Tag Archives: leadership

McClymonds students lobby and present bills in Sacramento with YMCA Youth and Government

Youth and Government may still be predominantly white but McClymonds and other chapters such as Crenshaw, San Francisco and East LA are hoping to make an impact

By Janaya Andrews

For 16-year-old Khristan Antoine, a senior at McClymonds, it was a taste of what it might be to change the world.

“I learned not to give up when something’s hard and to put up with some judging and prejudice,” she said.

After five days of writing bills, lobbying and debating issues in Sacramento, students from McClymonds said that their five-day experience with YMCA Youth and Government was worthwhile and challenging.

The delegation from McClymonds, led by YMCA’s Erika Walker, has grown from six students to 18 students, the most ever, including 10 sophomores and four freshmen.

The bills they wrote, lobbied for and debated included a proposal to set a minimum age for marriage at 16, to hold gun buybacks twice a year and to require all drivers — not just teens — to have six hours of training behind the wheel and  go through a period of time on a permit.

Antoine said that she joined this program because her leadership teacher Relonda McGhee said it would be a great idea if she  joined Y&G.

The only criticism that McClymonds students expressed centered on the long sessions and strict dress codes (several students bought new “business” clothes).

Despite the restrictions,  students said they bonded with others and learned how to argue and compromise. Daijahnae Labat, 14, a freshman, said that she just  wanted to  try  new  things.

“I liked the team building,” said Dazhane Labat, 15, another freshman. “We learned about how goverment works and all its practices.”


“It Stops With Me” youths march from Mack to DeFremery for rally against violence

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Photos by macksmack staff

by Selena Williams

For Charlisse Coleman, it was an emotional moment. As the McClymonds junior took the stage slowly in DeFremery Park, she talked for the first time publicly about how her best friend was shot just as he was coming over to celebrate her 17th birthday.

“He was an innocent person and never did nothing to nobody,” said Coleman. The trauma of losing him — and the cycle of community violence that led to it –inspired Coleman to join Alternatives in Action’s YOLO, Youth Organizing & Leadership Opportunities, and to help organize a youth march from McClymonds High School to the park.

She and about 30 other students from West Oakland wore orange (for personal power) and blue (for truth)  T-shirts and carried signs that said, “Hug A Thug” “Is Taking A Life Worth It?” and “Stop the Dysfunction.” Some students chanted “YOLO” and others responded, “You know.” They marched along with school board member Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, city council candidate Lynette McElhaney, parents and community members. Several hundred people had gathered at the park for the “Life is Living” festival.

The leadership program began during the summer as an internship program in West Oakland. “Our campaign will help bring our community together to make a better place for the youth,” said Coleman. “We can’t do this by ourselves.”

Another speaker, Dominic Albert, who attended McClymonds, was the master of ceremony and did turf dancing. He told the crowd to “stop the negative cycles” of drugs, violence and dysfunctional households. “We want to erase [them] from our community,” he said.

The rally launched a week of activities for the “It Stops With Me” campaign, including a dinner with community leaders, a candlelight vigil for family members lost to violence and an election forum.

“It stops with me and soon it will stop with us,” chanted Coleman.

Mack Family (and Friends) Celebrate Opening of Youth and Family Center

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photos by macksmack staff

by macksmack staff

It was a family celebration, Mack style.

All Oakland (and West Oakland) came together Thursday to celebrate the opening of the McClymonds Youth and Family Center, with its health center, computer lab, dance studio, multi-media lab and gathering areas.

(((more to come from student reporters)))

The Story Behind the New Mack T-Shirt: In the West, We READ

By macksmack staff
It was a bonding experience for black males at McClymonds — with an opportunity to read and be read to.
“It was inspirational,” said Shaquille Jackson, sophomore at Mack.

School administrators invited 40 professional African American men to conduct an inspirational assembly on Nov. 4 for McClymonds boys to talk about the lack of literacy among the African American community especially among males as part of the school’s campaign “In The West We Read.”  A similar program for girls will be held Jan. 7.

“An unacceptable amount of black men are behind in reading by the second grade,” said Franklin Hysten, director of Alternatives in Action.

Among the panel of professionals were Principal Kevin Taylor and Chris Chatmon-OUSD’s executive officer of African-American Male Achievement.  125 black males attended the event.

