Girls in the West: Education Matters

by Angelique Villasana


It was an all-female event, but nothing like “Bad Girls’ Club” or Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

The focus was on literacy: reading, reading and more reading.

About 90 percent of the girls at McClymonds High School took part in the event. The three-hour event at McClymonds high school, dubbed “In The West We Read,” brought Mack alumnae back to the school to explain the importance of reading and education to current students.

In the fall, the boys participated in a similar program. The girls’ program was similar — with alumnae reading and talking about how hard it was to read when they got to college because they did not take reading at school seriously.

La’cole Martin, who graduated from McClymonds ten years ago, said that she had a hard time reading the material given to her every night and had to constantly use a dictionary to look up the “big words.” Her professors assigned her 100+ pages every night for homework and she spent hours on reading alone.

The girls were then split up into different groups and paired with an alumna and a place in the school to sit down and read with each other. Every alumna read the same book to their students, “Who moved the Cheese” then asked questions about the reading. The book dealt with changes in your life and mentors discussed changes with the students and shared their college experiences. They also talked about moving from high school into the real world, being responsible for their actions and taking control without someone there to guide them.

Later, they bonded over lunch while listening to music. The girls in the program picked up the importance of reading and taking school seriously. “More people need to read books or get together to study,” says Whitney Layne, a 12th grader.

One of the reasons for the program is the sharp hike in the drop-out rate. The female drop-out rate is 31.3 percent , which is not far below the 38.2 percent drop out rate for boys.


2 responses to “Girls in the West: Education Matters

  1. Relonda McGhee, MSW

    Principal Taylor began the In The West We Read campaign to address the literacy issues faced by African American students in West Oakland, particularly McClymonds students. While many students will not admit it, many of their issues in the classroom are a result of not comprehending the materials they are given. For myself, an Alumnae who loved reading as a kid growing up in West Oakland, it was important to my success in college. My parents taught me the importance of reading and I spent many hours at the West Oakland Library. In undergad and graduate school, my past reading experience made my college experience a great one. I was able to comprehend the reading assignments I was given. I 100% support Principal Taylor with this effort. It’s an old saying that still applies today, “Reading is Fundamental” and instilling the importance of reading to our students who many have never experienced a parent or adult read to them is powerful. The event recruits professional African American men and women to serve as Mentors(Readers). Mentors ranged from prominent Attorneys, City Officials, representatives from state level offices, School Board Reps, other professionals and McClymonds Alumni. There will be a co-Ed event held on April 27, 2012….this event will use another book instead in Who Moved My Cheese.

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