A transcript, lightly edited for clarity and length, follows.
Show Guest: Anthony Rodriguez, Mentor Leadership Development Coordinator of Summer Success and Leadership Academy
Series Introduction: Welcome to voices of the community which explores critical issues facing Northern California communities. We introduce you to the voices of community thought leaders and change makers who are working on solutions that face our fellow individual community members neighborhoods cities and our region.
Series Introduction:This is George Koster your host. This episode is part of our documentary series from bankruptcy to reinvention the city of Stockton California the documentary series attempts to provide listeners with the insights points of view and personal stories from the various voices of change makers working to reinvent the city of Stockton.
Series Introduction: The interviews were conducted from August to September 2016 leading up to the election of Mayor Michael Tubbs. Who's our Central character in the series. The interviews in the documentary series have been edited to fit into our show format. The unedited full interviews will be posted on my website George Koster.com along with each episode of the series.
Show Guest Anthony: It's everybody here coming together to see that you know, the agenda maybe this way at the top and the north side of town, but that agenda needs to meet and match with everybody in town. And that part alone just was. Summer Success Leadership Academy is powerful.
Show Host George: In this episode we feature the voice of Anthony Rodriguez who is an 8th grade English and Math educator at Marshall Elementary, and works with the Summer Success Leadership Academy in leading the mentor training program. Anthony shares his passion for teaching and empowering youth to understand and embrace the socio-economic construct of Stockton’s economic apartheid and to break out of that setup to write their own life stories.
The Summer Success Leadership Academy was co-created in 2010 by Stockton natives Ty-Licia Hooker, and Michael Tubbs. The one-week residential program is free to about 50 minority high school students who learn to design and execute community action plans to address problems facing their communities. The Summer Success Leadership Academy is hosted with the University of the Pacific.
Like the Phoenix Scholars program we discussed with Rebekah Fenton in episode one, the Summer Success Leadership Academy’s mission is to increase access to higher education for underrepresented students. The Summer Success Leadership Academy is part of Michael Tubbs work to develop an ecosystem of youth organizing and leadership which ties into both the Stockton Scholars program that we discussed with Lange Luntao in episode five and with the Stockton School Initiative and student outreach with Jasmine Dellafosse in Episode 7.
Anthony: My name is Anthony Rodriguez. I am not from Stockton. I'm from Tulare California. My relationship with the Summer Success Leadership Academy is, I have been a mentor for five of the years that I first participated. And then this past year on my sixth year, I have the opportunity to take over Mentor training.
Anthony: And so Anthony, why was the Summer Success Leadership Academy created?
Anthony: The Summer Success Leadership Academy was created for the Stockton Youth. And Ty-Licia and Michael and when they came to me had already established that first year.
And they put me in the position to really look at what I saw here in Stockton. And when we sat down I started talking to them and I tell them you know, I see a lot of crime a lot of exposure to that crime a lot of activities where the kids are exposed to things that they shouldn't be exposed to. And I'm looking up stats online looking up things online and I'm figuring out that the kids in Southside.
They need to age 15 years faster than kids in other parts of the town. And just that alone us talking about that was just Michael and Ty-Licia were like, that's exactly why we created this. Because students kids young people. They need to be exposed to things that they're not use to. Need to be exposed to higher education role models that they necessarily don't get to see all the time and to get them off the street during the summer.
To see a place outside of that place that they see all summer. So just that piece alone attracted me to stay here in Stockton because my heart was destined to leave. But, the the movement that they have going on to me it matches, it's similar to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to me. It's much bigger than you know one part of the town.
It's everybody here coming together to see that. You know the agenda maybe this way at the top in the north side of town, but that agenda needs to meet and match with everybody in town. And that part alone just was Summer Success Leadership Academy is powerful. Just these two at the helm are...
George: And these two being Ty-Licia Hooker and Michael Tubbs who is a city councilperson in Stockton and running for the mayor's office. And so in a sense to your point, it's also bigger than the two Founders themselves.