The exclusive black male event was the brainchild of Principal Taylor, who earlier this year emphasized reading and writing across the curriculum.

The assembly separated the audience into two groups and read the motivational book by Spencer Johnson “Who Moved My Cheese?”

“It’s especially important to have men read to younger men because most don’t have a memory or experience of someone reading to them,” said Hysten.

“I liked that they took their time out to come and read to us,” said Jackson.

The event focused on boys first because of the lack of Black male role models who are involved in the education of youth.

“African American boys are behind girls in maturity and academics,” commented Hysten.

Next month, McClymonds plans to conduct a girl version – in the west we read for girls.

The Greening of West Oakland

photo by Quailyn Scott, Skyline High School

photo by Quailyn Scott, Skyline High School

By Stephen Vance

Greening West Oakland. Less cement, more parks and even ponds stocked with fish. More foot traffic and public transportation. And most of all, mixed income housing and retail. Those elements were part of a blueprint for West Oakland that 13 Oakland students created during their summer internship at The Rose Foundation.
“This was the first time students from McClymonds, Mandela, Oakland Tech, Oakland High, Street Academy and Skyline came up with their own vision of a healthy, sustainable community,” said Jill Ratner, president of The Rose Foundation.
“After all their work identifying the sources of pollution in the neighborhood and testimony about diesel fumes, they were able to present a truly beautiful blueprint for what they really want in their community,” Ratner added.
The blueprint was developed in response to Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) – a planning process, which will guide use planning for the next 25 years. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions per person as required by California law SB 375 (SB 375 was adopted by the CA legislature in 2008 and aims to reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions  to 1990 levels by 2020 — and by 80 percent by 2050).
Two local agencies — Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Association of Bay Area Governments — are preparing  workshops in January, and will  release a scenario  for public comment in March or April.
The summer project also coincided with a pilot project by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean lead pollution at several West Oakland locations. For the first time, the EPA used a less invasive and less costly technology that uses fish bones to chemically bond with the lead, making it harmless to people.
The idea was to go beyond identifying toxic elements, health issues like asthma, and pollutants, which students at McClymonds tackled as part of the school’s Law & Government Academy’s focus on environmental justice. McClymonds students, who testified before the EPA and state and local boards, won an award for their community service last year.
“The summer was devoted to making West Oakland sustainable and empowering the voice of the youth,” said Ratner.
“Working on sustainability taught me to rethink urban planning and how that affects the community, ” said  Taneka O’Guin , a senior at Oakland Tech.

 In order to create a blueprint, students visited the self-reliant house at Merritt College and heard from a number of experts on sustainability and environmental technology. One of the speakers, Dr. Paloma Pazel emphasized the “six wins” necessary to make a sustainable community: better health; end of gentrification and displacement; affordable housing; reliable transportation; economic opportunity and community activism.
Over the summer, students learned how to make informed, responsible, and healthy decisions when it comes to the vision of sustainability in their community. They put their dreams and vision to work.

Turning 48% into 99% — raising the percentage of public school students who graduate in Oakland

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REAL HARD retreat — bonding before tackling the dropout problem and (second photo) “Watch My Back” at Mack”]

By Eric Gant

A survey on how fights and bullying affect learning. Positive stickers that say “Watch my back.” And painting  “48%” on the faces of students (because only 48 percent graduate high school in Oakland). These were some of the “actions” that 14 students took this week after a two-day Real Hard retreat sponsored by Oakland Kids First.
“Students recognize that their community is going downhill and want immediate change and improvement, “ said Angelique Villasana, a junior at McClymonds. “They’re willing to take action.”

The activities grew out of the retreat for students from rival high schools, Oakland Tech and McClymonds, who focused on the controversial question: what stops a high school student from learning in Oakland? Peers, teachers, or the environment?

The goal was to write, through classroom exercises, and enforce a code of conduct that would improve interaction between students and teachers  and stop students from dropping out.

Fourteen students — five from McClymonds, the rest from rival Oakland Tech — attended the two-day leadership retreat. Real Hard is an after-school leadership training program that meets twice a week for two hour each session. Participating students receive a stipend of $350 a semester.
It was not the first time that the students tackled issues like bullying, teachers’ indifference and violence. However, this time students concentrated on relationships between teacher and student as well as among students.
Students also gathered more information than before. The survey at Oakland Tech, for instance, revealed that 54 percent of students feel that fights and bullying in school — whether they are personally involved in them or not — affect their learning and academic success.
At McClymonds, students proudly paraded their “We Got Your Back” stickers in psychedelic green, yellow and  orange. “It was a day of creating a culture of community,” said Stephen Vance, a senior at Mack and president of Oakland citywide high schools’ student government.

