I want to reflect on my brush with royalty last week. As others contemplated a much-publicized union in the British Empire, I was privileged to spend time in the company of our Linked Learning leaders and partners in Oakland and Alameda County, who are nurturing the growth of young African-American Kings and Queens on a daily basis. And, most importantly, I got to spend extended time with one of those young people – Amin Robinson, a Linked Learning graduating senior from Oakland High School’s Visual Arts Magnet Pathway – and watch him reign as he met with members of the U.S Senate and House of Representatives and the US Department of Education and told his story.
Hosted and planned by the Alliance for Excellent Education, we were all part of a delegation of educators, employers and community-based partners who traveled to Washington, DC to share with federal policymakers how Linked Learning is working in California communities. The message carried so ably by all – Kyla Johnson-Trammel, Superintendent of Oakland Unified School District, Dr. Jowel C. Laguerre, Chancellor of Peralta Community College District, Dr. Jocelyn Freeman Garrick, Executive Director Alameda County Health Partnership and L. Karen Monroe, Superintendent of Alameda County Office of Education – was that Linked Learning works because it is a systemic and comprehensive approach, rich in public-private partnership and dedicated to achieving equitable access and opportunities. The message was welcomed by all and heard loud and clear on the “Hill.”
Of equal importance – and resoundingly powerful to me – were the voices of Matin Abdel-Qawi, the Principal of Oakland High School and Jerome Gourdine, Director of African American Male Achievement in Oakland Unified School District, as they described the transformation underway in teaching and learning, through purposeful attention to school culture and climate, and to ensuring that all students have wraparound student supports. Jerome talked eloquently about how the African-American Achievement Program is woven through the pathway experience in support of student learning and outcomes for the young men, the Kings, who participate in the program.
Which brings me back to Amin – who will transition from Oakland High to Berkeley City College and on to a path that will integrate his passions for visual arts and civil engineering at UC Davis. I have no doubt he will go on to lead, inspire and innovate. What a joy to bear witness to the power of community, commitment, and shared sense of purpose to ensure that all rising Kings and Queens in communities across this nation have the chance to shine.
Long live the Linked Learning promise.