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.