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Grad Summit: Increasing Graduation Rates through Career Pathways

San Bernardino County School Board District Members  and Assemblymember Cheryl R. Brown gather for a group shot during the Grad Summit ceremony on Saturday, November 15. (Photo credit: Angela M. Coggs)

San Bernardino County School Board District Members and Assemblymember Cheryl R. Brown gather for a group shot during the Grad Summit ceremony on Saturday, November 15. (Photo credit: Angela M. Coggs)

By Angela M. Coggs

On Saturday, November 15th, Grad Summit 2014 was held at California State University, San Bernardino from 8:30am to 3:00pm. The event was organized by a coalition of local, state and national organizations that joined forces to make college and career readiness a core educational priority in San Bernardino.

The summit convened in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and National GradNation Campaign and the San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD) and CSUSB, among other groups, which was attended by parents, students, and community officials.

The primary goal of the National GradNation Campaign is to achieve a 90% graduation rate nationwide by 2020 with no high school graduating less than 80 percent of its students.

The summits goal is to build on dropout prevention efforts by elevating San Bernardino County-Wide efforts to link classroom innovation with career development to improve graduation rates and college/career readiness. The day-long summit featured inspirational speakers and dynamic workshop sessions that demonstrated rigorous academics emphasizing real-world application critical for college and career.

Dina Walker (Photo Credit:: Angela M. Coggs)

Dina Walker (Photo Credit:: Angela M. Coggs)

Officials in attendance included SBCUSD Superintendent Dr. Dale Marsden, SBCUSD Communications Director Linda Bardere, Superintendent Elect SBCS Ted Alejandre, CSUSB President Dr. Tomas D. Morales, SBCUSD Board President Mike Gallo, SBCUSD Board Member Abigail Medina, and Executive Director Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE) Rev. Samuel Casey.

Two SBCUSD students helped to kick off the morning with encouraging and inspirational words. Raihanah Medlock, Grand Terrace High School sophomore, recited an uplifting spoken word and Alexander Mattison, San Bernardino High School senior, also represented the student voice and challenged students to graduate from high school and to sign the pledge banner. His speech reverberated with the audience.

Dina Walker, newly elected member of the Rialto School Board and President/CEO of BLU Educational Foundation, was the moderator for the event.

“I thought the Summit was excellent. We had great buy-in from many community leaders, educational leaders, as well, parents and students. The connection for career and college was definitely evident. The feedback I received from some of the students was that they were very interested in everything especially about the entrepreneurship. It gave them ways to connect what they want to do and make money out of it. Even if they did not go onto college how they would be viable,” said Walker.

The keynote speakers, Eric Schmidt, Co-Founder of Exquadrum Inc. and Garner Holt, Garner Holt Productions, Inc. addressed the attendees with their inspirational stories of how their passion was realized at a young age and how they made a living from something the loved. Their message really resonated with the students, as well as the parents, in the audience. Walker agreed, “One of the things they (students) got out of the speakers today was taking their personal interest, even as a young person, and making into a business opportunity.”

Rev. Sam Casey with members of the SB County Sheriff Department (Photo Credit: Angela M. Coggs)

Rev. Sam Casey with members of the SB County Sheriff Department (Photo Credit: Angela M. Coggs)

In addition to the speakers and the many valuable workshops, including Building Ideas for Teen Entrepreneurs, Career Pathway Success in Public Safety Academy, College Knowledge 101, and Building Ninjas Robots, there were vendors on hand with information and giveaways. Edison International representative, Wendell Jones, attended the summit to promote their 2015 Edison Scholars Program and was very impressed with the day-long event. “The Summit was amazing. It had a lot of valuable information for the students and the parents here. It was a great informational session and I look forward to being a part of it again next year.” Jones spoke to many students and parents about the scholarship opportunity from Edison in hopes to motivate them to apply for the program. “Edison is offering thirty (30) $40,000 scholarships to high school seniors looking to go into a four year university in an S.T.E.M (Science Technology Engineering and Math) program. They must live or go to school in an Edison region, have a 2.8 grade point average. The application pool was low last year and this is why I am out here and going to other events and schools and letting students know about this opportunity.”

