• Posted on: April 24, 2012

Are You Smarter?

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 Are You Smarter Than a 12th Grader?
Usually the phrase “these kids today” is followed by a generalized dis of young people. “These kids today,” people say, either don’t
know things they should, don’t do what they should or don’t understand what they should.  But after you read about these 10 exceptional Oakland students, that phrase “these kids today” likely will be followed by high praise — and maybe a bit of self-deprecation, because these students represent a segment of a generation who fly under the radar yet do things way out of the ordinary.

These EOYDC students were picked for their educational excellence:

Oakland Technical High School, GPA 3.57
College Options: Cal, UCLA,
San Francisco State

“It’s empowering to know that you have a voice and people want to hear it.”

The pressure of having a gift and it being sorely needed in the community. The pressure of having to set the example, because so many look up to him. The pressure of maximizing his potential and not settling for less. But the budding community activist, who has a gift for motivational and informational speaking, says he really became effective when he started walking the talk.

“Most of the time I speak, it’s on problems with black males and solutions,” says. “But definitely, you’ve got to prove it to be that change.”

Julian got serious about being a positive example, even dropped some of his immature practices. But Julian says he didn’t have to look to a broken community for motivation. He didn’t necessarily need to see the fruits of his labor as a mentor at the East Oakland Youth Development Center.
Julian says his primary motivation came from home.

“I’ve got three little brothers,” Julian says. “T.J. is 11. Kendall is 9. Isaiah is 6. I definitely want to be a role model for them.”

Oakland School for the Arts, GPA 3.8
College Options: Howard University, Hampton University, Dillard University

“I’m kind of a rare teenager. Not many teenagers like to be abreast of what’s going on in their world.”

Failing was not an option. So when your grades were slipping, you got a warning in the form of a white slip telling you to get your grades up, taped to your locker for everyone to see. That’s how serious it is at the House Page School. It was a rude awakening for Domine Ezechukwu, then a junior.  “I’m not going to lie. I cried,” says Domine (pronounced Dom-in-ay).

“For me and my family, grades have always had to be top-notch. A ‘C’ was not acceptable.”  Domine eventually got her grades together. But it was understandable she found it a tough adjustment. One of only 59 pages, Domine took classes — all AP and honors courses — at 6:30 a.m. in the attic of the Library of Congress. Students had to finish school early, because they had to get to work interning for Congress. The rare opportunity, grueling as it was, sent her back to the Oakland School for the Arts viewing the world with new eyes. That she viewed the world at all is a bit of a phenomenon these days for her generation.

Nearly six months across the country, on her own, engulfed in the world of politics, taught her the importance of awareness. She still watches C-SPAN and the PBS News Hour. She reads The New York Times and Bloomberg news regularly. And when she’s working as a youth leader at the East Oakland Youth Development Center, she’s imploring the youth around her to pay attention.

“We don’t know what’s going on in the place we live,” Domine says. “People don’t understand how politics affect their lives and their future. I need to be in touch with what’s going on in America.”

Lionel Wilson College Preparatory, GPA 3.92
College Options: Cal Poly, San Francisco State

“My mom motivates me to do my best.”

She was 11 years old when her older brother, Ramiro, got a virus in his leg and almost died. What Jessica Torres remembered most was the nurse. “Whenever they saw my mom crying, they encouraged her,” Jessica says. “They played around with my little brother so he could feel better.” That experience is largely why Jessica is headed for pre-med and is an aspiring pediatrician. The science of medicine intrigues her intellectually. The passion for helping people, especially young people, fulfills her soul. Becoming a pediatrician seems to be the perfect fit for the Gates Millennium Scholar.

But Jessica is convinced she can accomplish her goals, thanks to a college tour she took with EOYDC to the nation’s capitol. She met Rosie Rios, treasurer of the U. S., one of the highest-ranking Latino appointees in government. Jessica got to witness a woman of Hispanic heritage coming from a big family without many resources achieve something amazing.

Jessica is no longer intimated by her odds. She finds AP calculus easy and refuses to settle for substandard effort.

“I can be so hard on myself,” Jessica says. “I just like to be on top of things and handle my business.”

These three East Oakland Youth Development Center students are among five more who were also awarded for their outstanding educational excellence.

2011:
Agyei Wallace, Josue Preciado and Shanelle Middleton

2010:
Alejandra Paredes and Aja Seldon

Read Original article at www.oaklandmagazine.com

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