Out of every 100 students who start ninth grade in Oakland, only 15 will complete a post-secondary education degree within five years of graduation. The Mayor’s Office believes that to ensure more Oaklanders have a path to postsecondary education, barriers such as cost and cumbersome application processes must be addressed. To help with these challenges, FUSE Executive Fellow Patrice Berry trained and educated counselors, advisors, students, and families on key resources that support preparing and applying for postsecondary school and financial aid. Patrice also played a pivotal role in the development of a policy that enables schools and districts to apply for an extension for the state financial aid application during moments of crisis or emergency. During the pandemic, this policy has helped schools and districts impacted by COVID-19 apply for extensions and other support to ensure that students are not penalized for circumstances beyond their control.

To improve communications among counselors, students, and families, Patrice helped establish a text-messaging platform for direct communications and created three guides detailing how to prepare for postsecondary education. She also held training workshops for counselors and advisors, making it easier for them to guide students and families. To address inequity in access to wifi and technology, she helped Oakland launch its multi-million dollar digital divide initiative, serving as senior project manager and designing systems and protocols for tracking key milestones and benchmarks. During the pandemic, Patrice also published a COVID-19 resource guide for college students and built a jumpstart recovery tool that connects residents to public benefits and other resources. Her innovations will help empower Oakland’s young adults, giving them access to the resources they need to prepare for life after high school.