Lack of a high school diploma has a tremendous impact on the financial opportunities and future outcomes of young adults. A diploma increases income and decreases unemployment for the individual even without further degrees. It can also provide increased stability for a family and community as shown by reduced demand on social services for those with a high school diploma. A diploma likely reduces incarceration rates as well.
Oakland is a vibrant and diverse community but one that has a below average graduation rate of its high school students. The students, their families, their communities and even the vitality of the bay area economic environs suffer when those students don’t graduate.
Oakland Serves was started in 2016 by local residents with a strong commitment to the City of Oakland. They wanted to address needs not being met within the education system and current community-based support organizations. While many programs address issues on a macro level, Oakland Serves looks at the micro level – the individual student who is not succeeding. Struggling to succeed in school may have multiple causes that burden these students. Family issues as well as social pressures both outside and inside the school reduce attendance, increase distraction and reduce overall connection with the school environment. Language barriers also are a challenge to school engagement. In a vicious cycle, failure to progress is in itself a key cause of reduced attention on further school participation and the desire to succeed.
The program Oakland Serves designed focuses on these students as they work through their school day. It provides in school, 1:1 academic mentoring to help them finish coursework required for graduation.
The program works with three groups: school personnel, the students, and volunteer mentors. Oakland Serves has relationships with individual high schools and school personnel who identify students that are at risk of not graduating or proceeding on a graduation pathway. Those students and their parent or guardian agree to receive academic support from Oakland Serves.
Separately, Oakland Serves recruits mentors from the local community. Mentors are college students, working professionals and retirees that have an interest in working with students, working with challenging students and/or giving back to their communities. They agree to work with the students once a week for one period during the school day. The mentors are all vetted through standard government systems and then trained by Oakland Serves to work with the students.
The students are matched with a mentor who sits with them during a specific class or works with them during a study period during or after school. They may focus on a specific subject or on the overall progress of the student in a variety of subjects. Discussion may be about completing individual assignments, helping the student identify teacher expectations, or improving organizational practices. But even attendance to class or to school may require attention from our mentors and Oakland Serves.
When students complete a school year passing their classes, graduating or moving on to the next year, we all celebrate their achievements.
New in fall 2022
Oakland Serves is working with OUSD’s Comprehensive Academic Recovery team tasked with creating credit recovery classes for those students that have gotten off-track to graduation due to the pandemic. Oakland Serves is working to provide additional trained and vetted volunteers to support this important program.