For the past four weeks, the Oakland REACH has been doing something that has never been done before: opening and operating a virtual summer school for Black and Brown kids through a Virtual Family Hub.
Every parent — regardless of where we are from or how much money we have — wants what is best for our kids. And the Hub shows that as hard as COVID19 is hitting Black and Brown families and communities, there’s still a lot of passion and hope to reach for more. People’s fire, their desires and aspirations for their children — that hasn’t died.
There are 180 students participating in this summer phase of The Hub. And a remarkable 90 percent of parents have said the Hub is having a positive impact on their lives and their child’s education.
On Wednesday, REACH staff opened The Hub for nearly 100 visitors to check out the action. We looked in on a couple of classrooms — students in grades K-2 are learning reading skills in the Literacy Liberation Center; students in grades 3-8 participate in the National Summer School Initiative. In the afternoon, students moved to enrichment activities including martial arts with Frohm’s Martial Arts, urban farming with Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project, and creative writing with the Black Literacy Collective. These are black-run organizations in Oakland inspiring kids to excellence.
We also heard from families on how they have experienced The Hub. Guy Robinson has three grandsons participating in The Hub, and he said The Hub “has significantly helped” their computer skills. ” I also learned a lot more computer skills,” Robinson said, “and now I can help them when school starts with distance learning.”
Hakeem Bey, a REACH community organizer, talked about the importance of the family liaison when building The Hub: someone families trust that they can turn to help not only navigate the challenges of the digital world but connect them to other resources as well. And offer some hope, too.
“It’s someone you can call when you’re stuck or thinking about giving up,” Bey said. “We’ve been through the same struggles and can push you through it and encourage you that you can do this. This is our generation, these are our babies.”
Lakisha Young, Executive Director of the Oakland REACH, said that in the next phase of The Hub, the thoughts and needs of families will come first.
“We’re not operating in labels, we’re operating in ‘How do we design what our families need?” Young said. “This model comes from listening to families and saying ‘We hear you and we are going to design what’s best for you.'”
The Oakland REACH’s work with the Hub is groundbreaking and a model for communities across the country. That became really clear when TIME Magazine included the Hub in a major feature piece on education during COVID 19.
This is parents designing a solution that works and will finally serve students who have been underserved for far too long.