Oakland families enjoy Back to School celebration and back pack giveaway downtown in the Frank H. Ogawa Plaza on Saturday, Aug. 18..
By Lee Hubbard
The fifth annual “Attend and Achieve” rally took place this past weekend in the plaza around Oakland City Hall, bringing together close to 1,500 Oakland students and their parents for a day of festivities, including speakers, work shops, entertainment, free food and backpack giveaways.
The event was designed to help families get ready for the start of public school in Oakland on Aug. 27.
“This event is about getting students pumped up and ready for school,” said Chantal Reynolds, a member of the Oakland Youth Commission, who worked at the event.
The annual event is the brainchild of Dee Dee Abdur Rahim, Nyeisha DeWitt and Tameka Raymond of Oakland Natives Give Back.
This year, the rally was co-sponsored by KQED, the Mayors office, the Oakland Unified School District, the Oakland Housing Authority, Imagine That and other Oakland non-profits.
“We are working hand-in-hand with various city agencies and nonprofits to celebrate the start of the school year,” said DeWitt, who also serves as director of the citywide dropout prevention program of Oakland ’s Promise Alliance.
“I am excited that we have so many parents out with their children to highlight the importance of community celebrations,” DeWitt said.
The day kicked off with a free breakfast provided by Jamba Juice. The youth then went to workshops by age group to talk about back to school issues and how to be prepared for a successful school year.
One of the workshop presenters was attorney Adante Pointer. He said it was important that young people see people who look like them as achievers.
“I was just telling the kids to achieve and not to be afraid to pursue their dreams,” said Pointer. “Where you start doesn’t have to be where you finish.”
At noon, participants were provided a free lunch by Mr. Pizza Man. After lunch, a rally took place with Oakland school’s superintendent Tony Smith, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Eric Johnson, executive director of Oakland Housing Authority.
“(This festival) emphasizes the importance of regular attendance and aligns parents, the school district and our community partners around the common goal of providing the conditions necessary for student success,” said Smith.
“We want to make sure kids show up to school on the first day, as a way to cut down on chronic absenteeism, which impacts learning,” said Johnson. ‘