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Local High School Students Examine Injustice in the U.S.

NEW ORLEANS DATA NEWS WEEKLY — High school scholars were given an opportunity to speak out against social justice and inequity at the Criminal Justice Symposium of Scholars.

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By Kotey Thomas

High school scholars were given an opportunity to speak out against social justice and inequity at the Criminal Justice Symposium of Scholars organized by the Bard Early College in New Orleans program on January 26, 2019, at Dillard University’s Professional School Building. The symposium also brought experts who work on social justice issues from various disciplines like environmental, criminal, and arts-based, to educate young people about these issues.

“I wanted to be able to organize something like this to give them the opportunity to not only engage with that bridge between an academic self and activist self, but also to reassert the significance of their own voices,” said Imani Sheppard, an assistant professor of medical humanities at Bard College in New York, and the coordinator of the event.

Sheppard said that seeing young people engage issues about social injustice, early on, inspires hope for a more equitable future. “I would hope that it reassures listeners that all is not lost, and that there is a potential for positive upward movement within the community starting with these students who often don’t have a voice,” she said.

The event’s speakers hoped that such forums, outside the classroom, can help future leaders see how social and political structures lead to forms of oppression.

“Policies that pass in our neighborhood are based upon those who govern,” said Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes, the keynote speaker, who is the director of strategic neighborhood development for the Claiborne Corridor Cultural Innovation District. She illustrated that those in power control how neighborhoods are developed around socio-economic status; putting those in lower class neighborhoods at a societal disadvantage.

“If you live in Gert town…Tulane, Gretna, Seventh Ward and Ninth Ward areas, chances are your neighborhoods have been decimated by the policy decisions of our leaders,” Ecclesiastes said. “You need lots more in order to have better outcomes in life because the cards have been stacked against you,” she added. “And I challenge you all to help us deal new hands.”

For many students coming from these neighborhoods, especially African-Americans ,the school-to-prison pipeline is institutionalized through urban school culture, said Tuere Burns, the executive director of BarNone. Her non-profit organization was founded to provide people affected by incarceration with opportunities for entrepreneurship and success. “If you have not been to any of the local schools here, go visit. And you’ll see. You’ll see tape on the floor, you’ll see the way the children are handled and not respected,” Burns said.

After working for 25 years in social justice campaigns around the prison industrial complex, Burns explained that the system profits off of inequality. “[It] makes a ton of money off of our people, poor people, and especially our boys,” Burns said.

Social justice advocates from the National Association of Multicultural Education examined how different groups in the community, both academic and faith-based, could intervene in forms of oppression, particularly when it comes to policing. Students said the experience opened their eyes to become more aware of how subtle injustices can be.

“You are not to be so blind with patriotism that you cannot face reality,” said Ron Triggs of International High School of New Orleans who was the first student of the Bard Early College in New Orleans program to present his research.

“Due to power dynamics, we refuse to challenge the systems,” Triggs said.

In identifying forms of systemic oppression, the students outlined in their presentations that this was the first step to breaking decades of inequality within the African American community.

“Getting out of a cycle of destruction often takes a lot of resources, and is even harder when your own education system is trying to destroy you,” Triggs added.

The organizers said they hope such critical learning, outside the classroom, would prepare high school students for facing the challenges of today, long after they graduate. “Deprogramming. I feel that is what we are working towards,” Sheppard said. “Deprogramming students from what they feel is normal and what they have accepted as normal,” she said.

This article originally appeared in the New Orleans Data News Weekly

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Commentary

Closing the Loss of Learning Reading Gap

The new community-based non-profit, Right Path to Learning, promotes early literacy in these first crucial years while there’s still a chance to make a difference. They set out to prove that children in under-performing and under-resourced schools can thrive with the right resources.

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The EnCompass Summer School Pilot proved to be a successful partnership between Right Path to Learning, Sylvan Learning, and the families and staff of EnCompass Academy.

By Conway Jones

Reading is the foundation of a good education and fundamental to success in life.

Can you imagine your life without reading? What if you couldn’t read well enough to follow directions, conduct your business, or even enjoy a good book?

Success starts early. Until 3rd grade, children are learning to read; after third grade, they’re reading to learn. Students who don’t achieve literacy by third grade fall behind and become bored, frustrated, and unlikely to graduate high school, much less go on to higher education.

The new community-based non-profit, Right Path to Learning, promotes early literacy in these first crucial years while there’s still a chance to make a difference. They set out to prove that children in under-performing and under-resourced schools can thrive with the right resources.

This summer, they did it. RPL hired Sylvan Learning to provide 15 children, 50 hours of support education to help them achieve literacy at EnCompass Academy in East Oakland.

