Academic Coaching Program Succeeds at Holding Black Students to High Standards

Mafanikio Academic Coaching Program at Nystrom Elementary School end of the year yelebration. Pictured are students who are wearing the black Mafanikio T-shirts). Front row, from left to right: Dallez Edwards, Deshawn Ford-Howard, D Jae Harrell, Armaya Johnson, Jamari Lloyd Godfrey, Jaleel Lyles, Brooklyn Moore, Nevaeh Simms, Braylon Moore: 2nd row: De Shonae Barker, Edward Boatman, Amaya Ford- Howard, Steven Hudson, Michael Nelson, Dynasty Mitchell Douglas, Jah’Zae Poole, Jasmine Quilter, Landon Sims, Jr., Ajani Truvillion, Tavaris Conard; 3rd row- left to right: Josiah McGhee, Adrian Walker, Ashlyn Walker, Richard Noah Cheney, Joya Simmons, Ma Naiya Square, Sherone Bradley. The students are surrounded by their parents, grandparents, and guardians. Photo by Joe L. Fisher.

The Nystrom Mafanikio Academic Coaching Program held its closing ceremony on Thursday, May 30.

Twenty-five student scholars from third through sixth grades received certificates of achievement for outstanding participation in the program. Also, 15 students completed the How to Tie a Tie ceremony, and received Certificates of Completion of the Rites of Passage program that evening.

The goal of the Mafanikio Academic Coaching Program at Nystrom, which started in September 2018,  is to improve the academic outcomes of the students and to build trust in order to increase parent engagement, said Rev. Andre Shumake, Sr., site coordinator of the program and school Community Outreach worker. Parents are given strategies so they can help their student scholars at home. African American parent engagement has increased significantly at Nystrom since the inception of the Mafanikio program.

Parents, grandparents, and guardians are often all  involved.

The following is the Nystrom Mafanikio Get Smart Formula!

1. Be focused. (go to class WILLING to learn)

2. Pay attention to the teacher.

3. Follow instructions.

We believe that if each student show up on campus with this positive mindset and apply these three simple steps, their academic outcomes will improve, and they will have a more enjoyable learning experience at school on a daily basis.

The “Mafanikio” (Swahili for achievement) Academic Coaching program was created at the request of a self-formed group of African-American parents in the West Contra Costa Unified School District who were not satisfied with the status of AA student achievement and the growing performance gap.

In the 2016-17 school year,  Sonja Neely-Johnson and Dr. Janet Scott, directors in the district’s Educational Services department, were tasked with creating a supplemental program as a response to those African American parent concerns. Research has proven that tutoring, mentoring, and the promotion of academic mindsets were identified as effective strategies to support growth in overall student achievement.

The Mafanikio program was designed to support and promote the achievement of AA students through incorporating these elements.  The pilot year 2016-17 was an overall success because of programs headed by staff, such as Shumake.

The Mafanikio program at Nystrom flourished because Shumake took the initial program frame and added community engagement and parent education components. Shumake, who is also a WCCUSD certified Efficacy Parent Trainer, incorporated the knowledge and principles of self-efficacy, a mindset to challenge misconceptions and deepen the belief that African American students can achieve at high levels.

With the support of his principal, James Allardice, Nystrom teachers Dorcus Sims, Ibilola Soyode, Alicia Wheat, Oji Blackston (retired), Grad Tutor Nerina Iliili, and district staff, Shumake has ensured that students have multiple opportunities for cultural validation and enrichment.

They gained exposure to STEM activities and researchers at UC Berkeley as part of the Road Map to CAL vision, Bay Area Black Youth (BABY) Tech and study trips to the District’s Fab Lab, etc… Reverend Shumake, as he is also known, has made it his goal to provide the students and families he supports at Nystrom and in the greater Richmond community more access to positive educational experiences.


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