Anthony: Yes, the two Founders themselves. That's kind of yes, whatever. Yeah, thank you for wrapping that up.
George: What would you say is the mission of the academy?
Anthony: The mission of the Academy I would say is to inform the youth that they have a purpose. That they are set up to fail. But even though that is apparent even though that is the way things are here in Stockton. They can still be empowered to break out of that set up.
George: So walk us through I'm a South Stockton resident and I'm a kid who's like, wow, I want to go to the academy. How do I get engaged going to the academy and what would my time of the academy look like?
Anthony: Okay. So getting engaged in the academy really is by word of mouth. We are connected to the schools through the South Stockton Schools Initiative. And Jasmine Dellafosse does great work with all the schools getting connected with the principals and counselors and getting the word out that you know, we're holding this program this summer.
And of course, I'm connected with my school. So I just shot out the invitations to my students as well entering freshman year. But as an incoming student, we have orientations for them. It's for them and the parents and we sit them down and get them ready for what's to come.It is probably like two to three weeks prior to the camp.
We sit them down and we go through what's going on in the camp. So we tell them that you know, you have free housing you have a week's worth of food that is totally free. The only thing the kids need to show up with are their clothes and their toiletries. And then we handle the rest of it. And we have University of the Pacific students who are mentors as well and they hold tours for the families and the students to show them where they're going to be staying what the campus looks like because a lot of these students have never seen the University of the Pacific Campus and they live here in Stockton.
So that's ah treat in itself. So after three weeks goes by we tell the kids and their parents to meet us at a certain part of the school. They check in. It's like a check-in process like when you're going to college that is really what it all is. It's giving them the full college experience. So they show up we give them their, keys their room number, we tell them who their roommates going to be. We walk them to their dorm room.
We get them settled in their dorm room. And they have their own swipe card, because at University of the Pacific the way you get your food is you swipe with a card and then they send you to get your food. So the kids have their own swipe card that they have to be responsible for. If you lose your key, you're responsible for paying for that key.
So it's a full college experience. So after we send them to their dorms, we then set them free to go get breakfast in the morning because we're constantly pulling people in throughout the entire morning. Nobody shows up exactly at 8 o'clock in the morning.
Living in certain parts of Stockton you are set up to fail and we must admit that first. We must admit that we as people living in South Side of Stockton are set up to fail. It's a reality that we must come to a conclusion with. So, once we get past that point where we are admitting the setup is real. You put them in different groups and put them in different activities that really show them, you know, these people are getting more things than these people and this part of town is getting more stuff than this part of town. So it really takes them through that process and understanding how policy works and how policy is the way things are ran when it comes to the different districts in Stockton.
So really showing them that system, showing them what the system and why the system is. After we take them through that the next part that we get to is we Empower and we don't Inspire. So we Empower them with the facts. We Empower them with the things that are real with the things that are apparent the statistics. And with that empowerment, we want to see them grow and use that knowledge take it back with them to school and hopefully that empowerment motivates them to, do better in school pay attention more in school focus more on school. Not just because it's a thing that we have to do, but it's a thing that we need to do. We need to break out of the setup. We need to break out of the system.
So the empowerment piece is really big we don't need to inspire you. Because you don't need to be in the words of Michael Tubbs, "you don't need to be inspired to not hear gunshots at night". You need to be empowered to not hear gunshots at night. You live in, that system you live in that place.
Now, you need to look at the facts and know that you can still break out of that place. We really focus on not inspiring, but we focus on empowering. There's two more pieces left. The third piece that we do is we affirm their identity. We let them know that you have a purpose. You are a person in this Society. You were put on Earth not to just walk the earth and be just a object that you know looks at the sky and doesn't have dreams. You have dreams. You have things you have ambitions you have opportunities. And we open their eyes to those opportunities, even though you live in South Side Stockton, you have all of this stuff at your disposal. You let them know that you know, you're somebody.
