Secure the BAG Conference
By Dianne Anderson
In this age of the iGeneration, one big question lately is how to Secure the BAG – that is, how to get lots of money and success.
The answer probably starts with at least getting the kids to school regularly, and on time.
On Friday, June 21, Young Visionaries hosts its 6th Annual SMAART Youth and Parent Conference, targeting students in San Bernardino and Rialto school districts, and surrounding schools to talk about something they can all understand. Each year, the conference turns a timely phrase into an acronym for a deeper meaning.
This year, “Secure the BAG” stands for Behavior, Attendance, and Grades.
Amanda Vann, SMAART program coordinator, said they are putting a high emphasis on academic excellence this year, helping parents and children understand the need to improve daily attendance.
At San Bernardino Valley College, the event will reach elementary and middle school students in partnership with CAPS after-school program, which will bus the students to the campus. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and parents are invited to attend.
Vann said local athletes that are in the process of going pro will be also be on site to talk with the students about the importance of staying in school.
“They’ll speak on the process of education because a lot of our kids feel that they don’t even have to graduate high school to go to the NBA, MMA or NFL. It’s to let them know you’ve got to make it to college in order for this to be an opportunity for you,” said Vann.
For many young students, it will be their first visit to campus.
She said early preventive measures are needed to catch students at the impressionable middle school level so they can know that college can be a reality after high school graduation.
Another part of the Secure the BAG concept is learning how to hang on to their money.
“I always recommend going to community college from high, unless you are getting a full ride or athletic scholarship to save money. I would say go to valley college,” she said. “It’s free at valley college, or half off.”
At last count, YVYLA and the SMAART programs provided services for over 3,000 youth and families through local projects, projects within the school districts, and youth conferences. They have three events within the course of the year, including the backpack giveaway, turkey giveaway and Christmas toy drive.
Free parenting classes are also offered with a wraparound holistic approach to help students make the grade, stay in school, and stay focused. The parenting component, a 12-week program, is all voluntary. There, parents can learn how to increase their child’s attendance.
Some students are working against suspensions or academic probation, and the parent is getting phone calls at home.
“That’s where we come in, and say we’re here to relieve that stress, and reduce those phone calls and behaviors. Enroll in our class so we can assist you with that,” Vann said.
Young students will receive a raffle ticket, and a variety of prizes, along with a chance to win a tablet. Among the presenters are entrepreneurs, mental health awareness, physical wellness and peer influencers. Dr. April Clay and Chino Officer Ryan Tillman are featured speakers.
“Ryan Tillman has a program about breaking barriers,” said YVYLA Founder and CEO Terrance Stone. “He talks about young African American males and law enforcement interaction with our community.”
Stone said the conference will be high energy, and a good way to get Secure the BAG information out to the kids. Lunch is free from the food truck where the menu is regular or bacon wrapped hotdogs with chips and a drink.
They’ll also have free snow cones. It is summertime, after all.
“We’ll have music outside. We’re going to have professional athletes meet and greet,” he said.“Sometimes we forget, these kids are still kids, so let’s let them have fun.”
So far, they have over 300 young students confirmed from the CAPS after-school program, along with 200 signed up online. He’s asking the community to RSVP so they can make sure they can accommodate all.
The goal will be to keep the children and teens engaged, and empowered.
“Because kids, unless they have a phone in their hand or tablet, their attention span is super short,” Stone said. “To combat that, we want to have a high impact event.”
As the state and national numbers show, Black students deal with more school tardies and absences than other groups. It could be any number of reasons, such as transportation, access to clean clothes, or that low-income people tend to be highly transitory, or experience family instability.
Whatever the cause, missing school days is hurting the kids.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, about one in six students, or over seven million students missed 15 or more days of school in 2015-16.
“Consider the relative differences: compared to their white peers, American Indian and Pacific Islander students are over 50 percent more likely to lose three weeks of school or more, black students 40 percent more likely, and Hispanic students 17 percent more likely,” the U.S. Department of Education reports.
Another analysis from the Economic Policy Institute also shows that low-income status and disability also increased the chances of missing school.
English language learners and Native American students were the most likely to miss three or more days of school (24.1 and 24.0 percent, respectively), followed by black students (23.0 percent), and Hispanic non-ELL and white students (19.1 and 18.3 percent, respectively). Only 8.8 percent of Asian non-ELL students missed more than three days of school a month.