“Lockdown” is the Collins Dictionary Word of 2020, but it’s “Vote” to Oakland International High School Students
By Martha Sessums, President, ACE
Leave it to 2020 to have a word like “lockdown” as the Collins Dictionary Word of the Year. The definition is “the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction and access to public spaces.” But hearing and reading conversations with Oakland International High School (OIHS) administrators and students, I think their Word of the Year would be “vote.”
These students and administrators support the state and federal lockdown requirements to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus, but the word lockdown doesn’t define their schoolwork, aspirations for going to college and building a better future, or hiding behind closed doors and ignoring the world.
Instead, while they have learned a lot about the power of voting and how it is an inalienable right to American citizens, they are also active in their education. As they have observed and participated in recent elections, they have learned that the value of a personal vote inspires to give a voice in many levels of their life.
The inspiration about voting probably started in 2016 when the popular vote was for one candidate, but the US Electoral College votes elected another candidate to be president. Originally designed by the Founding Fathers to equalize voting power between populous cities and less-populous rural areas, it was a new concept to many students.
“In the days after, the 12th grade government class prepared lessons to teach the younger students what had happened during the election – how a president could, in this new country of theirs, lose the popular vote yet still win the election,” said Lauren Markham, Director, OIHS Learning Lab and ACE Learning Center Manager. She spoke in an article in The Bare Life Review with OIHS students and administrators.
Four years later, the lessons about the importance of voting excelled.
“I think voting is one of the most important parts of having your voice heard by a lot of people,” said Bashar Allataifih, a 17-year old OIHS student born in Irbid, Jordan. “Whoever you vote for is the person that will be representing you in something, so you always have to pick carefully.”
“A vote is not a wish, it’s more like a right,” said Ali Alhabil, another student, age 16, born in Yemen and is a U.S. citizen. “…That’s what our role is as citizens: we are trying to make a better world for everyone.”
It’s delightful to see at OIHS that the immigrant student community it supports votes daily in their role in trying to make a better world, not just for everyone but for themselves too. One of the school programs is Dual Enrollment where OIHS students take college level classes to give them not only a head start in college, but to improve their English and math skills.
“Dual enrollment supports with both students with a low level of likelihood of getting their classes done and the intermediate students who struggle with math,” said David Hanson, OIHS Vice Principal. “The focus is on English as a Second Language and math classes in algebra, trigonometry and statistics. Any high school student can sign up.”
The classes are taught online via Zoom during the shelter in place rules in partnership with community colleges. Although students are finding it harder to listen to lectures for hours online, most of them are using dual enrollment to improve their knowledge and skills to help them not only graduate from high school but do a better job in college.
“These students attend high school and many work full-time too,” said Hansen. “Yet these students as a whole want to attend and stay in college.”
The dual enrollment helps these OIHS students meet their goals because they vote for their personal future with hard work, focus on their classes and the benefit of attending college. That’s not just a personal vote. That’s a vote as a citizen in an immigrant community that will make the world better for everyone.
“A community together can make a change,” said Allataifih. “Even if there is nothing changing, it still makes everyone part of your community, which matters. It may take time, but there will come a day (when) things will change.”