Organizations in Oakland stepping up to keep students engaged during teacher strike

An estimated 97 percent of students are staying home during the Oakland teacher’s strike, but there are multiple facilities that are helping students stay engaged and learning.

At Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church in West Oakland, Senior Pastor Anthony Jenkins said the church first opened its doors to children last Thursday. He said he stands in solidarity with teachers because many teachers and retried teachers are a part of his congregation. He said his former second grade teacher helped him overcome his speech impediment as a child. It’s why he said he’s doing what he can to help support teachers and students.

“Our day is filled with keeping their learning habits, their minds lubricated and not allowing them to go into a place of stagnation,” Jenkins said.

Roughly 60 students spent their day at the church where various tables were designated for things like reading, painting and puzzles.

Annette Valentine, owner of Done In Love Catering in Berkeley, has volunteered her time at the church by preparing meals for the children. She said she uses donated money to buy groceries daily. She’s able to make two meals for the children each day and knows for some, it may be the only meals they get.

“It's the right thing to do,” Valentine said. “I come from a union family so I believe particularly after this experience, our teachers need money.”

In East Oakland, Youth UpRising has partnered with Castlemont High School to help high school seniors. Youth UpRising has opened its facility, specifically a computer lab, where seniors can spend their day filling out scholarships and financial aid applications.

Isaiah Zeno, a senior at Castlemont HS, said he’s grateful for the teachers and college advisors that have come to Youth UpRising to help students. 

“I’m filling out a lot of scholarships,” Castlemont HS senior Isaiah Zeno said. “I’m doing an essay for my AP literature class.”

Last year, OUSD seniors received more than $5 million in financial aid. A college readiness specialist with OUSD said roughly 55% of high school seniors district-wide have not submitted their financial aid applications. The Cal Grant deadline is March 4. 

The following off site locations are available as college centers for high school seniors:

Boys and Girls Club, High St. location – Fremont High School

Youth UpRising – Castlemont High School

Mills College – Skyline High School

Laney College – Oakland Tech and Oakland High School

West Oakland Library – Ralph J. Bunche Academy