Vice President Kamala Harris joined with Oakland leaders Friday to announce the establishment of the Oakland Generation Fund, which aims to provide financial support to low-income children and help end generational poverty.
The initiative is set to funnel $50 million to existing programs that financially support children and students pursuing higher education in the city.
"We all know — in communities across our nation — deep disparities hold back so many of our children from that promise of equal opportunity," Vice President Kamala Harris said. "Disparities that have existed and persisted for generations and disparities that the leaders here in Oakland are fighting to address."
Mayor Libby Schaaf raised the funds with the help of hundreds of local and regional donors as well as partnerships with the local school district. The initiative is expected to help 30,000 students and babies.
"This is not a promise, a goal, a pledge — you hear politicians make those all the time. These $50 million are raised and in the bank," Schaaf said.
Spearheaded by the mayor, the fund will expand programs that exist under the Oakland Promise, an organization launched in 2016 by Schaaf that supports high school graduates.
The fund will expand both the Brilliant Baby program and the Oakland Promise scholarship program to ensure that every eligible child and student will receive them for one full generation. Both programs will be available to children citywide starting in 2026 and continuing until 2035.
"As the mayor, I have received many, many letters from Oakland children and students. Well today, here is my letter to you. We — your community — believe in your talent, your grit, and your success so much," Schaaf said. "You are all our brilliant babies, and you are all Oakland's promise."
The fund will expand a program that grants $1,000 a year to every low-income public school student who plans to attend secondary education, which includes four-year college, two-year college and trade school.
This initiative will also help fund the Brilliant Baby program, which deposits $500 into college savings account for every baby born into a low-income family in Oakland. Babies born to Medi-Cal-eligible parents will be eligible for this money, which will be invested in stock and bond funds.
"From birth, thousands of children in this city will be given a nest egg, and as they grow, so will that investment," Harris said. "When they turn 18, this will help them as a down payment on their education and on their future, which, by the way, is our future."
Harris was introduced to the stage by Stella, a young girl who is also an Oakland native. Before welcoming Harris, Stella said that she too hopes to attend college when she grows up and declared the strength of "Oakland girl power."
"It remains up to us to continue this work because young leaders like Stella are counting on us, and soon, we will count on them," Harris said.
The event also welcomed community members like Natalie Gallegos, a senior at Oakland High School. She praised the Oakland Promise Scholarship for the "deep impact" that the funds will have on not only her but every other high school student in the city.
"This is showing us that no low-income family should have to struggle financially on whether or not their kids should go to college," she said.
Tiffany Rose Naputi Lacsado, a mother of three, also joined the stage with her two daughters to represent the founding families of the Brilliant Baby program. Lacsado enrolled in the Unity Council's early headstart program back in 2017, worried that her family would not financially survive in Oakland.
Today, she has returned to the Unity Council as the director of the Department of Economic Development, working with community members to "end the racial wealth gap and disinvestment in our communities."
"I would not be here today if it weren't for the investments that you all have made in me and my family. The greatest gift that the Oakland Promise and many other programs have given me is that they instilled in us that we deserved to live a life of dignity," Lacsado said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced a similar state-funded program called CalKIDS, which will open up college savings accounts for all low-income public school students in the state. This is the largest program of its kind and will benefit $3.4 million students.
Because the Generation Fund is separate from the CalKIDS program, Oakland students will be eligible for both.
"In the process of maximizing our collective future, this will also help our nation, by example, to do what we must do to close the wealth gap in our country, the education gap in our country, and the opportunity gap that still exists in far too many communities," Harris said.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.