Saturday, November 7, 2015

Last Day of Conference

I want to thank the American Baptist Home Mission Societies for honoring our LABC Social Justice Committee with a Palmer Grant and providing a conference that has lived up to its name, Space for Grace.

Reverend Allison Tanner and I were afforded the opportunity to share the work, progress and hope we have for our Aspire and Achieve Program, both at our display at Innovators Hall, and in many individual and group conversations throughout the week. We were also impressed and humbled by all the wonderful, important work being done by all the other Palmer Grant recipients. There were programs all the way from Fairbanks, Alaska to Puerto Rico.  The conversations were frank and honest. We were all energized by the drive and dedication of the many program leaders, sharing our joys and frustrations, love and hope. And the underlying theme among was indeed Space for Grace; allowing, understanding and embracing the transformative space in each step along the way.

There were many workshop options every day. I would walk around and find one with a title that interested me and I would walk in, but there was one I entered because the title surprised me: Grace is Growth Downward. Downward? Grace is a gift from God – on High. Downward?

The workshop began with a quote from Arthur Pink, which starts out, “Grace is the forming of a lower estimate of ourselves…” Oh. I really hadn’t thought about when grace happens, only that it does. I can see though that grace can happen when we Let Go and Let God. In fact, I think that letting go and letting God is grace. Grace gives us the ability to remember that our job is not to rescue; our job is to love. This allows God to do his/her work through our love.

While we were at the conference, our math tutor, Max Shapiro, made his first visit to Oakland Tech. There were some problems to overcome to make this happen, and we had little to do with this success. We provided the opportunity and phone numbers, and the 100 Black Men Organization and Max worked it out so that he could be there. Letting Go and Letting God.

Thank you, ABHMS, and thank you, Lord, for your love, leadership… and grace

Friday, November 6, 2015

Aspire and Achieve Tutors at Oakland Tech

Tom Demerath began tutoring English last week and this Thursday, 11-5-2015, Max Shapiro began tutoring with both Aspire and Achieve Students and students of 100 Black Men. We look to begin a working relationship with 100 Black Men. They have a wonderful mentoring program and it is a solid organization. By pooling our resources we become a stronger voice for African American Males at Oakland Tech and continued progress in Social Justice.

We also plan to work with the Black Student Union and helping with scholarships for some of the students who are looking for funds to attend the Southern Black College Tour during spring break of 2016.

Space for Grace : Recognizing the transformative space in each step of Aspire and Achieve

A post from Reverend Allison Tanner:

The "Space for Grace" conference is serving as a great reminder that all change takes time, and grace, to develop. Aspire and Achieve is making slow but steady progress in our goal to lower the achievement gap - one school at a time. I've been reminded today that our work is necessary, yet to accomplish our vision, we need to give ourselves grace to learn and grow along the way to working for change. It has also been very encouraging to see all the other slow but steady efforts to create a more just society - giving me encouragement to keep on keeping on. While our progress may be slow, we are not alone in our work. We have so many more partners than we ever knew - who are working beside us and alongside us to slowly and steadily create a different reality for so many.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

preparing for 1st day (thought I already posted this)

Thanks to Ralph Hoffschildt for this wonderful display

Cameron Wilson helped improved our handout. We are grateful for her time and talent

Reverend Allison Tanner making copies of handout

1st day of conference





This is Karen. She was a Minister in Training when I was at First Baptist Berkeley




Had a fun time at Innovators Hall. Met people from all over the country and Puerto Rico.

Then went to International Ballroom to hear Reverend Susan Sparks. Lots of music, introductions by members of American Baptist Home Mission Societies and singing. Reverend Sparks was a great start of the conference and a great end for the day. (there was still music and performance back at Innovators Hall, but I was too tired)



Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Magnificent Seven



Saturday morning, October 24,  7 out of the 18 students signed up for the Cal State Hayward Tour showed up and what a treat they had in store!

