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Author Archives: WSS News

Community Town Hall Meeting Urges Officials to Help Break the Cycle of Imprisonment in San Bernardino County

By Angela M. Coggs 

On Wednesday, March 9, over 100 community members and parents gathered at Life Center Church in San Bernardino for a town hall meeting to address public officials about a crisis of imprisonment that is fueled by the school-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration, and high rates of prisoner recidivism. The meeting began with an outstanding dramatic monologue from actor and C.O.P.E.’s resident artist, Mr. Amad Jackson. His performance focused on ending the cycle of mass incarceration. The audience was encouraged by his noteworthy delivery.

The community concerns addressed in the meeting were: Challenging the use of citations that prevent students from getting driver’s license and enlisting in the military, ensuring that San Bernardino county spends money on intervention/prevention programs and not prison, and making sure that school funding serves those most in need of academic support. The goal was to make the community voices heard with decision-makers who have the authority and power to do something about the community’s concerns.

San Bernardino County Supervisors, Josie Gonzales and San Bernardino County School Board Members, Hardy Brown Jr., San Bernardino County Schools Earl Smith, San Bernardino City Unified Director of Student Services Ray Culberson, and San Bernardino City School Board Members, Barbara Flores, and Gwendolyn Rogers, and Danny Tillman were all in attendance.

The town hall meeting, organized by Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE), intended to keep public officials focused on the school-to-prison pipeline and concerns that the excessive use of citations and arrests that could otherwise be handled apart from law enforcement involvement, could keep students in a never ending school-to-prison trap. As school board members in San Bernardino City Unified School District continue to press for a new discipline policy that would, among many things, reform the district’s practices on school citations and school-based arrests, the town hall illuminated citations as a county—wide crisis.

Testimonies from two parents from the Rialto Unified School District highlighted the need for a county-wide look at discipline policies involving school citations. Charnice Miller, shared a story about her daughter who was cited for a fight in which she defended herself after notifying the school administrator that she was being bullied. The parent and student were never provided with an alternative to suspension and expulsion, nor adequately informed about the citation process but was mandated to pay a $400 fine. A similar story shared by another Rialto parent highlighted the pain and trauma her son experienced as a result of an incident in which he was ultimately found innocent but that landed him a ten day suspension. San Bernardino City School Board Member Barbara Flores agreed that the problem lies in “the way we (the district) communicate with our parents because right now it is unacceptable.”

Another parent shared a heart wrenching story about how her son, a SBCUSD graduate from Cajon High School, is still dealing with the effects of a school citation while away in college. From the campus of Howard University, Brandon Watts shared a video testimony of how a citation issued in the 8th grade, may now impact his eligibility for a summer internship in the White House. He urged public officials to take a different approach because citations can do a lot of harm. The SBCUSD motto is to “Make Hope Happen” but the constant issuance of citations to students is not giving the students hope, it is in fact discouraging the students. They are not feeling hopeful.

When questioned about what the San Bernardino City Unified School District board members intend to do to ensure that San Bernardino Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) money is earmarked for school funding , alternative discipline, as well as other intervention programs such as mental health programs so that students are adequately supported, SBCUSD Board Member Rodgers responded without hesitation. “What we are making sure is that funding is targeted to support necessary for the specific students that are more at risk, which we all know is the majority of all of our students. The targeted funding what we have and we know that funding is on a limited basis but we have to make sure we maximize it in every way that we can.” She spoke about specific line items that are set for the specific needs and for the specific things that the community and parents have brought to the Board’s attention.

“This is a critical time because once that money is allocated it definitely can change from year to year,” SBCUSD Board Member Tillman also added. The school district has been making positive changes on behalf of the students. “Two big things that we (the school district) did do were to ensure that all students have the ability to have access to a computer and the internet. Every student in our district can get one computer per household.” He also stated that school pays the monthly payment for the internet access. Secondly, Tillman stated that they also eliminated the wait list for the CAPS Program. “This past year the wait list went away. That cost us about three or four million dollars.”

On the other end of the pipeline, a testimony from a formerly incarcerated female, who is now drug free, working, and giving back to community, shares a story of redemption and what is possible when there are resources available. Demita Burgess, a San Bernardino resident, urged the County to make sure that Proposition 47 meets its intended outcomes and give people a second chance to be productive citizens. In 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47, a ballot measure to reduce some felony records to misdemeanors and use the savings from prison spending for intervention and prevention services such as drug treatment and mental health services. The savings may also be directed to youth intervention and prevention programs. However, according to Governor Brown the savings from prison spending only amounts to approximately $29 million. However, the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) indicates that the savings is closer to $100 million dollars. Community members urged County Supervisor Josie Gonzalez and other officials to join a statewide effort urging the Governor to adopt the LAO’s calculations so that resources can be properly utilized for adult and youth intervention and prevention efforts. The collective voices have the power to dismantle the pipeline.

The break a cycle imprisonment, community members want public officials to take action by instituting policies that undo the cycle and place youth and adults in a better position to be productive citizens.

“I was very inspired to become more involved in the community and school boards to ensure our children has the same chance and opportunities as their neighboring peers,” said Alondra Ladison, Site Supervisor for San Bernardino County Preschool Services Department.

“I was very inspired to become more involved in the community and school boards to ensure our children has the same chance and opportunities as their neighboring peers,” said Alondra Ladison, Site Supervisor for San Bernardino County Preschool Services Department.

