Oakland High School, Oakland, CA – March 29, 2018 (PM)

by George J Elbaum

Oakland High School (OHS) is a public high school established in 1869, so it’s the oldest high school in Oakland and the sixth oldest in the state.  Its enrollment of 1541 students is 32% African American, 31.5 % Asian, 29.3% Latino and 7.2% all others.  The school offers five specialized College and Career Pathways (academies) that prepare students for success in college, career, and community.  From the start of sophomore year through graduation, students are supported in one of the following career pathways: Environmental Science Academy, Public Health Academy, Project Lead the Way (Engineering), Social Justice and Reform Academy, and Visual Arts Academy.  OHS also offers the AVID system, which is a non-profit college readiness system designed to close the achievement gap by preparing students for 4-yr college eligibility.  It has a proven track record in bringing out the best in students, while still allowing course-selection flexibility.

As part of the English and History curriculum, for the past 6 weeks OHS students have been exploring the Holocaust, genocide, inter-generational trauma and resistance and responses to hate. This included a case study on the rise of Hitler, reading Elie Wiesel’s Night and coupling these with a project on hate crimes then and now.  The final product of the students’ effort is a podcast which the students produced and shared today with community members via a small station in the school’s theater.  The whole event was organized by English teacher Jessica Forbes and History teacher Tara Asciutto, who invited Sarah Altschul of Facing History and Ourselves, to make opening remarks.  Sarah, in turn, arranged for my participation.  Attending the event also were OHS Principal Matin Abdel Qawi and Public Health Academy teachers Suzi LeBaron and Heather Mackey.

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Monte Vista High School, Danville, CA – March 29, 2018 (AM)

by George J Elbaum

Monte Vista High School (MVHigh) is a 9-12 public school with a student body of almost 2500 students which is 61% Caucasian, 21% Asian, 9% Hispanic, and 9% for all others.  The school has a strong focus on academic excellence, which results in significantly increasing SAT scores for the last 3 years consecutively, and in recognition as a 4-time California Distinguished School and a National Blue Ribbon School.  MVHigh even has College Connect, which allows students to enroll in a shortened high school schedule to attend college courses in their 11th and 12th grades and complete up to 30 units aligned with UC and CSU requirements.  Thus 73% of graduating students attend a 4-year college and 23% attend a 2-year college.  Athletics are not short-changed by academics, with MVHigh teams winning league and even state championships in 2016-2017 in football, baseball, women’s tennis, volleyball and swimming, and men’s golf.

MVHigh is also responsive to student initiatives, as I witnessed regarding my talk.  One of its students, “Sasha,” attended a talk I gave last year at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, and afterwards he contacted me and asked if I would be willing to give it at his school in Danville.  I agreed, and he took it upon himself to bring it to MVHigh.  Relying on his energy and diplomacy, he obviously succeeded, convincing his History teacher, Alison Perruso, to organize the event, which she did expertly and smoothly.  My genuine thanks to both of them, and also to Tracy Johnson, MVHigh staff, for her timely “guidance” of a traffic-worn traveler.  Other Monte Vista teachers and their classes attending the talk were Jennie Drummond, Gina Henehan, Tommy Greenless,  Kristina Zhebel, Bill Powers, Chris Connor and Irene Hashimoto, as well as Assistant Principals Liz Pagano, Kenny Kahn, and  Cheryl Di Grazia.

 

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Cunha Intermediate School, Half Moon Bay, CA – March 28, 2018

by George J Elbaum

Cunha Intermediate School has almost 800 students of high diversity: 51% Hispanic, 41% Caucasian, 2% Filipino, and the rest are 1% or less of different or mixed races.  While student English and Math proficiency scores are close to California state averages, the 37% low income status places a special challenge on the school.  This is reflected in the school’s name & logo by its edict: Respectful, Responsive, Positive, and Safe.  As an example, the school fosters this by Anti-Bullying presentations in all of its Social Studies classes.  The school’s academic focus is on meeting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and also College Preparatory Math (CPM).  Per its website, it also excels in high school wrestling competitions (which I noticed, having wrestled in high school).

My presentation to 220 8th grade students was organized by Carrye De Mers, Language Arts and Reading teacher and attended by Jean Kuznik, Assistant Principal.  It was arranged by Nikki Bambauer, Jewish Family and Children’s Services Education Program Coordinator.

 

 

 

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City Arts and Tech High School, San Francisco, CA – March 22, 2018

by George J Elbaum

City Arts and Technology High School (CAT) is a small (400 students) college preparatory public high school.  It has a highly diverse student body: 60% Hispanic, 20% Black, 5% Filipino, 5% White, and 10% all other – 75% socio-economically disadvantaged, 10% English learners, and 18% with disabilities; yet its ambitious task is to transform their lives by preparing them for success in college and beyond.  It does so by providing a rigorous academic experience within a strong community, with small classes and all students taking the course sequence required for application to University of California and other four-year colleges, and with an on-site college advisor who works with students all four years to make sure that they get into a four-year college/university.  CAT success in its focus on college preparation results in 95% of its graduates over the last 3 years currently attending college.

In addition to their academic preparation for college, CAT students also participate in a Workplace Learning Experience internship during the 11th and 12th grades, working with an adult mentor within a field they are interested in pursuing.  This has included internships with teachers, doctors, business owners, scientists, politicians, filmmakers, real estate agents, and many others. The mentor works with the student on location once per week for 9 weeks to give the student a “taste” of the work in the field. Students complete a major project for the organization where they work. This program gives students the opportunity to apply their learning and get a sense of what they might want to study in college. Students must meet the clearly defined WLE standards as part of CAT’s graduation criteria.

