Oakland International High School’s Work is Featured in NY Times Article
By Martha Sessums
The fine work of Oakland International High School (OIHS) was documented in the New York Times Sunday edition, 11/9. This ACE Partner School, that also has an ACE Learning Center, is a safe learning haven for immigrants from 25 countries.
When ACE signed the current year’s contract with OIHS, it clearly stated there would be an increase in students because of the recent influx of youth from South America. According to Lauren Markham, Community School Program Manager, a quarter of the current student population at OIHS is unaccompanied minors.
Not only have these kids left their homeland to escape the violence of gangs and other nefarious organizations, they’ve endured the harsh journey on trains and busses alone, following the instructions of smugglers who were paid by their family to help bring them to the U.S. border. For most of the students, it was a traumatic experience.
OIHS is a safe haven. Its specialness is evident the moment you walk on campus. A maze of international flags flutter from the entrance archways and a mural filled with “hello” in a variety of languages welcomes you. Street art greets you on many walls, reflecting journeys, hopes and success. These are students that reflect the best of the American Dream. They came here for the opportunity, and expect to work hard and contribute to their new American life.
The NY Times article focuses on OIHS student Lester Valladaras from Honduras, who is now living with his mother. He is enrolled in “survival English,” to learn the basic concepts of the language.
Learning a new language can be hard. I know – I struggle with French. Mastering a foreign language is why the ACE Learning Center was created. It provides 5th Year high school for OIHS students who need extra time to master the English language so they can pass the high school graduation exam. Language classes are also available to their parents. Students are encouraged and supported to attend college, as much of success is dependent on earning a higher education degree.
OIHS does great work, as does their sister school, San Francisco International High School. Lester may quickly learn the English language and not need to use the services of the ACE Learning Center, but it is there for him if he needs it. For his mom too.
ACE is honored to be working with the Internationals Network for Public Schools to help the Bay Area immigrant population that, as Markham says, “has incredible resiliency and drive to learn.”