Peralta Foundation hires new director
Romeo Garcia brings a lifetime of experience in Oakland education
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 00:02
The Peralta Colleges Foundation recently received a surprise grant of $250,000 through the San Francisco Foundation, from an anonymous donor. Under new interim executive director Romeo Garcia, the grant—to be used for general support, or the costs of running the foundation—will help to further develop the work of the foundation.
Currently the main focus of the foundation is providing scholarships for students and grants for faculty. The foundation, an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit auxiliary to the Peralta Community College District, collects donations for scholarships and grants from the philanthropic community, and administers them to students and faculty of the Peralta Community College District.
The Peralta Colleges Foundation distributed more than 140 scholarships totaling $85,000 in 2010–11. Faculty members can also apply for $700–$1000 grants to enhance the classroom experience.
Garcia would like the foundation to also offer a wider range of support services to a broader segment of students.
“It takes more than money for students to be successful,” Garcia said.
“We want to develop innovative programs to support the district. We need social and emotional programs with a broader range of support,” he said. “We can support students by arranging internships and mentoring. For example, Laney has TRiO and Merritt has the Puente Project, but they are aimed at certain segments. The goal is to be a clearing house for scholarships and direction to help students.”
The foundation’s goal is to increase the number of scholarships available every year. Students can go to the website to see available scholarships and how to apply (http://web.peralta.edu/foundation/scholarship-and-grants/). “We need more outreach to students so they know what’s available,” Garcia said. “We don’t want funds that are allocated to go unused, which has happened in the past.”
Garcia also wants to focus on strengthening relationships with the business community. “There is a gap between the [Peralta Community Colleges] district and the business community. When we work directly with the business community to arrange the training they need, we will already have a business relationship established,” Garcia said.
“We don’t want local businesses to have to go outside our region for a skilled, educated workforce. Internships and mentoring from these businesses will bridge the gap.”
Garcia, who is currently a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership at Mills College in Oakland, immigrated to Oakland from the Philippines when he was four and grew up in the Oakland public school system.
“School was a place I’d rather be than anywhere. Teachers liked me and gave me opportunities, and I took advantage of those opportunities,” Garcia said. Some of these were through the public housing at 65th and East 14th Street, where his family lived.
“There were more opportunities in the 60s, like cooking classes, trips, and camps. They gave kids positive alternatives. Providing positive alternatives is what they need, or else they go with what’s in front of them. There’s a lack of positive alternatives now.”
“Romeo grew up in Oakland and personally knows nearly every educational program offered in the K-12 system,” said Michael Mills, a member of the Peralta Colleges Foundation Board of Directors. “He’s been a 5th grade teacher, an Upward Bound director, a charter school co-founder, and an assistant to the president of Mills College.
“His entire professional life has been wrapped up in education and nearly all of it in Oakland. Now he is the director of our four-college foundation and he can continue to immerse himself in the lives of our students and their positive impact on our six-city communities,” Mills said.
“Romeo is exactly what we had in mind when we hired him. He knows that this Foundation is all about relationships and he is quite skillful at establishing and maintaining this essential commodity. While walking with Romeo, either across one of our campuses or in the community, it is unusual that he doesn’t come across someone he knows,” Mills said.
As executive director, Garcia’s responsibilities are wide-ranging, from networking with stakeholders, the chancellor, trustees, students, faculty and staff, and business and faith communities. The Peralta Colleges Foundation puts on three fund-raising events a year—the 10th annual Golf Tournament is next—to not only raise funds but encourage networking between the Peralta community and the local business community.
“Donor relations are a critical part of the foundation,” Garcia said. “Their time is also valuable. Donors can be mentors—helping students with advice on how to be successful.” His hope is that alumni of the Peralta Community Colleges will remember the opportunities they had as students. “Don’t forget that once you graduate, you now have an opportunity to give back,” Garcia said.