Trying REAL HARD to Encourage Respect at Mack

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Photo by Janaya Andrews

By Janaya Andrews

A freshman curses out loud in front of a math teacher in the hallway. An athlete interrupts another student, saying “Just shut up.”

These incidents inspired a core of students participating in REAL HARD at McClymonds to hand out wrist bands last week and encourage students to speak up, listen and respect each other.

The sky blue wrist bands proclaimed  “Honor My Space” while forest green ones spelled out “Speak Up.” About 40 percent of students participated in activities centered around   learning to take turns expressing opinions and acting in positive ways toward one another.

“It’s a way to tell the world that you want to be heard, that you will stand up for what you believe,” said Randall Coleman, 16, a junior.

REAL HARD is an after-school leadership training program that meets twice a week for a two-hour session. In addition to the program at McClymonds, REAL HARD (run by Oakland Kids First) has programs at Oakland Tech,Oakland High, Street Academy, Fremont, Castlemont and Skyline. In the past, REAL HARD has tackled issues such as bullying and classroom etiquette. Participants are paid a stipend of $350. 

“We amplify the school culture and promote respect in how we treat one another,” says Krish de Leon, REAL HARD program coordinator, who leads the group at McClymonds. “We work with students and teachers to create an environment of learning and free expression.”

Shamorra Washington, 16, dangled her plastic wristband after admitting to sometimes getting emotional in her discussions with fellow students. “I know there is a way to be more respectful and I want to be heard and respected, too.”

Even students who did not participate in the REAL HARD action said they felt that promoting respect at McClymonds was worthwhile. “It’s a positive step,” said Deshawn Nelson, 16. “I like the idea of speaking my mind, being part of the community, being heard and yes, listening to others.”

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