One of the ways that we did that in SSL, in the academy is, Pacific has this program that they do for incoming freshmen. It's called the Pacific One Word Project and we do that with the students. So we give them the opportunity to substitute their name, their first name for a word that they think embodies who they are. So for example, mine is Unforgettable and they tell you why would you replace your name with that word?
So, this is something that I did when I first got to Pacific. So mine was Unforgettable. This was really at a time, when the Aubrey Graham Drake released one of his albums that I really loved and that was the name of one of the songs. And I thought to myself that, you know in my mind I want to be Unforgettable to my students.
I want them to know that I'm here for them. I'm here to make sure that they grow to make sure that their life is better. That they know their path. That their path is not written for them that they write their path. So at the end of the day when my students leave me I want to be Unforgettable. So we give them the opportunity to do that to affirm their identity by choosing one word that embodies who they are.
It's a beautiful project and we definitely have plenty of those pictures. The last piece is we connect their education to more than just a letter grade. Too many times you go to a school and the teachers are drilling and drilling and drilling about he's getting Fs. He's getting Ds, he's getting C's. When they're not focused on is he improving?
Is she improving? Are we just focusing on the bad things they're doing? What things can we do to help them get to the good things? They focus just on the bad of the students. They lack this, they lack this, they lack this, they like this. Yes, they lack those things, but they're still here at school. They still want to learn. What are you not doing that's not helping them learn?
So connecting their education to more than just the letter grade. Yes, you get a letter grade. Yes, at the end of the day you're going to get a letter grade, but you have to understand when you enter that classroom. It's more important than receiving that letter grade. You're there to get knowledge, you're their to gain more knowledge.
George: I know how much the spoken word is important to both Ty-Licia Hooker, and Michael Tubbs. And I know you guys have studied Tupac's work.
George: And also the Freedom Riders, it's just an example. At the end of going through those four pieces that you just described essentially learning about their own history and taking ownership of the fact that here's where they are. Here's the system in front of them. They can take some action to guide themselves. What do you think the students gain who go through the academy?
Anthony: Of course some people walk away with the idea that it's a horse and pony show, but that's just the few. The majority which I think Ty-Licia she said it's a 95 to 98% of the kids walk away feeling motivated. Feeling like they can go back to their school and make change.
This is all them coming back to like ice cream socials and things that we do to check up on them. It's a personality change. I've seen multiple kids go through such personality changes. For example, I'm sure he's been mentioned before but all one of our students names is Albert Lopez. And he was ex-gang member when he first came to us.
He was in a gang. He was doing bad things with his life. But then once he came to this Academy the very next year we saw his grades are changing. His teachers are noticing him more. And these are things that you know Michael Ty-Licia are telling me. I'm just kind of like Blown Away by them. And, it's a total mind set change in a week because they come to reality.
They realized that you know, the place that they live in something's wrong. And nobody has told them about it. But now that they understand it. It makes sense to a point where they understand that, you know, they can take advantage of what's in front of them. They can take advantage of their future now they know that they are in control.
Because they have felt that sense of powerlessness that other people are in control of their lives Time After Time After Time After Time. And Albert was one of the biggest ones for us. Because he was involved in such bad things and people were making decisions for him. And we told him and we helped him understand that dude, you can make your own choices.
You don't need other people to make those choices for you. But he was just so deep into it that he felt people were making choices for him. And I think it's where a lot of the kids really come to reality with. That, you know, their paths for so long have been written and now that they can take control of it. Because it's really unwritten you were the one that can take control of this path going to your school going to community events.
You can get involved. And show that you are dedicated to what's next. And I really think that all the kids really sense that and they walk away with it. But they have to go back to their high schools. They have to go back to their homes at the end of the day and they're right back in it. I know they walk away knowing that they can write their own path.
But at the same time it's always hard to go right back to where you came from. Right back to elite Pacific and go right back to your home. So it's easy for it to go empty. And that's why we bring them back for like the ice cream socials and the check in with them in schools. Go talk to their principals, make sure they're doing good in class and stuff like that. To build that fuel back up to know that hey we're still dedicated to you. It's not about you know, one week during the summer. It's about the path that's in front of you now. And we're going to make sure that that path is unwritten still. That you are the one writing that path. So 95 to 98 percent of the kids really walk away feeling that they are in control now that we understand reality and that Stockton is this way, but we can make it this way.
