Giants launch Willie Mays Scholars program on his 90th birthday to help Black students earn degrees

The San Francisco Giants and Willie Mays are helping Black youth acquire an opportunity Mays said he regrets missing.

The Giants and their non-profit, the Giants Community Fund, announced the Willie Mays Scholars, a college prep and scholarship program for Black youth in San Francisco. The launch coincides with the baseball Hall of Famer's 90th birthday on Thursday.

“I have always made kids my priority by helping them in any way I could throughout my playing career and life,” Mays said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “To have the Giants Community Fund and the Giants ownership group create this program in my name and to provide a path to college for Black children in our community means the world to me.

“I can’t wait to meet the first class of Willie Mays Scholars to offer my encouragement and support.”

The scholars program begins in fall of 2021 with five new ninth-graders inducted annually. They will receive a scholarship of up to $20,000 funded mostly by Giants ownership. The full value is closer to $70,000 with the rest for academic mentoring and tutoring support in both high school and college.

The needs-based scholarship is for students in San Francisco. Educational non-profits Alive & Free and 100% College Prep will be hands-on in the schooling aspect.

“It’s the perfect coming together,” Giants CEO Larry Baer said, via the Chronicle, “a way to pay tribute to Willie, his legacy and his life. Willie always loved kids, and this is a perfect way to embody how he feels about the youth and a perfect way for our organization to create positive change in our community.”

Lindbergh Porter Jr., vice chair of the Giants community fund, added kids will be able to identify with Mays' success story coming from a humble background.

"It's part of what kids can identify with and say, 'He did it, I can do it, too," Porter said, via the Chronicle.

The program will help counteract the racial inequity in higher education around San Francisco. Only 31 percent of the Black population aged over 25 has a bachelor's degree, the team said, while 74 percent of the white population in the city has one. The scholarship helps provide additional, targeted opportunities for Black students to work toward a degree that they might have had otherwise.

Those with bachelor degrees are more likely to benefit from more job opportunities, higher salaries, better chances at continued employment and various economic benefits that include employer-provided retirement plans and health insurance.

The program also includes certain promises. They include career planning and opportunities in the Giants front office and college tours to local and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). There will also be annual financial planning to help students avoid major debt and family meetings.

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