We were greeted by Arnab Mukherjea, Dr.P.H., M.P.H.
Assistant Professor of Health Science
Emphasis in Public and Community Health

as well as 12 of his students who were going to take the students on a tour for extra credit and to gather health information from the students.  Two of our students were escorted by two students and the other six students each had two students to themselves to show them around Cal State. Our students were told they could go visit anywhere and ask any questions they wanted. So they all ventured around the campus. 

So a funny thing happened to me at this moment. I realized that all the time I have spent in the classroom on Thursdays had taken social justice from an abstract to my being personally invested in these kids. I realized this because I have never been a parent and watching those students leave gave me my first experience of parental separation anxiety. I wanted to go with them and see what they chose to see and listen to the questions they asked! But… you’ve go to let them go. 

I had a very friendly and stimulating conversation with Professor Mukherjea and a volunteer name Jorge. Later all the students returned from their tour to the classroom. Professor Mukherjea gave an incisive talk on Health that really centered on Public and Community Health and Social Justice in terms of Community Health. We should have him speak at our church. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Chess in the Classroom

Mr Hancock and students play chess as an exercise in critical thinking, strategic thinking, and sportsmanship. It was great to see the bonding as good players helped those who had never played chess. Students really liked the game and some made plans to continue playing after school. One student looked up with joy and said, "I'm getting better at this game!"

New Semester 

Oakland Technical High School begins classes next week and Aspire and Achieve looks forward to playing a major role in the lives of our Students. New class room and now a third class added to African American Manhood Development Class.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Aspire and Achieve rocks AAMA Night at Oakland Tech!

On Thursday September 3rd, Aspire and Achieve was at Oakland Technical High School with parents, students and administrators as the new school year kicked off.  Mr. Lamar Hancock’s class, African-American Male Achievement, is a unique program which is at the heart of Aspire and Achieve’s success.  Thursday was a night for the parents of the incoming freshman as well as other parents of students who are enrolled in the class to be introduced to AAMA, Lamar, the Program Director Jahi Torman, as well as resources like Aspire and Achieve.

The evening began with Lamar, the AAMA teacher, welcoming the students and their parents in the library at Oakland Tech.  The tables were filled and ears were open.  It was wonderful to hear the story of how AAMA has evolved into what it is today.  Lamar described Aspire and Achieve in such a positive way and even highlighted last school year’s visits to local colleges and universities.  Then Jesus Portillo and I were given the opportunity to present Aspire and Achieve.  Jesus did a wonderful job of detailing what we have done in the past and are planning to do in the future.  For me, this was a great chance to see Lamar and Jesus working together by opening doors for those who need them the most.  Our materials featuring Aspire and Achieve folders as well as flashy Holy Names University packets were handed out.  Students and parents got them and some signed up.  Success!

Later, after Lamar had the time to go into greater detail about his AAMA classes for both the freshman and sophomores with regards to the curriculum and requirements, Jesus invited Malik Diamond from the local non-profit Hip-Hop for Change to present.  Mr. Diamond, who is a hip-hop artist, activist and teacher who brings workshops into classrooms described Hip-Hop for Change in a passionate way that engaged the whole audience.  He posed a very interesting question about today’s blockbuster biopic Straight Outta Compton.  Aspire and Achieve is planning to schedule multiple workshops with Hip-Hop for Change during the 2015-16 school year.

Before the evening ended, we were all blessed to hear from two very important people from AAMA.  First was the father of a senior that had taken Lamar’s class.  The proud dad was eager to share with new parents who might be skeptical and encourage them to have faith in Lamar and the course.  Next, his son took the floor and shared his success story.  This was the best part of the evening because parents and more importantly the young men themselves (Kings as Lamar consistently calls them) could hear a real testimonial about what they are starting or continuing.  Most of the Kings there on Thursday were freshman, and when they heard the true tale about almost being expelled as a ninth grader, to choosing four year colleges and universities due to a GPA near 4, their eyes opened.  The young man who had been a skeptic and sat in the same position as so many of the freshman and sophomores gave both priceless social and academic advice.  And that advice was heard and understood.