Performances from local schools Richardson PREP Jazz Band, San Gorgonio High School Dance Group, and Arroyo Valley High School Dance Company in the afternoon were a real crowd pleaser. All the students put on a flawless routine and received standing ovations.

Brianna Robertson, 9th grader from Cajon High School, was empowered after the Summit. “I was really surprised how much of a good time I had. I learned a few new things that will better prepare me for college. Plus, I had friends there and we will remind each other of what we learned and to stay on track. The school band, BSU dancers, lunch and raffle prizes made the day even better.” Robertson attended the event with her mother who was also a vendor. Devona Robertson is an engage mother of three, community leader, District African American Advisory Council (DAAAC) Officer and Vice President of Young Women’s Empowerment Foundation (YWE), signed the San Bernardino 2014 GradSummit Call to Action Pledge banner after accepting the challenge given to the educational leaders, parents/caregivers and students during the opening welcome and remarks.

As a growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to end America’s dropout crisis, this day-long summit to help ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and a career was a success.

 

Black Women and Youth Analyze Election Results: Black Voter Turnout Exceeded Expectations

black women and youth election results

Washington, DC – Long before the final results of the Midterm Elections were reported on Tuesday night, a team of esteemed women from Black Women’s Roundtable, students from Howard University, and young professionals from Black Youth Vote and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, had determined that Black voter participation surpassed expectations and outnumbered turnout in 2010. The intergenerational team at the eighth biennial National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) Ronald Walters Election Day National Command Center (NCBCP RWCC) communicated with on-the-ground field operations in twelve states  to monitor problems at the polls,  disseminate important information via social media, and analyze voter turnout and election results.

“This is the first time the Command Center was held on a historically Black college campus, but not the last. The Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center (RWLPPC) is the perfect partner to co-host the Election Day Command Center,” said Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO, NCBCP and convener Black Women’s Roundtable. “Nearly fifty young people volunteered throughout the day. It was refreshing to see the young people pair up with seasoned experts sharing knowledge and telling our own story. The NCBCP looks forward to expanding its partnership with RWLPPC to provide civic leadership, engagement and non-partisan campaign management training opportunities for Black women, students and community organizers on a year-round basis.”

Elsie Scott, PhD, founding director Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center at Howard University and co-host of the NCBCP RWCC adds, “We were honored to host the Command Center and look forward to compiling the data to produce a detailed report of what happened on the ground. Dr. Walters would be proud to see the effort that the Howard University Student Association put into making this a resounding success.”  An internationally recognized political scientist, professor and scholar, the late Ronald W. Walters was on a founding board member of the NCBCP and an early framer of their voter empowerment campaign and Election Day Command Center.

The get-out-the-vote operations in the states were conducted by affiliates of the NCBCP’s Black Women’s Roundtable & Black Youth Vote; A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), and the National African American Clergy Network. Here are some of the highlights from the ground reported to the Command Center:

  • Field organizers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina reported higher than expected early voting in counties with large African American registered voters.
  • Clerks in Alabama rejected 300 out of 1500 absentee ballots for not enough postage.
  • The website of the Georgia Secretary of State had an outage so voters could not find out where to vote and some polling locations listed on the website were incorrect.
  • In 25 Virginia Beach precincts, 34 out of 820 voting machines were out of service.
  • In Georgia and North Carolina, there were reports of untrained poll workers denying voters the right to cast a ballot when a name did not appear on the electronic registration lists.  In some cases, poll workers did not offer a provisional ballot or check the paper voters’ rolls. For example, in Wake County,  North Carolina poll workers turned away 247 voters.

Clayola Brown, president,APRI,stated, “Our field coordinators from North Carolina to California, were able to tell us first-hand what problems they were experiencing so they could be addressed immediately. Their anecdotal accounts on the ground validated that Black women were showing up in phenomenal numbers. We know Black women vote to improve conditions for families and the community, that’s why we saw state ballot initiatives for minimum wage and paid sick days passed.”

