Left to right:James Gray, Sr., Principal of BEST College Prep High School (Business Entrepreneurial School of Technology) with students: Derricka Grundy, Jamelia Little, Megaen Curl, Quaneda Morris; ( Rear, left to right) : Jourdan Williams-Hoskin, Ronald Mills, Jermilia McLane, BEST Scholarship Director, Marsha Rhynes.
By Brenda McCuistion
There was standing room only as Oakland youth were acknowledged for participating in Advanced Placement (AP) classes. AP classes are college courses that provide college credit. A student that begins taking AP courses in their freshman year at high school could potentially receive their high school diploma and start college as a sophomore.
Walter Robinson, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at U.C. Berkeley was the key note speaker. His speech and presence at this event uplifted students, parents, teachers, educational community, and community supporters.
None of those who attended will forget Mr. Robinson sharing of a quote from Dr. Wade Nobles about the definition of POWER as being “the ability to define reality and have other people believe it is their reality”.
Mr. Robinson shared his personal story and encouraged African American students to take ownership of their education, realize that they are more than their life circumstances, and to continue to set their expectations high. (“I am often asked if it’s better to take an AP class and get a “B” or a regular college prep class and get an “A”. I tell them, it’s better to take an AP class and get an “A”).
The event was exceptionally well attended with standing room only and Oakland students came forward to the microphone to speak, each proudly accepting the challenge of academic rigor, personal leadership, and to embrace a future that includes college with the resolve to become lifelong learners.
Derrika Grundy said, “AP courses have helped to push me to attain my goals.” She also sees AP classes pushing her into college.
Ronald Mills explained, “I’m in AP classes to better myself”
Danea Murphy, a 10th grader stated “AP classes are heck a hard but I’m determined to better myself”. Danea wants to pursue a career as an Investigator.
Another student was inspired to take AP classes by her sister who graduated at the top of her class.
Lavonda Haynes is also dedicated to her education. One day she approached the principal with a complaint that her calculus teacher had been missing too many classes. She and other class members worked together with the principal to resolve this issue.
A partnership was developed involving the Oakland Unified School District’s College Readiness Office directed by Brian McKibben and the College Board with Lynn Haines Dodd to form The African American AP Student Initiative.
The Initiative is a testament to the commitment of Oakland schools to promote, enhance, and sustain a college-going culture for African American students.
Other districts in the initiative are Dayton, Chicago, Austin, Massachusetts, and DeKalb County.
The Oakland partnership has utilized focus groups with students, forums at U.C. Berkeley to honor those involved, pictures of African American students taking AP classes posted at school sites and tutoring for students who need additional support.