My talk to 10th grade students was organized by World History teacher Allison McManis and arranged by Brian Fong of Facing History and Ourselves, and the conversation that he and I shared on our drive to and from CAT was a valuable part of that day.

everyone

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Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, San Francisco, CA – March 20, 2018

by George J Elbaum

Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory (SHC) is an innovative Catholic high school with enrollment of 1300 students and a dynamic blend of liberal arts, scientific inquiry, and 21st-century pedagogy which develops resourceful, independent thinkers.   The school prides itself on its commitment to its educational philosophy, Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve, and it offers an array of courses, from college preparatory through honors and advanced placement curriculum.  SHC’s commitment to rigorous academics and social justice helps mold students into hardworking, thoughtful and altruistic adults.

Incoming students are assigned a school counselor with whom they will continue to consult until graduation.  In junior year, students are also assigned a college advisor who will guide them through the college research, application and financial aid process.  SHC’s Counseling and Advising Program provides parents and students the academic guidance they need to navigate a challenging college prep curriculum commensurate with the individual student’s talents and aspirations, making the transition from SHC to college as seamless as possible.

Because SHC lies in the heart of San Francisco’s technology center and near Silicon Valley and has an active network of alumni, parents and professional partners, it established the Student Launch Initiative (SLI) as the area’s preeminent high school entrepreneurship program.  This program teaches students to identify problems and design solutions that positively impact the lives of their peers, their families, and their community.  Through SLI’s workshops and speakers’ series, industry innovators and entrepreneurs introduce students to entrepreneurial concepts including ideation, project development and business model development.  SLI goes beyond the classroom to provide hands-on experience, practical learning, direct mentorship, and seed funding to help launch student projects.

Attending my talk were students in 9-12 grades who’ve taken World History or Comparative Religion taught by Ismael Ruiz, who organized this event, as he did my talk at SHC last year.  Arrangements for the talk were by Nikki Bambauer, Jewish Family and Children’s Services’ Education Program Coordinator.

 

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Islander Middle School, Marcer Island, WA – March 16, 2018 (PM)

by George J Elbaum

Islander Middle School (IMS) is the only public middle school (grades 6 thru 8) on Mercer Island.  Its enrollment is approximately 1100 students with 28% minority.  IMS utilizes district-adopted curriculum as the foundation for its core classes as well as offering a variety of engaging learning electives, and it clearly succeeds in this task as it’s ranked an impressive 10th of 441 Washington middle schools.  The school’s mission statement, “We strive to ensure a challenging, relevant and engaging experience where every student is able to advance to a greater level of understanding, ability and performance,” clearly extends beyond only academics, as it prepares its students to “thrive in today’s cognitive, digital, and global world while sustaining their passion and inspiration for learning.”

In addition to academics, IMS has a strong social and societal focus, presenting and promoting subjects such as race and equality, civil rights, and other current issues of our society.  The monthly Principal’s Message on its website also includes down-to-earth advice for students, such as use and misuse of social media, and a monthly Character Trait Dare, such as honesty, forgiveness, etc, with specific suggestions for students to test themselves on that trait.

As part of the school’s societal focus I was invited to speak about my Holocaust childhood to the 8th grade class (approx. 300 students) as I did last year.  Unlike last year, however, the audience staggered into the gym/auditorium over a 10-15 min. period, and only when I was 10-15 min. before ending was I told to finish in a minute or two.  It was a partial consolation that a Q&A session had been planned, as last year, in another room with about half of the total audience, and with this group I could not only finish the presentation but also continue into a very productive Q&A session.

The event was again organized by Language Arts teacher Joseph Gushanas and introduced to the audience by Co-Principal Mary Jo Budzuis.  As last year, my presentation at IMS was arranged by Julia Thompson, Education Research Coordinator, Holocaust Center for Humanity.

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Holocaust Center for Humanity, Seattle, WA – March 16, 2018 (AM)

by George J Elbaum

The Holocaust Center for Humanity (HCH) arranged my very first two talks to students in October 2010, and has continued to arrange many more for my subsequent visits to Seattle.  Through the lens of the Holocaust, the Holocaust Center educates students to think critically and inspires them to become champions for positive change. The Center reaches 40,000 students a year in their schools and communities with educational resources, programs and presentations, and provides immersive learning experiences to thousands of additional students at their museum and education center.

The Holocaust Center’s impressive facility provides not only space for offices but also for a small museum and, most importantly, for changing exhibitions and educational seminars.  A wonderful example of past exhibitions is the exhibit Anne Frank – A History for Today which drew audiences of up to 500 per day, while educational seminars are exemplified by the talks I’ve given at HCH in past years and again today.

Today’s talk was attended by students from the Evergreen High School in Seattle, accompanied by teacher Ana-Claudia Magana, and high school students from Wishkah Valley School in Aberdeen on the Olympic Peninsula, accompanied by teacher Betsy Seidel and Dorothy Addison, current bus driver and former teacher for Wishkah Valley School.The talk was organized by Julia Thompson, HCH’s Education Research Coordinator, who introduced me to the audience, and attended by Karen Chachkes, HCH’s Director of External Affairs.

starting with Julia Thompson’s introduction

Evergreen High School with Ana-Claudia Magana

Wishkah Valley School students with teachers Betsy Seidel and Dorothy Addison

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