More than a thousand high school and eighth grade students were honored for their scholastic achievement Monday night as African American Honor Roll students in Oakland Unified School District.

Gathered at Acts Full Gospel Church with several thousand proud parents, grandparents and siblings, the students were recognized by the district’s African American Task Force and the Office of African American Male Achievement.

“I just keep up with my work,” said eighth grader Brooklyn North of her 4.0 grade point average, which is straight As. She attends Oakland Military Institute.

To be on the honor roll, the students had to have better than a 3.0 grade point average. Oakland Unified began its African American Honor Roll 14 years ago and the district’s spokesman Troy Flint said this is the largest group to date.

“I work pretty hard,” said Lauryn Hearne, an eighth grader at Claremont Middle School. “But I’m used to it.” She hopes to go to college and study math.

Lauryn HearneOakland Unified has been trying to close an achievement gap that has resulted in poorer outcomes for African-American and Latino students compared to its white and Asian students. According to state Department of Education data, 23.7 percent of African-American students who start high school in OUSD drop out, and among those who graduate, only a third have the courses needed to attend a state college or university — compared to 71 percent of whites and 73 percent of Asians, according to Department data.

But on Monday, 61 students from McClymonds High School, whose student population is all black, were on the honor roll. That’s about one third of the student body.

Oakland High School listed 126 students on the African American Honor Roll while Oakland Technical High School and Skyline High School, both very large schools, listed nearly 200 and 150 students, respectively.

Oscar Wright, a tireless advocate for African-American students who attends every OUSD school board meeting, told the students the importance of their work. Chris Chatmon, head of the African American Male Achievement division, told them of the promise and opportunity ahead for them.

Parents like La Madio and Kenyatta Butler told of their support and pride. “My stepson gets straight As. He’s reading at the college level,” said Kenyatta of her stepson, La Madio Butler jr. who attends Madison Park Upper Campus High School. Her main strategy is to prevent obstacles to his insatiable interest in learning.

About The Author

Barbara Grady is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can reach her at

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