KCBS recently featured Blue Shield of California's mentorship program with Oakland Promise. The report featured Blue Shield's Vanessa Ogbu's work with Tillena Sylva, who was seeking advice about her future.
Three years ago, her job at Blue Shield of California allowed her the opportunity to sign up for the Oakland Promise, a nonprofit that provides students with support and mentorship. She met then-17 year old Tillena Sylva who needed college advice from someone other than her parents.
"My family didn't go to college," Sylva said. "I was the first generation college student, so I felt like I needed that guidance."
Ogbu was there to listen and build trust, instead of teach from her experience.
"Over time, I tried not to give my perspective and what I went through, but rather listen to what's important to her and then help her address decisions from multiple angles," she said.
That kind of support should be available to all young people entering college, especially those from low-income homes and families that don't have experience with higher education, said Oakland Promise President Michael McAfee.
"The struggles are kids being able to enter school ready to learn, kids having a stable and secure home to live in. Think about the housing crisis in Oakland. It's really hard to learn when your parents keep getting evicted," he said.