When Black History Month arrives each February, African-American students in Milpitas public schools have something extra special to look forward to—being recognized for their own achievements.
On Monday, students walked across the Milpitas High theater stage under the bright lights. They were treated like dignitaries with family members cheering in the audience and an all-star cast to greet them on the stage.
Principals read the names and passed out awards. The superintendent and school board members shook the students' hands. And there were some special guests—fire Chief Brian Sturdivant, police Chief Dennis Graham and County Board of Education trustee Leon Beauchman—and the keynote address was delivered by Charles "Chuck" Gary, retired principal of Milpitas High and now a lecturer at Santa Clara University.
There is something positive to be said about the African-American students who are achieving, and they need to be recognized, said Cheryl Rivera, assistant principal at Milpitas High and co-adviser to the Black Student Union.
"I wanted to have something that had meaning mid-year and a connection to Black History Month," she said. In the past, parent-run Flame Keepers, led by Demetress Morris, had ceremonies at the end of each school year for African-American high school students.
African-Americans make up less than 5 percent of students in the district and total 143 at Milpitas High this year. As a group, they tend to score lower than the district's second-language students, or English language learners, according to Rivera.
Three years ago, Rivera helped start Dream Keepers as an academic program with a vision to get more African-American students in accelerated classes at Milpitas High. Being recognized for high GPAs, standardized test scores, AP and honors classes is a part of bridging the achievement gap.
The awards recognizes students for academic achievement or outstanding accomplishment.
Sarina Bolden, a student at Russell Middle School, received a certificate for outstanding academic achievement. Her father, aunt and grandfather were in the audience.
"I'm really happy that this happened," said her father, Robert Bolden.Milpitas High Outstanding Academic Achievement Outstanding Accomplishment Darrien Hamberry √ Yohaness Estifanos √ Sydnie Turner √ Bryant Canada √ Brianna Gay √
Kennedy Kenney √
Tyrell Kirk √ Anthony Axanti √ Beverly Windham
√ Michael Hopkins √ Cal Hills Jeremy Rushing √ Shanika Hampton √ Armani Boutte √ Taylor Lane √ Christopher Arnold √ Dashawn Martin √ Rancho Middle Outstanding Academic Achievement Outstanding Accomplishment Nathan Hirpo √ Isiah Rigamaiden-Daniels √ Isaiah Scott √ Ayesha Yusuf √ Samrawit Estifanos √ Roderick Jones √ Aliza Muhammad √ Russell Middle Sarina Bolden √ Shari Thompson √ Daryon Baynard √ Kiara Turner √ Nebat Ali √ Burnett Elementary Outstanding Academic Achievement Outstanding Accomplishment Jasmine Carter √ Samara Jones √ Alyse Turner √ Amir Davis √ Dion Leonard √ Curtner Elementary Justine Malone √ Damien Walker √ Shalandra Stanberry √ Stephanie Harris √ Willie Marquice Wiley √ Pomeroy Elementary Nathan Mulugeta √ Sarah Mulugeta √ Natalie Penrose √ Jalyn Boutte √ Randall Elementary Mariyah Banks √ Emmanuel Hibbert √ Jazmen Edwards √ Rose Elementary Brandy Redic √ Sinnott Elementary Bobby Banks √ Cyann Anderson √ Hibo Osmon √ Spangler Elementary Kianna Taylor √ Reginald Barr √ Weller Elementary Allyah Villiados √ Kareem Bailey-Longstreth √ Tariq Bracey √ Tyree Bracey √ Zanker Elementary Mary Tewelde √ Helen Zewdu √ Morgan Conyers √
Milpitas Unified holds an annual awards ceremony for Latino students.