Sylvan Learning tested the children at the beginning of the program: they were one year to over two years behind grade level in literacy. At the end of RPL’s five-week program, 93% of the students enrolled in the RPL pilot program at EnCompass completed it and the attendance rate was 86%, or an average of 43 hours completed in the 50-hour program.

Students advanced by almost 50% of a school year to grade level. Students grew on all three components of the Sylvan Outlook Survey, indicating a 25% increase in their engagement with school, improvement in their academic perseverance, and their confidence in reading.

All of the parents surveyed indicated that the program was beneficial, that it helped their child read better, their child enjoyed the program, and their confidence in reading improved.

As the parent of one of our students put it, “If you believe in it, you can do it!”

The EnCompass Summer School Pilot proved to be a successful partnership between Right Path to Learning, Sylvan Learning, and the families and staff of EnCompass Academy.

The school staff was thrilled with the overall academic improvements and is eager to partner again next spring. Based on the success last summer, Right Path to Learning will provide additional services to the Oakland Unified School District students in the advancement of its goal of ensuring that 2,000 under-resourced students reach literacy by the end of 3rd grade.

“Our children made substantial progress in confidence and in reading growth. Because of that, a student shared that she is now spending two hours at the library because she is able to read better,” said Minh-Tram Nguyen, principal at OUSD’s EnCompass Academy. “That’s a powerful testimony to the program’s success, and we are looking forward to continuing our relationship with Right Path to Learning,” she continued.

Right Path to Learning program will move from a Summer School program to an After School program starting January 2022.

In 10 years, these third graders will be 18-year-old adult members of our community, on their way to productive lives and life-long learning.

For more information, visit www.RightPathtoLearning.

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Black History

IN MEMORIAM: Referee Jim Burch Got the Final Whistle in The Game

Jim Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019). To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

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jim burch
Jim Burch

By Tamara Shiloh

Created in 1953, the Atlantic Coast Conference, an athletic conference headquartered in Greensboro, N.C., quickly rose to prominence. Within 13 years, the university and college teams in its membership had a number of victories to its credit. North Carolina State University won the first three championships, and the conference was getting heavy exposure outside of the region. Several ACC teams went to the Final Four of the NCAA’s basketball championships. In North Carolina, Duke University took four titles, Wake Forest University took two and University of North Carolina had one victory as did the University of Maryland.

Life inside the ACC could not have been better, except for one minor but not overlooked detail: there were no Black players or officials.

But Jim Burch (1926–2019), who began his officiating career with the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1959, would become the first, signing on with the ACC in 1969. His debut, however, was delayed for a season because “he reportedly refused to cut his hair and sideburns.”

A Raleigh, N.C., native raised in Larchmont, N.Y., Burch was a 1949 graduate of North Carolina’s Fayetteville State University. There he was a two-sport athlete – football and baseball – having large dreams.

Burch “talked about sitting in the ‘colored’ section of Reynolds Coliseum watching games, telling his friends that he was going to be on that court someday,” ACC referee Jamie Luckie told ESPN in 2019 referring to the sports complex in Raleigh, N.C. “They said he was crazy, and sure enough, he was on that court one day.”

Burch never made a big deal out of the historic mark, although many would benefit from his humility. He would train and mentor hundreds of officials over the years. In fact, it was Burch who gave Luckie his start in refereeing.

Throughout his 60-year career, Burch officiated in the CIAA, ACC, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and Southern Conference. He also worked 14 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournaments and was an educator and administrator within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District.

Working as an educator made Burch “an unbelievable teacher of the game in terms of what he wanted us to do on the floor, how he wanted us to deal with coaches, how he wanted us to communicate, and just his delivery and style was one where he could get it across to you, but he was a teacher. That never stopped,” Luckie said.

Burch continued to make monumental achievements as well as give back.

Many of those he trained moved into CIAA, ACC, Southern Conference, and NCAA championship careers. He was twice featured in the NCAA Champions Magazine, served on numerous civic boards, and was the first African American to serve on the Charlotte Housing Authority board.

Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019).

To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

Before retiring in 2018, he served as the head coordinator of officials for the South Atlantic Conference and the CIAA.

Burch died at his home in North Carolina in 2019 at the age of 91.

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Bay Area

Skyline High Girls Volleyball Team Makes History

The team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match.

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The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team
The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team.

As the season comes to a close for the Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team, the members are celebrating that they went farther than any Skyline or OUSD/OAL volleyball team ever has. On the final day, November 19, the team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match. Skyline fell short 3 games to 1, coming in as runner-up. The photo above shows the team posing with their trophy after the match.

 

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