Four students will speak at graduation: now who’s the keynote?

Above: Denzale Johnson, valedictorian. Below: Darryanne Vance (left) speaking at EPA hearing

The class valedictorian, Denzale Johnson, and three other seniors — macksmack editor Pamela Tapia, and basketball players Miriam Neal and Darryanne Vance, will speak  at graduation on Thursday June 16. The theme will be  “Facing Challenges and Embracing Opportunities.”

It is unclear who the keynote speaker will be.

Mack didn’t live up to its “bad” image, says Rob Jackson


by Pamela Tapia

Before Rob Jackson came to McClymonds as a youth coordinator for Kids First, he believed the stereotype he heard at Skyline High School: that kids in West Oakland were academically weak, challenging and hard to reach.

Instead, he found them as open as kids anywhere. And as challenging.

“I was mostly impressed by the resiliency of kids here,” says Jackson,  age, who finished his second year teaching leadership skills to a dozen of the most at risk students at the school  as part of the after-school program — REAL HARD, Representing Educated Active Leaders Having A Righteous Dream.

“Most adults don’t think of youth leadership as a goal,” says Jackson. “I start by teaching students to be accountable to themselves and by providing structure, but then I go farther. I  show them that they can work to change their environment and have an impact.”

Born and raised in Oakland, Jackson graduated from Skyline High School. He graduated San Francisco State with a BA in liberal arts. He was thinking of obtaining a teaching credentials but balked because of the restrictions he felt that teachers faced. Instead, he joined Kids First.

“The major challenge is to confront negativity, to have students believe they can make a difference,” says Jackson.

Mack was the second high school in Oakland to offer REAL HARD, a program that meets for two hours twice a week, which pays students about $150-200 per semester. Now every high school in Oakland offers it.

As part of REAL HARD, students  run programs for other students at the school, that focus on changing the school environment into the better place and to promote respect each other.

Bonita Tindle, a senior who was involved in REAL HARD last year, remembers the creativity behind some of the program’s school-wide campaigns. For instance, REAL HARD students gave other students blue tape to wear over their mouths during school day to prevent students from “dissing” each other.

Last year, students started offering pizza to the entire school every Thursday. On another occasion,  REAL HARD students passed out “respect my —-” and the students who received them would fill in the blank with words like “culture” “identity” “intelligence.”  “Some students were original,” says Tindle. “They filled in the blank with ‘weave’ or ‘bootie.'”

Cara Johnson: from teacher to after-school coordinator to Stanford

photo by Sarai Cornejo

by Pamela Tapia

Cara Johnson sports a brand new black and orange feather braided into her hair — the school colors for McClymonds. But she won’t be back at Mack next year.

“This was very difficult, every step of the way. I felt guilty. I was questioning if it was the right move, but it’s happening,” said Johnson, 27, who will be at Stanford next year, pursuing a masters in education. She plans to focus on non-profit administration.

From Missouri, she  graduated from Washington University at St. Louis with a degree in English, and minor in studio art. She moved to Oakland, two months before accepting a job at EXCEL, a small school which is now McClymonds.

After teaching English at EXCEL for three years (note: she flunked this reporter in sophomore English), she decided  to try something new.  She stepped in as Mack’s community programs director for Alternatives in Action. It was the right decision: she enjoyed engaging students, acting more like a coach, guide and cheerleader in helping them develop leadership skills.

Her greatest challenge, as a 5-foot tall educator,was breaking up a fight between two 200-pound, 6-foot tall sophomores. “It was absurd,” she recalls, “but I had to try.”

Students enjoyed her creativity, enthusiasm, energy and of course, her sense of style as evidenced by by the feather in her hair. Her legacy, she says, was to bring Google docs and gmail to Mack. Her boss — Franklin Hysten — will fill in while they search for a replacement.

“It’s terrible that she won’t be able to be with us next year,” said senior Bonita Tindle. “The school will miss her.”

“The hardest part about this transition is how much I will miss the students ,” said Johnson.