Harris, Oakland leaders announce $50 million initiative to invest in kids, end poverty

Vice President Kamala Harris joined Oakland leaders Friday to announce the Oakland Generation Fund, which aims to provide financial support to low-income children and end generational poverty.

The initiative aims to direct $50 million to existing financial support programs for children and students pursuing higher education in the city.

“We all know — in communities across our country — deep inequality holds many of our children back from the promise of equal opportunity,” said Vice President Kamala Harris. “Disparities that have existed and persisted for generations and disparities that 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 through a partnership with the local school district. The initiative is expected to help 30,000 students and babies.

“It’s not a promise or a goal or a promise — you hear politicians make that all the time. That $50 million is in the bank,” Schaaf said.

Led by the mayor, the fund will expand programs that exist through Oakland Promise, an organization Schaaf founded in 2016 that supports high school graduates.

The foundation will expand both the Brilliant Babies program and the Oakland Promise scholarship program to ensure that every eligible child and student receives one for one full generation. Both programs will be available to children across the city from 2026 to 2035.

“As mayor, I received many, many letters from the children and students of Oakland. Here is my letter to you today. We—your community—have great faith in your talent, your courage, and your success,” Schaaf said. “You are all our brilliant children and you are all the promise of Auckland.”

The fund will expand the program, which provides $1,000 a year to every low-income public school student who plans to attend a postsecondary education that includes a four-year college, two-year college and vocational school.

The initiative will also help fund the Brilliant Baby Program, which puts $500 into a college savings account for every child born to a low-income family in Oakland. Children born to Medi-Cal-eligible parents will be eligible to receive this money, which will be invested in stock and bond funds.

“Thousands of children in this city will receive an integral egg from birth, and as they grow, so will this investment,” Harris said. “When they turn 18, it will help them as an initial contribution to their education and to their future, which by the way is our future.”

Harris was introduced to the scene by Stella, a young woman who is also an Oakland native. Before congratulating Harris, Stella said she too hopes to go to college when she grows up and declared the power of “Auckland girl power”.

“We have to continue this work because young leaders like Stella are counting on us, and soon we will be counting 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 “profound impact” the funds will have not only on her, but on every high school student in the city.

“This shows us that no low-income family should have to struggle financially about whether their children should go to college,” she said.

Tiffany Rose Naputi Laxado, a mother of three, also took the stage with her two daughters to introduce the founding families of the Brilliant Baby program. Laxado signed up for the first Unity Council program back in 2017, worried that her family wouldn’t survive financially in Oakland.

Today, she’s back at Unity Council as director of the Department of Economic Development, working with community members to “end the racial wealth gap and disinvestment in our communities.”

“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the investment 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 taught us that we deserve a decent life,” Laxado said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced a similar state program called CalKIDS, which will open college savings accounts to all low-income public school students in the state. It is the largest program of its kind and will benefit students to the tune of $3.4 million.

Because the Generation Fund is separate from the CalKIDS program, Oakland students will be eligible for both programs.

“In the process of maximizing our shared future, it will also help our country, by example, do what we need to do to close the wealth gap in our country, the education gap in our country, and the opportunity gap that still exists in too many communities,” Harris said.

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