Akoma Unity Center BHM Powerhouse Guests
By Dianne Anderson
Every day is a celebration of Black History Month at Akoma Unity Center, but that doesn’t mean they don’t plan to keep it coming all month long in February.
Outstanding young professionals across California will bring college and career readiness information as part of their Black Excellence program with a lineup of powerhouse academics with presentations for the kids.
“Most of them are homegrown and from a variety of different fields, and are coming back to share their personal experiences. Councilmember Ben Reynoso [Ward 5] will be here. Educators from San Bernardino Unified School District will come out to speak,” said Jennifer Xicara, Akoma Operations Manager.
Among their guests, Willie Blackmon, Ed.D., Assistant Director of Academic Mentoring Programs will present from the University of California, Riverside. Dr. Ivan Acquaah, an Environmental Engineer focused on Air Pollution Control from UCR will also give a presentation.
Distinguished archaeologist, Dr. Ayana Omilade Flewellen, the president-elect of the Society of Black Archaeologists, is a featured speaker.
“I have scholars here that want to become archaeologists,” she said.“We do host activities for the scholars weekly. With the Black Excellence program, we’re bringing in scholars to speak on Zoom. They are coming back to share [information about ]their personal fields.”
While the kids are on COVID-19 lockdown, support for emotional well being can help students from falling out of interest in academics, or becoming depressed. She said socialization is a big part of student engagement, but many students have lost old friends this school year.
“It’s an unfortunate truth for many children, it’s difficult, especially for shy or introverted children, how do you connect?” she said.
Akoma Zoom classes offer more than academic support. Their mentors have created an online space where kids come together just for the fun of it. They have a Fun Friday Club with anime, they do coding and earn prizes. Scholars shop for free at the Akoma Store.
“It’s a space to connect and do hands-on activities at home, especially connecting with their peers. We buy supplies for it, they work together. We also have arts, they can make essential oil,” Xicara said.
They also regularly check in with their scholars, offering Umoja programming (in Swahili meaning unity), and coming up with new ways to engage them.
“We have scholars dealing with a workload at school, not being able to see their friends makes them sad, and feelings of loneliness. We had one scholar tell us that this is my happy place. Hearing things like that keeps us going,” she said.
Food is also available for pickup. Each Friday, parents take home five days of nutrition through the Grab and Go lunch distribution. Twice monthly on Fridays, they also pass out school supplies that the students will use for hands-on learning with their mentors.
Anyone can register on www.akomaunity.org to get students into support, and other resources. Students also log in from surrounding cities, like Victorville and Rialto, and often start the program the same day as signups.
“The children are able to interact with each other. We do have classes divided by gender and they’re able to connect with children their own age,” she said.
Akoma is on contract with SBCUSD, serving about 130 students.
Last month, the San Bernardino City Council approved the Akoma/Anne Shirrells Beautification Project, and will be awarding the remainder cost of $83,308. Recently, the center’s beautification project broke ground, and has begun its multi-use volleyball court, which, she said, is expected to be completed within the next two to three months.
The revitalization also includes the Anne Shirrells Community Garden makeover, a Zen garden. The vision is that the garden will also serve as an outdoor learning center for SBCUSD and Rio Vista Elementary student scholars.
“It gives me great joy to support and represent the community of Ward 6 along with other collaborative stakeholders such as San Bernardino City, MAC Foundation, and San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD). We will continue to bring forth economic development, community entertainment, and other vital resources in order to promote family and community engagement” said Kimberly Calvin, Akoma’s Executive Director, and Sixth Ward Councilmember.
For more information, see http://akomaunitycenter.org/
Or call 909-217-7956