HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION
FOUR-YEAR COLLEGE ACCEPTANCE and attendance
"Much if not all of my academic and life success developed through my participation with College Is Real. As a disoriented teenager entertained by the fast life, I was not interested in furthering my post-secondary education. However, College Is Real introduced an urge and the importance of completing college, and such support is responsible for my success at an elite university like University of California, Berkeley."
- Rodrigo Corona Flores
The goal of the program is to identify, motivate, educate and mentor the “college-aspirational” students at Richmond’s three public high schools in order to have as many students as possible apply to, attend, and graduate from four-year colleges. We want to change the lives of the students in the program so they can ultimately improve the lives of their families and change their communities.
It is important to the long-term success of the program that particular attention is paid to freshmen and sophomore students’ attendance and academic performance to get them on the right track and keep them there. There is a trend for many low-income students’ academic performance and commitment to diminish toward the end of their sophomore and into their junior years due to peer pressure to not achieve, economic pressures to work, boy-girl relationships and an attitudinal shift toward apathy. This is a common evolution with teenagers at many high schools, but is particularly pronounced in low-income areas. Long term success is achieved through holding students accountable, providing emotional and financial support, regular contact and communication, showing students someone cares about their success.
“CIR supports long-term success by showing you the path to strive and be successful at an institution of higher learning. In addition, it sets you up with opportunities to network with individuals with similar aspirations and a solid support system.”
– Fabian Martinez, San Jose, State University Class of 2017
Meet The Team
President & Founder
Brad Blake is the founder and president of College Is Real. He leads the board of directors and is responsible for the organization’s strategy, fund raising, financial management and overall organization.
In his business pursuits, Mr. Blake co-founded and is managing partner of Blake Griggs Properties, a private real estate development, investment and services company based in Danville, California. BGP develops and acquires residential, retail and mixed-use projects in California.
Prior to forming BGP, Mr. Blake was the founder and CEO of Blake Hunt Ventures, one of the leading retail developers in Northern California. Mr. Blake was also the former Chairman and CEO of Western Properties Trust, a publicly-traded REIT, and Senior Vice President of Spieker Properties. Prior to his real estate career he worked for IBM and McKinsey and Company.
Mr. Blake holds a B.A. from Stanford University (1980) and a M.B.A. from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business (1985).
Mr. Blake is on the board of directors of the Bailard REIT and a former board member of Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation.
Executive Director & Board member
In collaboration with our board, staff and our many volunteers, David is committed to increase the number of students we serve at Richmond public high schools and to identify opportunities to improve upon our already successful college readiness model through alliances with other organizations. David is also on the advisory board of Richmond Promise where he works closely with its executive director in building a college-graduating culture in Richmond. David manages CIR's fundraising process and leads our efforts to engage employee groups at Bay Area companies to support our mentor as well as tutor needs.
Since his retirement as a PricewaterhouseCoopers partner after a 32-year career, David has served on a number of charity boards, including the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation where he recently completed his second tenure as board chair. David has also served on public and private company boards, and was a Senior Director of the Wharton School's Institute of Executive Education. David has been a mentor to RHS students and a CIR board member since 2011.
A CPA (inactive), David is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School as well as its School of Law and received a Masters in Taxation from the New York University Graduate School of Law. David was an officer in the U.S. Army and a Vietnam veteran.
Senior Program Director
Angelica Arriaga serves as Senior Program Director of College Is Real, Inc. She provides direct services to the students to ensure that they become the first in their families to go to college. In her role, she acts as the students’ academic/college advisor and is committed to guiding them through the process of accessing educational opportunities.
Angelica was born in Lynwood, California and raised in Riverside, California. She is a graduate from the University of California, Berkeley with a double major in English and Chicano Studies and the first in her family to attend and graduate from a four year university. Education has always been one of her passions. Before College Is Real Angelica was involved with student issues in various capacities. Throughout her undergraduate career at Berkeley she was dedicated to demystifying higher education for high school students at Lionel Wilson Prep and Oakland Technical High School. Angelica plans to continue working towards increasing the number of minority students on university campuses. She hopes to continue making a difference in underrepresented communities and pursue a Masters degree in Education.
