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Oakland / Emiliano Zapata Street Academy
Since 1973, the Oakland/ Emiliano Zapata Street Academy has been a small, alternative high school committed to preventing students of color from dropping out or being pushed out of the education system while providing access to academic success. Street Academy exists to resist race, class and other inequalities in our public schools, in our society and in our world.
Students who would have otherwise dropped out of high school become college eligible and are prepared for a career after graduation.
Students are taught to take responsibility for themselves, others and the improvement of society by actively engaging in struggles against oppression in all its forms.
Students learn to respect themselves and others while the Counselor / Teacher / Mentor (CTM) establishes genuine relationships with youth built on high expectations and mutual respect.
Students are inspired by curriculum that is culturally relevant and that emphasizes social justice.
Since 1973 the Street Academy community has remained united in the struggle to provide exceptional education for all students.
Oakland Emiliano Zapata Street Academy
STATEMENT OF PHILOSOPHY
If public education is to meet the needs of young people in urban America today, an important fact must be acknowledged: our cities have become battlegrounds our society is at war. The adversaries in this struggle are the haves and the have-nots; the haves are represented by economically affluent primarily white middle and upper class individuals, and the have-nots are members of our society who occupy the lower economic stratum and who are primarily people of color. This protracted and bitter urban civil war threatens to crush the beauty, genius and creative forces which are present in the diverse and rich communities in our cities today and to leave our society culturally, intellectually, and spiritually impoverished for many generations to come.
Public education directly reflects the devastation of this conflict. Young people feel apathetic and alienated in a society which is so obviously divided against itself. Nowhere is the result of this struggle felt more apparent than in the enormous dropout rates among students in all large American inner cities. Substance abuse, poor health care, broken homes and a sharp increase in teen pregnancy are also familiar symptoms of a society in crisis. While more and more young men die violent deaths or end up in prisons, young mothers have become a common sight in urban America. Pre-teen and teen pregnancy rates have risen sharply each year since the 1970's. Many young people suffer from low self esteem and turn to instant gratification and materialism for inspiration, release and social acceptance. As fewer job opportunities become available to high school graduates who can only find menial work at best, and family structure suffers, many teens today are forced to leave home at an earlier age than ever before in the history of our country. A large number of young people today feel they have little control over their lives and see no future ahead except poverty or a short and glamorous life provided by drugs and money. While educators, parents and members of the community clash over the solutions to the educational dilemma and try to patch the holes, in most school districts, the rift between those who can achieve security and success and those who cannot widens.
Until the educational community acknowledges the reality of the social forces which have shaped and continue to dictate the course of public education, urban youth today cannot succeed within a system whose agenda is deaf and blind to their plight. The Oakland Emiliano Zapata Street Academy (an Oakland Unified School District school managed by the Street Academy Foundation) is a school that recognizes the social realities which rule our society today. Despite the persistence of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism and other injustices, the Street Academy strives to help students reach their fullest potential. It is a school that has dedicated itself to developing effective solutions to many of the problems confronting youth today. By providing a meaningful and appropriate educational program which focuses on survival skills, educational achievement, promotion of strength of character through support, counseling and one on one teaching, the Street Academy succeeds in helping students take charge of their lives and to become active members of their communities. Our educational program prepares students to become successful academically as well as to significantly change behavior patterns so that personal empowerment becomes a lifelong resource. The most important educational goal of the Street Academy is to provide students with the skills necessary to overcome obstacles to achievement and success, and to help them accept their role in shaping a community which will be dedicated to changing the gross inequality which is at the heart of our society.
We believe that education must accomplish the following...
- Education today must challenge our youth to recognize that a fundamental goal of learning has always been and continues to be: "Know Thyself." This concept means that we must all accept that individuals are unique, physical, mental and spiritual beings and that we are also inter-related and mutually dependent on each other for survival. Self-knowledge also makes the student aware the he/she is a part of a cultural and his/herstorical reality which will continue to shape, not only his/her own life and future, but the lives of future generations.
- Education today must inspire young people to struggle for change in themselves and in their society. Viable alternatives to violence, materialism, and alienation must be offered. Above all, education must help young people to put into action the ideas and values which can transform their lives in visible ways.
- Education must be conducted in a fashion where adults and young people are participants in the learning process where teachers are students and students are teachers. And, where the experiences of young people are a vital part of the school curriculum; and where young people in fact have substantial influence on this curriculum.
- Education must challenge the students to recognize their responsibilities to their family, their community and their world. Such an education will reinforce these ties by incorporating parents and community members into its operations and into its curriculum.
- Education should focus on creating responsible, self-determined, successful, and empowered individuals. The goal of the Street Academy will be fulfilled if the students educated here become the leaders, parents, innovators and the creators of a tomorrow free of the social, cultural and economic strife which has dictated and shaped so many of the harsh realities which determine the lives of students today.
- David Chen
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