GOALS: A Year in Review
It is unbelievable: the school year is over. Tuesday, May 30, 2017 marked the final meeting for the 2016-2017 GOALS program. As many have said; “Every end is a new beginning.”, and it’s certain that the end of our first year concludes merely one chapter of this novel. Endings are a time for reflection, with a hint of sadness and nostalgia seeping through, but it is crucial to take this opportunity to track one’s progress and make adjustments.
On October 4, 2016, the first GOALS meeting was held. Walking into Oak Grove Middle School, we were greeted with 3 friendly and eager faces. They were all shy yet curious to see what this program was about. However, after a few meetings they began to break out of their comfort zones and became active participants in conversations around politics, race, gender, and equality. A typical day not only included crucial discussions about pressing issues, but also homework help (specifically concentrated in math and science), journaling, and icebreaker activities. All three of these stimulated collaboration, bonding, and learning within the group. Helping young girls flourish in their STEM classes was a rewarding experience because when we were their age, it was more of a taboo to show a mere interest in these subjects.
Fast-forward a few meetings later and soon the room was filled with 15-20 girls each week. The discussion was never-ending, the meetings often passed the allotted time, for the energy was unstoppable. The girls opened up to the group, but also to us individually. They confided in us about personal issues and through this, we developed a bond with each of them. However, they comforted us in difficult times. For example, after the inauguration, all of us in the room felt the impact and we empathized with one another. They were scared, but so were we. It was truly a bonding moment where we held each other up, when all we wanted to do was fall.
These girls have shaped us through our second year in high school, and exposed us to the problems and challenges happening in our own backyard that directly affects them. In turn, this pushed us to take action on their behalf which began with the Safe Haven Resolution. This resolution’s intentions are to protect immigrants within the designated school by denying ICE access to any of their files or immigration status. We spoke to voice the girls’ experiences, such as when a seventh-grader told us her deep worries about being separated from her family if ICE was to make an appearance. Most recently, we all spoke at the Walnut Creek City Council meeting on the issue of NUSD, which is a movement that wants to secede from the larger MDUSD district. Members of Northgate UNCapped (began by a Northgate High School educator Mrs. Honey) believe that this secession is not only highly exclusive and limits the diversity and programs available, but it also damages schools, including Oak Grove, that are located right outside of the proposed NUSD borders. Again, at the meeting we spoke on the behalf of the girls and noted how NUSD would negatively impact them. Specifically, the fight against NUSD has been an uphill battle, but that does not discourage us or others vigorously opposing it. Whether rallying against the NUSD petition or rallying for the Safe Haven Resolution, these girls have inspired us to take a stand for what we believe in. In a position of privilege and power, it is our duty to speak for those whose voices are silenced.
Our work with GOALS would not be feasible without the support of the leaders in our community, notably Mrs. Cherise Khaund and Mrs. Meg Honey. Mrs. Khaund, a MDUSD advocate and parent volunteer, educated us and expanded our knowledge about pressing issues, including the Safe Haven Resolution and NUSD, and helped us articulate our own experiences. She works tirelessly and has been an inspiration to us without her, we would not have been able to reach out to our community on such large platforms.
Mrs. Honey, who teaches Advanced Placement United States History at Northgate High School, plays a key role in local and widespread activism. As mentioned, she began the movement known as Northgate UNCapped which is a group advocating against the NUSD movement. For us, she has been an exceptional resource, an inspiration and mentor meeting with us to discuss ways to improve GOALS; she has come to us with a variety of ideas, plans, and guest speakers to facilitate the growth of our program.
We would also like to thank MDEA for honoring us with the “Outstanding Volunteer Organization” award. That award truly goes to our girls, family, friends, and everyone who has stood by us in our journey.
Lastly , this would truthfully not be possible without the initial approval and encouragement from the Oak Grove Middle School Administration, but most directly Ms. Filios (the Principal) and Ms. Sechrist (the Vice Principal). In May of 2016, Aava sent an email pitching the idea for GOALS; by August, they had approved the program. We are all so thankful that they put their trust in three sophomore girls from Northgate High School with a big dream and continue to support our program, providing snacks, guidance, and endless support. We have plans to meet with them in August in order to ensure another successful, prosperous school year filled with learning, respect, empathy, and love. As Malcolm X once said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”