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Rise Up: District, Rising Scholars Team to Send More Students of Color to College

Without access, opportunity, and connections, Jonathan Brown probably wouldn't be at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

But thanks to the Rising Scholars program, Brown -- a 2016 De Anza High School graduate -- is entering his sophomore year at the midwestern university.

And Sunday, Brown returned to the West Contra Costa Unified School District to not only recruit for his current college, but to motivate and provide guidance for the next class of Rising Scholars.

Brown was one of more than 20 college representatives at El Cerrito High School last week to recruit students, especially students of color, to their campuses at the Rising Scholars Help a Brother Go 2 College event.

"The Rising Scholars provided so much access to colleges through tours and information," Brown said. "We had counselors that would pull us out of class and make sure we were on track and filling out the right forms and applications."

For the past three years, the Rising Scholars program has helped send students of color from the District to colleges across the country from the University of Santa Barbara to UW-Milwaukee and others. Rising Scholars is an in school program that provides college assistance to male students of color through counseling, financial aid, scholarships, and college tours throughout the country.

The program is part of the Young Scholars Organization founded by Jacqueline Rushing, who has helped over 1,200 students go to college since 1999. Rushing started the program while working in the San Francisco Unified School District and has since expanded it to other districts in the East Bay.

Thomas Scott, who works in the District’s Human Resources department, has helped to keep the vision of Jacqueline Rushing alive here in WCCUSD since 2010. Scott serves as the liaison for the Young Scholars Programs for WCCUSD and is been the coordinator for the in-school, Rising Scholars aspect in the District which started during the 2015-2016 school year.

"This program is about access and opportunity," Scott said. "Our students get exposed to so many different colleges and are provide with information and assistance to help them make their college dreams come true."

On Sunday, more than 40 students from the program spent time talking with college representatives from the University of LaVerne to Texas Prairie View A&M to Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Auna Harris, a parent coordinator for the Rising Scholars program, and her son Joshua Harris, a senior at Hercules and student in the program, were on hand to check out all the colleges.

"The program is about access for our students of color," said Auna Harris.

Joshua agreed, saying that the college tours really gave him a chance to experience college.

"The connections made in the program are invaluable," Joshua Harris said. "When we visit a college, we are connected to professors, people in admission, and students."

Joshua Harris wasn't the only one to talk about the access the program provides.

Pinole Valley High School seniors Alejandro Toscano and Jorge Garcia both said the Rising Scholars has provided them with information about financial aid, scholarships and college applications. In addition, the duo said the college tours helped open up more college possibilities for them.

"It really helped broaden my perspective about college," said Garcia. "I am now considering schools that I may not have been had it not been for the program."

Garcia said he is considering Cal Poly, UCLA, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Oregon.

The Rising Scholars program is run in partnership with the District and is currently seeking men of color to volunteer as mentors for the students. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Thomas Scott at or 510-231-1182.