“The African American faith community has been a vital part of every major advancement of Black people in our nation,” said Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Ph.D., co-chair, National African American Clergy Network.  The Black faith community worked in coalition with community groups and produced a larger than expected Black voter turnout.”

“Black Youth Vote coordinators on the HBCU campuses reported that Black youth showed up at the polls enduring historical barriers even in 2014,” comments Lisa Fager, senior advisor, Black Youth Vote.  “As we move forward we must continue to fight for our right to vote for quality candidates that stand for improving our communities and daily lives.  Working with young people from Black Youth Vote, HUSA and RWLPPC gives me the confidence that the next generation of leaders willunderstand their history and the importance of protecting their vote.”

Other national partners and women leaders facilitating the Command Center included: Waikinya Clanton, National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women; Holli L. Holliday, Esq.,  Holliday Advisors;  Rene Redwood, Redwood Enterprise, LLC; Leslie Baskerville, NAFEO; Joycelyn Tate, Esq.,  Black Women’s Roundtable; Enid Doggett, INSPR Media; Muriel Cooper, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; Lisa Paris, Pew Charitable Trust; Jan Temple, APRI; Carol Joyner, Black Women’s Roundtable; Michelle Mitchell-DuBois, Values Partnership and Avis Jones-DeWeever, PhD, Incite Unlimited. For more information on the RWCC visit www.ncbcp.org.

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Founded in 1976, the NCBCP is a   non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to increasing civic engagement and voter participation in Black and underserved communities. The women’s initiative, BWR stays at the forefront of championing just and equitable public policy on behalf of Black women and girls.  Established in 1996 to address the chronic decline in Black youth voter participation, Black Youth Vote! has served as one of the leading youth-led movements focused on training the next generation of civic leaders and organizers, and increasing Black youth voter participation and engagement.

The RWLPPC was established by Howard University to serve as a focal point for research, publications, service, policy discussions and leadership development activities in areas involving the engagement of African Americans in the U.S. political process and in U.S. national and foreign policy. The Center is an interdisciplinary center that will preserve the legacy of Dr. Ronald Walters, a scholar-activist who conducted research, served as a mentor to students and political leaders, provided strategic direction and thinking in the political and civic arenas, was a prolific writer and served as a political commentator.

Young Designer Emerges Into the Fashion Industry

DeOndra Morris

DeOndra Morris

By Naomi K. Bonman

Louisiana native DeOndra Morris is the creative director, visionary, and designer behind the line of handbags under DeOndra Jeree. At 22-years-old, Ms. Morris is closing the gap that she has

One of the DeOndra Jeree handbags

One of the DeOndra Jeree handbags

witnessed within the marketplace by ensuring that her line of bags provides exactly what the average women is looking for, which is practicability, affordability, and a bag that is stylish that can be transitioned from day-to-night and work-to-weekend.

Morris knew that she wanted to be a designer after watching America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway as a little girl. Back then she would say to herself that she was going to be a big designer one day and have her own fashion brand. And she continued to make that dream a reality.

In addition to those shows, the rising designer has kept her grandmother’s words dear to her heart. Her grandmother has inspired her to keep pushing towards success by “keeping God first and she will have great success and that no matter what may come across her path, good or bad, she should always remain focused and humble and to keep her eye on the prize.”

Once she realized what she wanted to do she let go of all fears and moved to the fashion capital of the world after college–New York. Upon arrival in the Big Apple she immediately got her grind and hustle and landed her first internship with Shecky’s, a fashion and beauty company.  From there she went on to intern at the Handbag Designer Awards where she was not only able to attend the awards, but work with the bags as well.

“I learned a lot from working at those two places, but I had also done my research before starting my own fashion line,” Morris said. “I did the business part first, such as getting it incorporated, etc. Then I started the design process.”

DeOndra Jeree is now a full fleshed company that caters to fashion savvy women ages 25 and older. Each hand bag is transitioned to where it can be used from day-to-night and work-to-weekend. As the line continues to grow, Morris would love to have a variety of handbags in different styles and colors and to be picked up in major retailers, such as  Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, and Sak’s Fifth Avenue.

To view more of DeOndra Jeree handbags, please visit www.DeOndraJeree.com.