UC President Janet Napolitano launched an initiative Feb. 25 that aims to foster a close-knit relationship with the city of Oakland — her new home since taking office in late September — through helping local businesses and supporting Oakland public high school students.
Known as the UC Oakland Partnership, the new program is specifically aimed at UC Office of the President employees, a contrast to Napolitano’s previous initiatives — such as financial grants for undocumented individuals and postdoctoral fellows — which focused on separate UC student constituencies.
The UC Office of the President moved to downtown Oakland in 1998 and has since done a number of things with the city, including collaborating with the Oakland Museum for the Latino History Project. However, the UC Oakland Partnership’s type of community outreach will be a first, according to UC spokesperson Brooke Converse, as it is solely directed toward the Office of the President’s approximately 1,700 employees.
In the initiative, the Office of the President has partnered with Oakland Grown in a gift- and rewards-card program that partners with local businesses such as art galleries and restaurants. Whenever cardholders spend $5 or more on their Oakland Grown card, they earn “Oakshares,” points they can use for free purchases.
Oakland Grown has created a specialized card for UC Office of the President employees that not only gives them Oakshares but also raises scholarship funds for Oakland high school students. Every time an Office of the President employee replenishes his or her card, 5 percent of that amount is donated to the UC Office of the President Oakland Scholarship fund. Additionally, the Office of the President will match each individual employee donation to the fund.
According to a press statement, the Office of the President said it hopes this partnership with Oakland Grown will encourage employees to engage with the community in addition to participating in local events. Some local businesses partnered with Oakland Grown have said the program is beneficial for the area.
“By providing some Oakland Grown-specific incentives, the program does a good job of triggering people to think about the greater benefits of local commerce and the ways in which that can stimulate Oakland’s economy,” said Chinwe Okona, community liaison for Oaklandish, in an email.
The UC Oakland Scholarship fund will award at least two scholarships per year of an unspecified amount. The program does not provide scholarships for only one UC campus but will give scholarship money to seniors committed to any of the UC campuses.
“There is an (impression) in Oakland that students from other areas have more advantages and are more successful,” said Daniel Hurst, assistant principal at Oakland Technical High School. “(The initiative) creates hope for students and (shows) that the outside world values those in Oakland.”