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Our Program

The Graduation Advocate | A Publication of Oakland Serves | Vol. 1 Issue 1

Welcome to the first issue of The Graduation Advocate, a newsletter for old and new friends of Oakland Serves. We are an organization working to increase the graduation rate in Oakland public schools by seeking District-wide adoption of a special program for those identified as most at risk of dropping out. In this newsletter we will publish information about the dropout problem and the progress of Oakland Serves. We will report on new studies and events relevant to our work. We will welcome your contributions. And we will ask more of you: we will ask you to become a Graduation Advocate.

What is Oakland Serves?

Oakland Serves is a volunteer organization working to help the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) decrease the dropout rate in Oakland public high schools.

Mission: We work for the adoption of a program by OUSD that will identify high school students who are most at risk of dropping out and provide them with weekly one-on-one academic mentoring, paid internships in the community, the possibility of establishing a college trust fund, a program of motivational speakers,  and additional financial aid where most needed.

Vision: We envision a world where every high school student graduates from high school and is well prepared for their next phase in life.

Values: We strive to include the voices of the community we serve. The needs of the student are always considered first. We respect and value diversity.

The graph above shows the dropout rates for Oakland Unified School district vs the County of Alameda and the State of California. Notice the increase in recent years to about 24%. That is very nearly 1 out of every 4 students in the OUSD!

The graph above shows the drop out rates for Oakland Unified School District by ethnicity. While the dropout rate is significantly high for most groups, African American, Hispanic / Latin@, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians are the most afflicted. Furthermore, these group's rates are increasing in recent years. The time to help combat this is now!


Our Program

Our program is designed to offer one on one academic mentoring three hours per week, paid internships for five hours, the possibility of college trust funds, extra allocations to those in deepest need, and a series of motivational speakers. We ask the District to start with a pilot group of 20 students which will allow us to show the strength of our partnership and to collect data. We will use this information to further tailor the programs to meet the needs of the schools and the individual students.

The Need for This Kind of Program: As racial and political issues are exploding around us, there can be no doubt such a program is needed.  Dropping out is strongly correlated with getting into some kind of trouble with the law. One study reports that 80% of drop outs will do so. Another says that 90% of all jobs require a high school diploma.  At present there is no District program in place focused solely on students at risk of dropping out.

Feasibility of Program: But is this program realistic? Yes. Identification is not a problem. In our three years of research and interviewing, we have learned that teachers and counselors know quite well which kids are likely to drop out. Promising tactics do exist. One on one mentoring helps, and so do other programs that build self-esteem. Money helps motivate kids to stay in school, be it allocated on basis of need, employment in internships, or, in some cases where it has been tried, just for staying in school.

But what about cost?  The preliminary pilot program is budgeted at less than $2500 per student,  for 20 students’ paid internships. However, about 600 students drop out each year. Suppose our program eventually reached 300 of these – staff and other costs would increase significantly, not proportionately, as a considerably more elaborate administrative structure would be required. What if such a program were to cost a million dollars per year?

Well, what about it? There is a greater willingness than ever to spend money on education. But should it be spent on kids who are not doing well?  Whatever happened to meritocracy? The answer is that Oakland can raise enough money to support the students  who need help the most as well as those who deserve it the most.   One kind of program need not cancel out the other. 

Of course it is pretty selfish to help those most in need – it makes us all safer and happier.  It tells all our children that we care, we are invested in their education, and we want them all to stay in school, graduate, and prepare for good lives of work and service in our community.  

After all, they are all our kids.

Become a Graduation Advocate:

1. Be an O.S. Advocate:  take an interest and spread the word to others.

2. Contributing  Advocate:  provide donor contacts, mention us in your own newsletter, give us an item for this newsletter or for the Library, provide donor contacts, write a check. 

Donations to Oakland Serves are now tax deductible.   You may send checks (or advocate that others do so) to Oakland Serves, P. O. Box 19317, Oakland CA,  94619. Online donations by Credit Card or Paypal is also available on our website.  Until it is fully funded, at least 80 percent of all donations received will be set aside for students in our pilot program.

3. Mentor Advocate:  Get a background clearance and sign on at to mentor. 

4. Team Advocate:  Do you have relevant professional experience and experience working with youth  from diverse backgrounds?   Are you yourself a member of an underrepresented group?   Then be a Team Advocate.  Work with other members of the Oakland Serves Team, helping with recruitment, website maintenance, newsletter editing, general publicity, legal questions, fundraising, accounting, and/or visits to supporters.   

Whichever you choose (and you can choose as many as  you wish) , write to and tell us about yourself.  Why does this appeal to you and what would you would like to do?  If you choose the Team, how much time might you contribute? 


Motivational Speakers Better educated students are an asset to the entire community.  Many of our motivational seminar speakers are Bay Area natives. These seminars will introduce students to topics and career paths that they may not have otherwise explored, including STEM, art, policy, and education.  The speakers will be from diverse careers including surgeons, software developers, journalists, and college administrators.  All of the speakers have a deep connection to Oakland and are looking forward to working with our youth.    


September Meetings Board of Education Meeting Date: 9/14/2016 Time: 4:00 PM Location: The Great Room, La Escuelita Education Center, 1050 2nd Avenue, Oakland, CA 94606-2291

Board of Education: Community Engagement Meeting Date: 9/26/2016 Time: 5:30 - 8:00 PM Location: Montera Middle School, 5555 Ascot Drive, Oakland, CA 94611

Board of Education Meeting Date: 9/28/2016 Time: 4:00 PM Location: The Great Room, La Escuelita Education Center, 1050 2nd Avenue, Oakland, CA 94606-2291

If you'd like to see a meeting included on this list, please let us know.


Contributions to Newsletter

We welcome contributions of about 150 -200 words. Can you tell our readers about a related program that you belong to or lead? Do you have a good tale of a turnaround that you witnessed or lived through? Have you come across an interesting new article or new data focusing on dropouts? Is there something new and relevant going on in the Oakland high school you know best? Send it in to!


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