Oakland School Enrichment Programs



By Valeria Sandoval, CONTRIBUTOR

Going through a school in upper Oakland cities like Montclair, Piedmont, or Rockridge after the students have been released, you’ll see a lot of different programs going on inside and outside. Kids playing sports, learning a new language, building toys, doing a podcast, and martial arts.
Now if you go down the hill and across the freeway, you’ll also see programs going on after school, except you won’t see as many or the same kind of programs. You’ll mostly see sports, and clubs focusing on empowering the youth, and then you might see three more.
Why do we have this difference?
It is not hard to spot the difference in these enrichment programs. East Oakland schools have always struggled with enrichment programs, while upper Oakland has had enough programs, and then some.
The difference in enrichment opportunities between the two areas has everything to do with the income gap, according to an article written by Zaidee Stavely of KQED. She quotes a resident of East Oakland who is speaking about the area she lives in and their schools.
“Here in East Oakland, we are all poor,” says Marina Muñoz in Spanish. “Poor in everything, including education. That’s due in large part to the district’s enrollment policy.”
Another clear difference in these areas is their ethnic demographics. Upper Oakland’s demographic is 71 percent White and 13 percent Asian. Hispanics and African-Americans make up only one percent of the demographic.
In contrast, East Oakland’s demographic arrangement is reversed. Hispanics have the highest population percentage at 50 percent with African-Americans following slightly behind at 40 percent.
Pema Wilson, an enrichment teacher with an after school program, works at Hillcrest School which is a K-8 school in the Oakland Hills. She has worked there for almost three years. I asked her about the enrichment classes offered at her school, which totaled over ten.
Some of the programs she mentioned included a variety of sports, podcast production, toyology, martial arts, techbridge, theater, and four different language classes.
“The [students in Upper Oakland] aren’t exposed to a different kind of lifestyle, as well as a different dynamic at their school. They have endless resources at their school, so they don’t know what it would be like to not have these things,” she explained.