There were times when Jamiana Akinjo wanted to drop out of school because she struggled to focus with all the distractions around her in West Oakland and felt overwhelmed with assignments.
But she persevered and will be graduating with a 4.0 GPA and a full-ride scholarship to UCLA, where she’ll study to become a pediatrician — the first person in her family to go to college.
“I’ve been underestimated a lot, one for being a girl, two for going to Mack,” Akinjo, 17, said in an interview Thursday. “A lot of people didn’t believe I had the abilities that I do have, and some people are surprised at what I can do.”
Akinjo is among the 60 students in McClymonds High School’s graduating class of 62 who will be going on to college.
At 97 percent, the class of 2018 has one of the highest percentages of college-bound students in the school’s history, McClymonds High Principal Jarod Scott said. Last year, Oakland Unified had a total graduation rate of 61.62 percent and dropout rate of 23.9 percent, according to EdSource. McClymonds’ graduation rate last year was 80.9 percent.
Scott praised the students’ tenacity and perseverance, especially given the challenges they faced growing up in West Oakland.
“We’ve experienced a lot of gun violence in this neighborhood, and there are just certain things that these students experience that many of us did not experience growing up,” Scott said. “Every student is unique, everybody is in a different situation.”
Of the 60 college-bound students, 25 are heading to junior colleges, five to University of California schools and 17 to California State University schools, according to an Oakland Unified news release.
Two graduates opted to enter the workforce rather than going to college, Scott said.
Akinjo attributed her and her classmates’ success to a sense of family within the relatively small school.
“We support each other to the fullest extent,” Akinjo said. “That means helping each other on assignments, helping out in class, making sure people are on top of it, being worried about each other; we’ll even go as far as calling and waking each other up in the morning to come to class.”
Neisha Moore, who will be attending USC on a nearly full-ride scholarship after graduating with a 4.2 GPA, agrees with that sentiment. “When you grow up in this area, you mature a lot faster because of what you are exposed to,” Moore said.
Colleen Piper, the college and career readiness manager at McClymonds, said the high school typically has a large number of students who go on to two-year colleges.
“We pride ourselves on that. This year we’ve definitely had a lot of students receive full-ride scholarships,” Piper said. “In my time here, this is the most full rides for a class.”
Piper said many of the students will be pursuing engineering degrees, as well as pre-medical biology and chemistry degrees.
McClymonds student Haifa Algabri, who will attend Mills College in the fall, said she hopes her school’s number of college-bound graduates challenges stereotypes about people of color. About 95 percent of McClymonds students are of color, 85 percent of them African-American, Scott said.
“Usually people say that people of color don’t go to college, but 60 out of 62 of us are going to college,” Algabri said. “It just proves them wrong, and that nobody should underestimate us.”
Source: East Bay 97 percent of McClymonds graduating class heading to college