Grantee Spotlight: Northern California College Promise Coalition

May 7, 2024 | Meredith (Mer) Curry Nuñez, Executive Director

We recently sat down with Meredith (Mer) Curry Nuñez, Executive Director of the Northern California College Promise Coalition (NCCPC), to learn more about their important work across the state and how they utilize the power of their wide network to make an impact for students. 

Since its inception in November 2019, the NCCPC has gained momentum as a cradle-to-career coalition organization – changing policies, systems, and practices to increase access to higher education and career opportunities for multiply marginalized and underserved (MMU) students throughout California. 

“The NCCPC formed because individual organizations and agencies are unable to create equitable systems and policies, postsecondary access and success, or workforce access earning and wealth acting alone,” Mer shared. “We verified this over a year-long evaluation process, resulting in a root cause analysis and our theory of change; that siloed and duplicated programs ultimately result in a lack of articulated pathways and confusion for those seeking support.

Now, working across 13-counties, the collective impact coalition has a broad regional footprint – bigger than some states across the country. “We have over 300 practitioners, representing over 60 dedicated member organizations who are able to serve 250,000 diverse K-12 and college students across 13 northern California counties from Sacramento to the Central Valley,” Mer said. “In reality, our work, because of its policy, partnerships, and practice, actually has the potential to support at least 1 million MMU students access higher education opportunities to launch them into economic mobility to thrive in college, career, and life.”

The CEO of College Promise and Advisory Council Member Dr. Martha Canto likes to say that “there is no other coalition like NCCPC in the country, let alone in California.” It is the only network that has every stakeholder at the table, from place-based programs tackling basic needs and college access to advocacy organizations that are advocating for equitable K-12, higher education, and workforce policies. 

We have the principals, the partners, and the projects that are really suited for the challenges,” Mer said. “One of our principles that is most important to me is elevating student voice, experience, and their agency to ensure they’re not just the beneficiaries of our work, but they’re also at the table with us.” 

In addition, NCCPC designs toolkits on various educational topics that they then bring and present at convenings to pilot regional solutions. “These toolkits matter because there is power in collating resources and sharing them widely,” Mer said. “At NCCPC, we never compete with our members – we harness the power of collective impact collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking so these students, teachers, financial aid counselors have a suite of resources they didn’t have before: a college financial literacy toolkit.” 

Mer credits Sobrato Philanthropies with helping NCCPC start and implement its Regional Emergency Micro-Grant Program. “Not only have we distributed $69,000 in emergency micro grants to 215 enrolled college students, but we’re also able to provide a support system to help students navigate through the college journey,” Mer said. “Whether they earn a micro grant or not, they still get access to our College Financial Literacy Toolkit, which addresses many financial and social aspects of college success and embodies our holistic approach to student support.” 

On July 17, 2024, NCCPC will host its first joint convening of elected officials and funders, something Mer shares wouldn’t be possible if it was one organization here or there asking funders like Sobrato for their time and support. “We're able to do this because we're a group with a real, shared vision and we can activate people around it,” Mer said. “We can achieve more together, and when we do many more can thrive.

For more information about NCCPC’s collaborative work to leverage policy and advocacy, coalition building, and narrative change that centers students, visit