East Bay College Fund. Show up for Oakland’s youth. It takes a minimal commitment: once a month contact with your student and two retreats a year.

Informational mentor open houses are coming up!

East Bay College Fund
Thursday, January 16, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
2201 Broadway Suite 208, Oakland

March 12 & April 10th 7 – 8:30 p.m. (Locations TBD)

For more information, please call:  (510) 836-8900

Granate Sosnoff is a communications consultant who works with nonprofits, including the East Bay College Fund.

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