Thanks to Mr. Lamar Hancock, Jesus Portillo, Malik Diamond, and Oakland Tech for a great night that will clear the path for more progress and success coming soon to a community near you!

Tom Demerath

Aspire and Achieve member since 2013

Monday, April 20, 2015

Meeting with African American Regional Education Alliances

Greetings from Jesus,

Thanks to workshop attended by Aspire and Achieve member, Cameron, she and I met with Monique August, Executive Director of The African-American Regional Education Alliances (AAREA) on Thursday, April 16. 

A few statistics from their overview:

  • Among those who graduate, only 15% of African American students have completed the courses required for admission to California’s four-year colleges and universities. (State of Blacks in Higher Education in California, Campaign for College Opportunity, December 2013).
  • Only 30% of Alameda County African American graduates meet A-G course requirements, compared to 39% for Latino, 58% for Caucasian, and 73% for Asian graduates (California Department of Education, 2013).
The most feasible part of having some form of collaboration is with their Regional Parent Network. However, to join the RPN the student must be a member of their S.T.E.P.S. program. This membership requirement is one we need to look into for Aspire and Achieve, both for S.T.E.P.S. and for ourselves. 

Their mission statement: “AAREA’s mission is to develop collaborative educational services and professional development opportunities that result in improved academic proficiency and college readiness of African American Students.”

We also need to figure out where we best fit among the Alphabet Groups in the Education Field and which ones are best to partner with in a mutually beneficial way.

AAREA will host the 11th Annual African American Student Achievement & Excellence Awards on Saturday, April 25 at Chabot College. This celebration recognizes outstanding African American youth in Alameda County for academic excellence, academic potential and success, cultural leadership and civic involvement, and visual/graphics and performing arts.

Also, mark your calendar for Super Saturday, September 26, Lake Merritt, Lakeside Park - fun run and Back-to-School Rally. 

Connect with AAREA:

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Aspire and Achieve Santa Clara University Tour

On February 12, eleven of our students were fortunate enough to attend our tour of Holy Names University. Through word of mouth along with a visit from Professor Aldo Billingslea, Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion at Santa Clara University, 26 students went on our Aspire and Achieve Tour of Santa Clara University!

Santa Clara University has a beautiful campus and a very welcoming staff. Professor Billingslea arranged for our group to have box lunches outside. There were tables and chairs under the shade of a beautiful tree. Professor Billingslea welcomed us and presented three speakers from various aspects of the University. Each spoke about Santa Clara University, Education and college life. They were all encouraging, engaging and challenging. They answered the many questions and we were grateful that they all took time out to speak with us.

Afterwards we went to the Admissions Center and saw a video on Santa Clara University. Afterwards, Mr Williams spoke about Education, Admissions and and the value of a college education, no matter what college. He was inspiring and encouraging.

After the video and talk, we went on a brief tour of the campus. We thanked everyone for their hospitality and welcome. It was heartening to hear some of the students talk about going to Santa Clara versus going to Holy Names or other colleges.

We returned to Oakland Technical High School grateful that we had the opportunity to offer the tour for our Aspire and Achieve students, and look forward to the workshops and events still to come.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Aspire and Achieve at Holy Names University

Under the title of "Aspire and Achieve" members of Lakeshore, led by Jesus Portillo, have been working hard to connect the resources of Holy Names University with the students, particularly the African-American male students, of Oakland Tech.
On February 12 Oakland Tech students went on a tour of Holy Names University. This tour, which 12 students and two sponsors participated in, was the first big event sponsored by Aspire and Achieve.
The participating students were very appreciative saying it was enjoyable, helpful and inspirational.
Check out great photos from Jesus P. below:

Group photo with Oakland Tech students, Mr. Hancock (center rear, or fourth from right rear) and HNU President William Hynes (left front).

Thanks to Jesus Portillo, Paige Bence, and Pastor Jim for driving for this event!
 The next college tour will a trip to Santa Clara University, Thursday, March 12, 2015.