In the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD), there are currently about 250 students who have African ancestry.
When you think about the size of the district — 14 schools with a total of over 10,000 students — 250 students doesn’t seem like a whole lot.
At Burnett Elementary School, for example, where David Kennedy is the Assistant Principal, there are a total of 6 students with African ancestry.
“A lot of times, our African ancestry families can feel isolated,” said Kennedy. “At the site levels, there are very few. And we wanted all families in the district to come together to see that they have power as a group, and that they can affect change.”
Over the past couple of years, MUSD has worked to form a group known as African Ancestry Success Community (AASC), and Kennedy has been serving as the group’s coordinator. They started out slow, meeting with representatives within the school district to put some ideas together about what exactly their group would do to improve the social and academic outcomes of students with African ancestry.
“This year, we’ve slowly started reaching out to the community to put on events,” said Kennedy. “The plan is to do more outreach.”
To kick things off, the group hosted a screening of the Black Panther movie at the San Jose City College Extension, across the street from Milpitas High School. This was back in February, 2019, during the last school year.
Although the 2019-2020 school year just started a few months ago, AASC has already been plowing ahead.
They kicked off a mentoring program for African ancestry-students in the district. Deanna Sainten, who is the Assistant Principal at Pomeroy Elementary School, has been coordinating the program, and has worked to recruit and train high school students to mentor elementary students.
As this is the pilot year for the program, AASC has chosen to start with two elementary schools in the district — Burnett and Pomeroy.
At Pomeroy, Sainten mentioned that there are 14 elementary students consistently attending sessions, along with 16 high school students.
They’ve already gone through the first two sessions of the program.
“In our first two sessions, students have participated in a Trick-or-Treating around Pomeroy event and completed get to know you activities. During the Trick-or-Treating event, it was heartwarming to see elementary students walking around with their high school mentors, talking, laughing, and gathering tons of candy,” shared Sainten. “There were smiles everywhere. In our second session, students completed Double Bubble maps to learn about one another and shared their findings with the group.”
Sainten shared that the intention is “to create experiences for the students to build relationships, leadership skills, and learn about their African Ancestry.”
High school students also have the ability to earn community service for their time spent working with the elementary students.
“We have had two sessions so far and the results are very promising. We have emphasized positive relationship-building as the core of the program. We want the students, both mentor and mentee, to feel a sense of importance, empowerment, and connections through their relationship with another person of African ancestry,” shared Kennedy.
Future mentoring sessions are scheduled for twice a month.
And AASC is also planning a series of 4 workshops for parents.
“We wanted to empower parents to be advocates, to be champions for their own child. We wanted to do something to increase the engagement level, all with the hopes of increasing the achievement level of students,” said Kennedy.
The first workshop, which will be happening on December 4 at the Milpitas Library, will be more of a Town Hall, where parents will have the opportunity to speak about their needs. Based on those needs, AASC will then plan out the topics for the remaining 3 workshops. The idea is not only to engage parents, but to include them in the organization, so that they have an opportunity to come together to support students of African ancestry in Milpitas.
“We’ll be able to take this and create an organization that is dedicated to creating positive results for African ancestry students,” said Kennedy. “And once that’s done, there’s no stopping us. We can move on to higher education and make sure our kids are getting everything they need.”
To register or find out more info on the event, go here: