OC Black Grads Succeed with Parents and Advocacy
By Dianne Anderson
Once more, every participant that graduated from the Council of African American Parents program is going off to attend some of the state’s top colleges and four-year universities, proving that even the worst pandemic year couldn’t stop progress.
Ingrid Johnson said they continue to teach students how to succeed, and also parents how to advocate on behalf of students. Together, the program and families are rising.
“Working in a silo is so counterproductive, we have to get other people inspired to do this work because it’s going to take a lot of folks to make a difference,” said Johnson, co-founder and president of CAAP.
She believes the organization remains viable because they pressed for a seat at the table to push equitable education. Consistently, 99% of all their students are admitted to four-year universities.
Best of all, graduates return to CAAP programs to help others.
Next year, they celebrate three decades of serving Black parent engagement, equity and access to resources.
“It’s been on our radar since our inception and it’s the reason why we started,” she said.“[These are] opportunities that families should expect when they send their kids to a public school that is funded publicly.”
For the last 14 months they continued strong through the pandemic. Families and students logged in from Orange County, Los Angeles, San Bernadino and Riverside counties. Some participants are from Sacramento, or as far away as Oregon.
Orange County, however, is a different dynamic, she said. It is highly resourced, but not a high population of Black families outside of Anaheim, Placentia and Buena Park area. She reaches out wherever needed.
As more Black families gravitate to Irvine to take teacher or administrative jobs, or more students attend graduate schools, they are accessing some pockets of opportunities.
But, she feels it is the social justice movement of the past few years that opened a greater awareness of disparities facing Black students. She said the community must come together to leverage resources so students can get a shot at a better life.
“George Floyd and social justice brought to light that in some of these schools African American boys have a higher suspension rate than any other group. The problem is still there, nothing has changed, just new names and new faces,” she said.
Recently, CAAP received a grant from the Orange County Community Foundation to help supplement the PALS program, Personal Academic Learning for Scholars. That program serves fourth through tenth graders, meeting twice monthly on Sundays from 3-6:00 p.m.
Students work in teams, speak publicly, they host presentations, engage confidence building with history lessons. She said too many parents are still unfamiliar with Black history because no one has told them.
“When they know whose shoulders they rise on, they know there’s an expectation. It will bring the elevator up for somebody else. That’s the CAAP scholar way,” she said.
“We showed parents that it is our responsibility to speak up, our kids are prepared. It hasn’t always been easy, but we’re not afraid to call a superintendent, or someone in congress, to say this is the situation,” she said.
CAAP scholars come prepared, are culturally aware and they’re going to graduate.
“That’s all the schools want, a return on investment because they don’t want you to drop out. We follow our students forever. Once a CAAP scholar, always a CAAP scholar,” she said.
To learn more about CAAP, see https://councilofafricanamericanparents.org/
For more information, see https://www.oc-cf.org/