DIRECTOR, De Anza High
Damaris Franco was born in San Pablo, California, and has always resided in West Contra Costa County. She attended Richmond High and is an alumnus of the College Is Real program. She is a graduate of the University of California, Merced with a Bachelor of Science in Cognitive Science. Upon graduation Damaris worked for the West Contra Costa Unified School District as a graduate tutor at Kennedy High School. Currently the Director for College Is Real at De Anza High, Damaris is also the assistant girls’ soccer coach at Richmond High. Damaris plans to pursue a Masters in Education in the near future.
Director, kennedy High
Fabian Martinez serves as the Program Director for College Is Real at Kennedy High School. His goals as Program Director are to provide the academic and personal support for the students at Kennedy and to guide them through the path to pursue higher education. Fabian was born in San Pablo, California and raised in different neighborhoods in Richmond. He first got involved with CIR when he joined the program as a sophomore at Richmond High School. After graduating from Richmond High School in 2012, he attended San Jose State University and earned his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. Like many students who have been part of CIR, Fabian was the first person in his family to attend college and earn his degree. Upon graduation, he worked as a Health and Wellness Instructor at Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School (San Jose, CA). Now that he am back in his community of Richmond, he hopes to continue supporting, guiding, and mentoring every student that he works with the same way that those in the past helped him. He believes that education allows our students to provide a better life for themselves and their families, and can spark the change we want to see in our communities.
Brooke, born and raised in Marin County, holds a BA in Economics with an emphasis in policy from the University of California, Davis. Her professional interests are centered on increasing successful higher education attainment among disadvantaged backgrounds. In addition to providing direct service to high school students in Richmond with College Is Real, Brooke volunteers as a math instructor with the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison. In the future, Brooke plans to pursue graduate studies in public policy, with a focus on higher education and do research in the realm of educational equity.
Board of Directors
The founder and president of College Is Real. Brad is the Managing Partner of Blake Griggs Properties, a Bay Area-based real estate development and services company focused on multi-family, mixed-use and retail projects in California (www.bhvcp.com). He is a graduate of Stanford University and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
The founder of, and partner with, Milestone Holdings, a Danville, California-based commercial real estate investment and operating company. Greg is a graduate of Stanford University and the Yale School of Management. He has been involved with CIR as a board member and mentor since 2010.
Managing Director with UBS Private Wealth Management. Jim is a graduate of Santa Clara University. He has been involved with CIR as a board member and mentor since 2012. Jim has also been a Board Member and supporter of Santa Clara University's Jesuit School of Theology, The Taylor Family Foundation, and Contra Costa Crisis Center.
A retired partner with PwC, David is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Law School as well as the New York University Graduate School of Law. He has been involved with CIR as a board member and mentor since 2011 and serves as volunteer Executive Director.
Susan Lopera Overton
A partner and vice president with Merlone Geier Partners, a San Francisco-based commercial real estate investment, development and operating company. Susan has been involved with CIR since 2007 as a board member and mentor.
The co-founder of Meclub and Director of Foods Dio Deka Los Gatos. Nick is a graduate of USC and recent candidate for the California State Assembly. He also joined CIR board in 2018.
A partner in PwC's deals practice, Renton is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Denver (Economics) and Seattle University (Masters in Finance). Renton, who is the father of two college age boys, has been a mentor with CIR since 2016 and joined the board in 2017.
The founder of, and partner with, the TKW Law Firm in Walnut Creek, California, Bob is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley and the UC Hastings College of the Law. He has been involved with CIR since its inception as a board member and mentor.
Executive and General Manager at Salesforce. Pascal is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a BA & MA in Organizational Behavior. Pascal joined CIR as a board member and mentor in 2018.