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New Foundation Helps Oakland School Children as Schools Deal with Budget Cuts

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“If we want any hope in transforming our largest inner cities, we have to start early.  It’s all about literacy and the right kind of literacy,” said Todd J. Courtney, the founder of the Max Rhymes Foundation.  “Given the lack of civility and the evaporation of our social manners towards one another, it’s time to push the pendulum back the other way.”

In the last year and half, the foundation has published six inspirational, rhyming books which include “Get Inspired with Max”  and “Max & Molly Learn Their Manners and Daydream with Max & Molly,.

The Courtneys were moved to write their book series after doing research on brain development.

“Due to early brainwave changes, science has proven the learning stage between ages 0-7 is one of the most important of our lives. Max Rhymes takes advantage of this learning period by teaching core values, creating a positive belief system, increasing reading retention and creating higher self-esteem, all through the power of rhymes,” said Courtney.

For example, in “Max & Molly Learn their Manners,” readers will discover the old tradition of addressing adults:

“When I address someone older,

like a neighbor or family friend,

I begin with Mr. & Mrs.

and put their last name at the end.”

The Max Rhymes Foundation not only provides books for the classroom, as well as an 85 page Teacher Resource Guide to compliment the series, they also provide a full set of books for each student to take home as their own. The set includes an 85 page parent activity book, a monthly fun activity book, and free access to the newly developed Max Rhymes “Edutaining Games” to help with spelling, math and eye-hand coordination both in English and in Spanish.

“If we’re going to commit to our children, all our children, then we have to create a saturation of literacy tools. Our politicians either can’t or won’t fix this problem, so we will. It is said the children are our future. If that’s true, can constant budget cuts really be the answer?” said Courtney.

Oakland schools that have recently adopted the program include La Escuelita, Sequoia, Laurel, Reach Academy, Fruitvale, Garfield, Markham, Allendale, Piedmont, Parker, Lincoln, Rise, Grass Valley, Bridges Academy at Melrose, St. Anthony School, St. Elizabeth School, Martin Luther King Jr, ERES Academy, Carl Munck,  & New Highland elementary schools.

To learn more, go to www.MaxRhymesFoundation.org

To reach the Foundation, email Todd@MaxRhymes.com

To read about the science behind the rhymes, go to www.MaxRhymes.com

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Black History

13-Year-Old Girl Becomes Youngest Person Accepted into Medical School

Thirteen-year-old Alena Analeigh Wicker received an early acceptance to the University of Alabama, Birmingham’s Heersink School of Medicine under its Burroughs Wellcome Scholars Early Assurance Program. The program partners with Black schools in Alabama to offer students early acceptance as they plan to enter medical school.

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Alena Analeigh Wicker. Girls United photo.
Alena Analeigh Wicker. Girls United photo.

From Black Doctor.org

Getting into medical school is no small feat, but imagine doing it at just 13 years old. While most 13-year-olds are heading to high school, Alena Analeigh Wicker has made history by becoming the youngest Black person – and the youngest person ever – to get accepted into medical school.

“Today I’m just grateful. I graduated high school last year at 12 years old and here I am one year later I’ve been accepted into Med School at 13,” Wicker wrote on Instagram last week. “Statistics would have said I never would have made it. A little Black girl adopted from Fontana, California. I’ve worked so hard to reach my goals and live my dreams.”

She received an early acceptance to the University of Alabama, Birmingham’s Heersink School of Medicine under its Burroughs Wellcome Scholars Early Assurance Program. The program partners with Black schools in Alabama to offer students early acceptance as they plan to enter medical school.

Wicker, who is currently a junior at Arizona State, has always been ahead of her time.

After graduating high school, she was able to complete more than half of her undergraduate requirements at Arizona State University (ASU) and Oakwood University in just one year.

Wicker grew up loving to build things and previously had dreams of building robots for NASA. However, after a trip to Jordan with The Brown STEM Girl foundation, she fell in love with biology and realized that wasn’t the route she wanted to go.

“It actually took one class in engineering, for me to say this is kind of not where I wanted to go,” she told 12 News.” I think viral immunology really came from my passion for volunteering and going out there engaging with the world.”

Her goal?

“What I want from healthcare is to really show these underrepresented communities that we can help, that we can find cures for these viruses,” she added.

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Activism

Oakland’s Girls Inc Takes Senior Summer Participants on College Tours

During this year’s Senior Summer, the Girls Inc., at 516 16th St., took their participants on four college tours: On two consecutive Fridays — July 8 and July 15– the girls went to California State University, Sacramento; California State University, Monterey Bay; University of California, Davis; and UC Santa Cruz. The tours were led by two Girls Inc employees, Gabi Reyes-Acosta and Judy Cordova.

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College Access Now (CAN) is among many free programs offered to girls ages 8 to 18. CAN has three parts: CAN Junior, Senior Summer, and CAN Senior. (Pictured: Daisha Williams)
College Access Now (CAN) is among many free programs offered to girls ages 8 to 18. CAN has three parts: CAN Junior, Senior Summer, and CAN Senior. (Pictured: Daisha Williams)

By Daisha Williams

Girls Inc., a national nonprofit with a branch in downtown Oakland, hosted Bay Area girls in a program to help them navigate crucial parts of their lives such as the college admissions process.

