University of California, Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks visited Richmond High School on Wednesday to speak with rising juniors and seniors about navigating the road to a four-year university.
This was Dirks’ first visit to a California high school since becoming chancellor of UCB on June 1. He told some 250 students and faculty present that he chose to start the “Achieve U.C. Readiness” tour at Richmond High in part because of Richmond’s close proximity to Berkeley, and additionally for its recent trend of sending students on to UCB for their college education.
“There’s a place for you at U.C.,” Chancellor Dirks told the students. “You have to work to get there, but it’s yours.”
With Richmond High’s large population of underrepresented minority groups, this increase in acceptance is a huge source of pride.
“It’s an acknowledgment of how far Richmond has come,” said Madeline Kronenberg, the West Contra Costa County School Board President. “We saw every student raise their hand about being ready to go, [being] eligible and excited about going into the UC system. That has not always been the case here at Richmond High.”
In 2012, 40 out of the 45 Oilers who applied got into Berkeley. Just two years ago, only 27 students applied. That year, 24 were accepted.
“It’s a testament to all the great work that’s been done here by the teachers and the administrators,” Kronenberg said.
After Dirks addressed the students, the directors of admissions and financial aid spoke about the application process and paying for school.
“The biggest thing I got out of today was to be brave. I’m having a heard time with handling [the process],” said Essence Johnson, a senior at Richmond High. “I was really worried about financial aid, but I’m a lot more confident now that I can afford college.”
According to the school’s accountability report card, 75-percent of the students at Richmond High are considered “socioeconomically disadvantaged.” Many students were relieved to hear how they might achieve a college education in spite of that disadvantage.
“What I learned is that it doesn’t really matter how much your parents make. It motivated me more because my parents don’t make a lot but I still have a chance to go to a university that I want to,” said junior Adrian Navarro.
Principal Julio Franco said that with the chancellor coming to visit, he hopes to see an increase in interest in the UC system.