HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION
FOUR-YEAR COLLEGE ACCEPTANCE
FOUR-YEAR COLLEGE 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 High and De Anza High 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.
The focus on college opportunities, materials and exposure will intensify once the CIR students start their junior years. If the students can maintain close to 100% attendance and solid academic performance through their junior years the odds of them attending college increase exponentially.
Once the college-eligible students become seniors, which in any one year may be 60 or more students per campus, individual attention from mentors and access to outside resources will increase and in some cases may become one-to-one mentoring and special “senior sessions” will be held during the fall. Qualified, special guidance and resources will be provided for college testing preparation, awareness of the appropriate college opportunities, the college application process, applying for scholarships, and college tours.
“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 is currently board chairman. David has 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 at varying 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.
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 Assistant Program Director for College Is Real at Richmond High School and De Anza High, Damaris is also the assistant coach for the girls’ soccer team. Damaris plans to pursue a Masters in Education in the near future.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The co-founder of Meclub and Director of Foods Dio Deka Los Gatos. Nick is a graduate of USC and former candidate for the California State Assembly. He is the newest board member of CIR.
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.
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.