In Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), there has been a 122% increase in the number of newcomers over the past two years. At Castlemont High School, at least 50% of the 200 newcomers are Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE), coming from countries where poverty, disaster, civil unrest, persecution, or gender restrictions have affected their development of literacy and opportunities for education. Many are fleeing violence and human trafficking. A typical adolescent SLIFE has, at best, an elementary academic skillset and a limited time to become literate, fill in wide gaps of knowledge, and do so while overcoming trauma. OUSD is calling their dramatic arrival number increase “an urgent and compelling issue that requires a systems-level response.” Chords for Progression provides a unique way for newcomer refugee/asylum-seeking high school youth with a history of interrupted schooling to “catch-up.” The team will be approaching intensive academic and socio-emotional needs through an after-school program that merges math with musicianship/dance, and also facilitates English language learning. They anticipate this program to amplify academic and language capability, self-esteem, confidence, and also promote emotional healing; higher attendance rates, less tardiness, better grades and overall more successful schooling is expected. Our students range from ages 14 to 16 years old and are from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. We will be using mainly the Orff-Schulwerk Method, thus we will have percussion and barred instruments (like marimbas and xylophones). The pilot run of the program will launch in fall 2017. Fremont High School has committed to also adding our program in 2018. We are current finalists in the Berkeley Big Ideas contest and recipients of the 2017 Strauss Foundation award. We are in the process of signing a contract with a fiscal sponsor who has offered a comprehensive package and expect to begin fundraising soon.
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