Martin Ricard
Oakland Community Organizations (OCO)

Sue Piper
Oakland Unified School District

Oakland – October 23, 2013 – City, educational, business and community leaders announced today a new citywide effort focused on closing the academic achievement gap for Oakland high school students. The partnership will collaborate on an expansion of Linked Learning, a college and career preparatory strategy that integrates rigorous academics with technical education, work-based learning, real-world job experiences, and social support and intervention services.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, OUSD Superintendent Dr. Gary Yee, and Peralta Colleges Vice Chancellor Dr. Michael Orkin, along with leaders from Oakland Community Organizations and East Bay Asian Youth Center, gathered at East Oakland’s Life Academy to discuss their commitment to Linked Learning. Life Academy, one of Oakland’s most successful high schools, emphasizes the biological sciences and serves as a model for successful adoption of the Linked Learning approach.

“Linked Learning is about successfully building a bridge, where students can take what they learn in the classroom and apply it in the workforce, and then take what they learn in the workforce and apply it right back in the classroom,” explained Dr. Young Kim-Parker of Oakland Children’s Hospital’s Community Health & Adolescent Mentoring Program for Success (CHAMPS). CHAMPS has provided mentorship opportunities for students from OUSD’s Life Academy for many years.

Former Life Academy student Elizabeth Beltran shared that, before attending Life Academy, she had no idea how her grades connected to real life. It was through her internships at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center that she gained self-confidence and realized that she could achieve higher ambitions.

“My mentors at Alta Bates pushed me to see that I could do the work they were doing. They pushed me to apply to college and for the scholarships I would need to pay for college,” Beltran explained. “My boss even took me to the bank one day to open a bank account. I couldn’t figure out why, until I received a letter telling me that I had won a scholarship and they would be depositing those funds in my bank account.”

Beltran added that prior to her internships, she never considered going to college. In the end, she was accepted to every college she applied to, and is now a proud 2013 graduate of UC Berkeley. Her ultimate goal is to be a high school teacher and to help other students who come from communities like hers in East Oakland to see that they have a future.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, a former parent activist and school board member, noted, “I am absolutely committed to Linked Learning because it will help save the lives of Oakland kids.”

Earlier this year, a study by The Education Trust-West concluded that high schools with Linked Learning programs increased the percentage of students completing high school prepared for college and career. In fact, students with experience in Linked Learning pathways had a graduation rate of 84 percent during the 2011-12 school year, compared with 58 percent for their counterparts who didn’t have the benefit of Linked Learning.

Linked Learning is a key component in OUSD’s effort to see that all students graduate prepared for college and career, particularly for African-American, Latino, and low-income populations whose graduation rates currently lag behind the average.

Eddie Moore, a sophomore at Coliseum College Preparatory Academy (CCPA) in East Oakland, shared how his participation in the BUILD entrepreneurial program at CCPA changed his perspective. “At first I thought that the BUILD program was baloney, but it has helped me to see me not as another African-American male without a future but as a motivated, hardworking contender for college.”

“What the students need are not jobs but careers,” said OUSD Superintendent Dr. Gary Yee. “What they need is not graduation from high school, but graduation from college so they can have those careers. That is what Linked Learning is all about.”

Yee also accepted a challenge made by Fremont High School parent and Oakland Community Organizations member Maria Zaragoza to secure the resources needed for all students to have access to quality education.

“The school district is thrilled about our new partnership with the City and the Peralta Community College District,” Yee added. “Our goal for Linked Learning is to help students apply the academic skills they are learning in school to solve real world issues and, ultimately, show them how their high school education directly relates to their career interests and aspirations.”