Erika Alvero

Bridging linguistic barriers for parents in Oakland schools

Sury Martín and Paw Sei are part of a rapidly growing number of district parents who don’t natively speak English. According to OUSD’s fast facts website, during the 2014-2015 school year, 49.5 percent of students in the Oakland school district used a language other than English at home. Fifty native languages are spoken throughout the district.

Tales of Two Cities Episode 7: Loss

In this week’s episode of the Tales of Two Cities podcast, hosts Brad Bailey and Matt Beagle will be discussing loss, and stories about people moving on when something or someone important is taken away. We’ll hear about a lost Oakland bus stop so important to bus riders that they’re trying to bring it back. We’ll listen as some surprising guests in the East Bay share their favorite memories of Prince. We’ll also hear the story of an Oakland woman…

Oakland Zoo celebrates Earth Day

The celebration took place on Saturday, April 23, when thousands of visitors flooded through the park’s gates to watch the animals and observe the performance by Trapeze Arts Inc., a circus arts school in West Oakland.

Oakland’s Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue helps baby animals return to the wild

Travis is the powerhouse behind the Yggdrasil Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, and if it seems like animals have seeped into every aspect of her life, it’s because, well, they have. She and her late husband founded Yggdrasil in 2001. The center takes in orphaned baby animals—especially squirrels, opossums and deer—fosters them, and cares for them until they’re ready to return to the wild. They take in close to 200 Bay Area animals every year. Right now, the middle of the springtime rush of animal births, is Yggdrasil’s busiest season.

Oakland schools make LGBTQ representation a priority in history curriculums

California’s FAIR Act is an attempt to diversify history curriculum—specifically, to represent in history lessons people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and people with disabilities. The FAIR Education Act, or SB 48, went into effect on January 1, 2012. The law requires elementary, middle and high schools to represent these groups in history curriculum in a way that is “fair, accurate, inclusive and respectful”—or FAIR.

Little Kids Rock brings music education to schools

On March 23, members of the Pandora team held a music day at Roots International Academy, a middle school in East Oakland. This is a continuation of their Little Kids Rock program, which works to bring music education to schools serving a low-income student population.

Anti-violence organization serves deaf community survivors

Any deaf visitors will be directed to DeafHope, which focuses specifically on providing services to victims of domestic violence in that community. “We just feel like there really is a need,” says Aracelia Aguilar, an empowerment director with DeafHope, speaking through a relay interpreter via phone. “And we can see how people are trying to survive. There’s such limited communication.”

DeafHope was founded in 2003 by Julie Rems-Smario along with eight other women, who recognized there was a need for specialized services. Previously, says Rems-Smario, also speaking through a relay interpreter, in domestic violence cases, it was often easier for survivors to stay in an abusive home where the abuser knew sign language than to access services available for sexual assault or domestic violence victims, which were designed for the hearing community.

Performance, charter school renewal are priorities at school board meeting

Wednesday night’s Oakland school board meeting started off sparsely populated; board president James Harris joked that it would be a short meeting. But within two and a half hours, it was standing room only, as parents filed in to attend a special meeting on charter schools’ performance measures and two charter renewals. The meeting began with a joint presentation made by representatives from the groups Latino Men and Boys (LMB) and African-American Female and African-American Male Achievement (AAMA). As part…

High school students gain computer science skills at Oakland Hacks

Oakland Hacks, or OHacks for short, is the first hackathon run by high school students in Oakland. A hackathon is an event at which people come together to create something through computer programming, from apps to websites. Sometimes they have a theme, a specific topic like music or sports, or participants will create something to be used for their community or to help the environment. OHacks does not have a theme like this, but its workshop format, with many mentors supporting students, focuses on getting beginners interested in computer science. OHacks is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., but other hackathons can last for 24 or 36 hours, or even a whole weekend.

Squirrel photographers showcase Oakland’s furry residents in new exhibit

Hella Damn Squirrels has been in full operation since 2013. The group only consists of two people, Hale and her boyfriend Toppano, partners in squirrel photography from the very beginning. They focus solely on the squirrels at Lake Merritt: Toppano, the squirrel feeder and “wrangler” of the duo, brings them over with the bag of walnuts and Hale, a professional photographer, snaps their photos to be posted on social media.

Through adversity, music programs in OUSD fight to grow

Cal’Vion Evans, an eighth grader at Roots International Academy, begins slowly, tapping the cymbals and toms with two wooden drumsticks. The drum set rests on a mini-stage, a short platform covered by a rug and flanked on either side by guitar stands, each with about 10 guitars leaning in. Cal’Vion speeds up gradually, his head movements changing from a gentle nodding with the music to a swivel as his drumming becomes faster and more furious. Then he slows back down,…

Oakland school district approves new kitchen to create fresher meals

The school district’s recently-approved Central Kitchen, Instructional Farm and Education Center Project is an effort to improve the quality of school meals in Oakland by creating a modern facility equipped to prepare thousands of nutritious meals every day. It will be located at the Marcus Foster school site in West Oakland, which formerly housed the Marcus Foster Middle School and later offices for the Programs for Exceptional Children. In addition to being better-equipped to serve fresher and healthier foods for students, the new site will offer educational programs and even a farm for students to help grow the food that may one day end up on their plates.