This effort was organized by Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement in partnership with Inland Congregations United for Change, Youth Action Project, Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches, African American Mental Health Coalition, and members of the African American Education Collaborative.

With the input and feedback from the community hopefully the San Bernardino City Unified School District will depart from its current code of conduct, which is based on a zero-tolerance approach, and make a strong commitment to an approach that is grounded in teaching and learning, interventions and restorative practices.


UNCF Los Angeles Walk for Education Returns This Saturday

LOS ANGELES, CA- Lace up for a purpose at the UNCF Los Angeles Walk for Education on Saturday, September 30. More than 250 community supporters are expected to come together in historic Leimert Park Village for the celebration of education benefiting deserving students and UNCF’s member universities. 102.3 Radio Free KJLH’s Adai Lamar will serve as the emcee of the fundraising event. 

“We are so excited to bring this event back to the community,” said Karika Thompson, development director of UNCF. “The UNCF Los Angeles Walk for Education is a great place for everyone to come together and show their support of UNCF and help get students to and through college.”

Whether you walk or run, bring the whole family for a day full of fun, food, entertainment, kids’ activities and health screenings. Members of the local community are encouraged to register as an individual or form a team and get donations to help secure better futures for all of us, one step at a time. 

UNCF has been changing lives for generations by enabling more than 445,000 students to graduate from college since it was founded. Last academic year, thanks to the commitment of UNCF stakeholders and sponsors, local area students received more than 2 million in scholarship support. With UNCF’s steadfast commitment to Los Angeles, local students are pursuing higher education at 63 colleges and universities across the United States. This event is made possible by the support of this year’s sponsors Southern California Gas Company, a Sempra Energy Company; Superior Grocers and many others.

To register for free or for more information about the UNCF Los Angeles Walk for Education or sponsorship opportunities, visit UNCF.org/LosAngeleswalk or contact Karika Thompson at karika.thompson@uncf.org or 213.639.3800 ext. 3814.

Can’t attend but want to give? Text UNCFLA to 50555. The smallest donation can make a large impact in a student’s life. 

Follow this event on social media: Facebook & Twitter @UNCFLA Instagram @UNCF_LA; #UNCFLAWALK 

‘Black Future Leaders, Inc.’ Educating Students in the Age of Information Technology

By Angela M. Coggs

Black Future Leaders, Inc. held their 32th Annual Summer Residential Program at California State University, San Bernardino from Friday, September 8 to Sunday, September 10. This year’s focus was Information Technology.  

The program was attended by 35 students from several school districts, including San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles. They were given the opportunity to explore Arrowhead United Way’s sponsored STEM activities. The program was open to students who complete an application, provide a recent transcript or report card, and has maintained a 3.0 or higher grade point average.

On Saturday, September 10, the students participated in a one-day informative technology seminar where they learned (1) how to build a technologically responsive website using share point, (2) the role of mobile technology in a business environment and (3) how to disassemble and rebuild computer servers. 

Danny Tillman teaching students about the the stock market and how to buy, sell and invest responsibly 

Danny Tillman teaching students about the the stock market and how to buy, sell and invest responsibly 

The scholars were placed in groups and participated in a healthy, academic challenge. Each group was responsible for organizing and preparing a Financial Analysis Project. Students were asked to pick a company and analyze its stock market performance. The top two groups did their company research on Johnson & Johnson and Chevron.?  

First Place – Johnson & Johnson Group: Anaya James, Nenna Obih and Lyric Page

Second Place – Chevron Group: Kelly Gadsden, Yonathan Habermariam, Nia Howard, and Darnell Smith 

End of Program/ Luncheon Photo (Danny Tillman -left and Lois Carson - sitted in the center)

End of Program/ Luncheon Photo (Danny Tillman -left and Lois Carson – sitted in the center)

In order for the students to obtain their dorm room key for the weekend, they had to submit an essay as part of the programs requirements. The topic varies each year but expectations remain the same. Students are asked to write a 500 word essay entitled “Hidden Figures, A History to Inform the Future.” The BFL Board of Directors believe with the book and movie “Hidden Figures” students should continue the focus on areas of study such as the careers of the future. This year’s Hidden Figures Essay winners were as follows: 

1st place- Danielle Lilley 

2nd place- Yonathan Habtermariam 

3rd place– Jamin Garbutt

Group Photo 

Group Photo

It is evident in today’s society that life will continue to be concentrated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (S.T.E.M.). Former President Barack Obama advised that these areas define the way to win the future and made these critical areas his priority during his time in the White House and also now through the Obama Foundation. African-American youth are seldom seen in the science classrooms or at the science fairs. Black Future Leader’s goal is still to change the paradigm. 

Black Future Leaders, Inc. was sponsored by Arrowhead United Way and Southern California Edison.

CEO and President of Arrowhead United Way Doug Rowand stated, “The opportunity for students to be exposed to STEM education is an important step in their future careers.” He added, “We are proud to support the engineers of our future.”? 

Black Future Leaders, Inc. is a program for African American students designed to develop leadership skills and build self-esteem to help them reach their full academic potential. Mrs. Lois Carson is one of the founders who are still active in the BFL program. The educational assistance program was designed for high school achievers from both Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Students must have and maintain a 3.0 GPA to participate. The idea for the program came from Dr. Jean Peacock, professor at California State University, San Bernardino and it was incorporated in 1985.  

For more information about Black Future Leaders, Inc. please visit www.BlackFutureLeaders.webs.com or email: BFLeaders@yahoo.com.