College Access Now (CAN) is among many free programs offered to girls ages 8 to 18. CAN has three parts: CAN Junior, Senior Summer, and CAN Senior.

During this year’s Senior Summer, the Girls Inc., at 516 16th St., took their participants on four college tours: On two consecutive Fridays — July 8 and July 15 — the girls went to California State University, Sacramento; California State University, Monterey Bay; University of California, Davis; and UC Santa Cruz. The tours were led by two Girls Inc employees, Gabi Reyes-Acosta and Judy Cordova.

The girls in the program are primarily people of color who come from low-income households.

Program participant Victoria Pascual said that she would not have had access to these tours if Girls Inc. hadn’t provided them. She also said that her family might not have had the money to take her on these tours. “It would’ve been a lot harder to find the time for myself to go to these places… I would’ve been needing to do other things like my internship or taking care of my family.”

Further, the girls can see their future selves in the Girls Inc. employees.

Judy Corvoda, the CAN program leader, revealed a bit about her background, which is similar to the backgrounds of many girls in the program.

“Being a first-generation Latina, eighth-grader, school was definitely not buzzing in my mind yet,” Cordova said. “It was with Head Royce I got the opportunity to go on a field trip where we learned about college as well as met admission employees from universities all over the United States.

“That is where I learned of UC Merced,” which she went on to graduate from. “This was the only way I got college tours when I was young since coming from an immigrant family, it is hard to find resources. That is why I am so thankful for HeadsUp (a Head Royce equivalent program to CAN) to have given me that opportunity and thankful to Girls Inc for letting me shine light on college as well as giving resources to students without limits!”

Next week: What it 3as like on the tours.

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Activism

City Council Calls for Investigation of Merger of Mills College with Northeastern University

Claudia L. Mercado, Mills alumnae and advisor of the Save Mills College Coalition, said, “This historic women’s college and Hispanic-serving Institution was intended to serve women’s education for generations to come, not traded on the open market for pennies. 

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Speaking in front of Oakland City Hall at a press conference to save Mills College on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, were: Claudia Mercado, Mills Alumnae; Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao; Brandon Harami, Sheng Thao's council aide; Kieran Turan, vice president of Save Mills Coalition; and Kimberly Jones, Kaplan's chief of staff. Photo by Ken Epstein.
Speaking in front of Oakland City Hall at a press conference to save Mills College on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, were: Claudia Mercado, Mills Alumnae; Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao; Brandon Harami, Sheng Thao's council aide; Kieran Turan, vice president of Save Mills Coalition; and Kimberly Jones, Kaplan's chief of staff. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland City Council this week unanimously passed a resolution celebrating Mills College as the oldest women’s undergraduate college in the West and called for an investigation of the decision of Mills’ board and administration to merge the institution with Northeastern University – saying that the merger was “sudden and had very little transparency.”

At a press conference on City Hall steps, hosted by Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Mills’ alums and members of the Save Mills Coalition vowed to continue to continue pushing for an investigation of the deal even though it was finalized on June 30.

Said Kieran Turan, vice president of Save Mills College Coalition, “It’s deeply troubling how little oversight there is in California for non-profit small colleges, even those with the historic importance of Mills. (This council resolution) will help us take this issue up to the state and federal level. Mills College deserves justice. Women’s colleges are particularly at risk.”

Claudia L. Mercado, Mills alumnae and advisor of the Save Mills College Coalition, said, “This historic women’s college and Hispanic-serving Institution was intended to serve women’s education for generations to come, not traded on the open market for pennies.

“We must hold the Mills administration leadership accountable who were responsible for actively undermining a viable California higher-ed ecosystem and safe space for women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students. Bad higher-ed leaders should not be allowed to fail forward and monetize on the hardships of students and community members.”

In her remarks, Thao said, “As a Mills Alum, I was deeply troubled when the university declared it was closing after 170 years of service. With women and the LGBTQ+ community under attack across the country, it is incredibly important that institutions like Mills be preserved.”

“This merger was sudden, confusing, and done with very little transparency,” she continued. “Many faculty members (including tenured faculty) lost their jobs while students from around the world suddenly found out the programs they were in were cut. This process has been incredibly disruptive to the lives of thousands of people.”

In a prepared statement, Kaplan said, “Without warning or attempt to work with the student body, alumni groups or any other stakeholders, in March 2021, the Mills College Board and administration announced that the school was going to close because of financial hardship? All of a sudden? Without warning?”

She pointed out that Mills has “always been on the cutting edge of women’s rights (and) equality,” the first women’s college to offer a computer science major and the first women’s college to openly accept transgender students. Famous alumni include filmmaker Sofia Coppola, the late actress Olivia de Haviland and Oakland’s member of Congress Barbara Lee, she said.

Kaplan called for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education and the California Bureau of Private and Post-Secondary Education.

“From the beginning, students and alumni have asked questions that haven’t been adequately answered. But the process continued, and the merger with Northeastern was proposed. Still, student and alumni questions were not answered.”

“But an independent investigation will bring everything into the light,” Kaplan said.

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