Show Midpoint / Show Host George:You are listening to Voices of the Community, which explores critical issues facing Northern California communities. This is George Koster your host and if you are just joining us, in this episode we are discussing the reinvention of the City of Stockton California. Our guest today is Anthony Rodriguez an educator and the lead of the Summer Success Leadership Academy’s mentor training program. Anthony is reviewing both his and fellow University of Pacific student mentor’s work with South Stockton’s youth to understand how government policy has set them up to fail, how engaging in the policy empowers them to breakout of the system and by organizing with their fellow community members enables them to take ownership of their own stories and that of their communities.
George: Do you have some favorite moments with students? What have you seen is the biggest impacts?
Anthony: Yeah I do. One of the greatest activities that we do is on the first day. And it gets the most reactions. And it's the upset the setup and Michael and Ty-Licia kind of came up with the whole thing.
Is where we place kids in four different squares all right next to each other. And they're very small squares and squares that represent communities kind of like the Stockton districts. And we place those kids within those squares and we give them materials. One District gets more materials. Another District gets a little less materials. Another District gets a little bit less materials. And then the very last District district gets a little to none.
And then we throw them into an activity where they're trying to design your ideal community. And that's the plan for each little square, is design your ideal community. And you have to go to a housing developer to get things approved. So if you want to build a hospital, you have to go to the housing director. If you want to build a house, you gotta to go to the housing director. If you want to build anything, you have to go to the housing director. And the groups will send different people to go to the housing director. The higher District, so we'll say that District 4 is the highest one. So Group 4 goes to the housing District, wants a hospital.
Oh, yes take your hospital, its beautiful, clapping, take your beautiful Hospital. Group 1 comes and wants the same thing. And we're just like no. You don't get that. You don't have enough money for that. You don't have the budget for that. No, go back to your district. And then we send them back. And one of the bigger rules is if you step out of your District if your hand is even left out of your District, if if your hand goes into another District you go to jail immediately.
We are taking constantly from Groups 1 and 2. We are constantly just pulling people out of those districts. Taking them to jail for no reason. You know, sometimes ah pinky will step out of the square, ooh you gonna to jail. You know, your foot went into District 4. You got to go to jail. Okay, you don't mess with District 4. District 4 is a beautiful place. Okay. Nobody likes your kind in District 4 .
And then eventually the kids start to see this and they're just like something's not right in this thing. You know, and we have police officers walking around to we have a jailers. So, it's like the, and the mentors are the people who play these roles. Their mentors play the housing directors, the mentors play the cops, the mentors play the jailers. And we have a good time with them. And the kids eventually, you know, they get to a point with this is not Justice and they'll start screaming and getting in our faces. And I love to play the position of a cop. I'm a bigger dude. So
George: I noticed that
Anthony: Yes, laughter, I love the play the position of the cop because eventually the kids they start fighting back. And they're just like No And like sometimes I'll have to like grab them and like start like pulling a little bit. You're going to jail you're going to jail and they'll just like they'll go limp and they'll just like no I'm not going to jail, this is Injustice. Y'all are not treating us Fair dada dada dada dada da and it gets to a point where of course we have to stop the activity because it gets crazy because the kids start getting aggravated with it every single year. It happens.
It gets aggravated for the two lower groups. And then we'll put them in a circle and we'll just start talking about things. And this is where they really start to come like to reality about, I saw people over in District 4 getting all these things and then we asked for this and they told us no, you guys can't have that. And then we saw them getting more stuff, we saw them getting football stadiums, the mayor was visiting there. They're beautiful houses and all this stuff and we are over here trying to improve our community and the mayor is putting our community down. So it's just...
George: A very large aha moment.
Anthony: Yeah, It's a very large aha moment. And then that's when we start to pull in, what we're talking about with Tupac, what were we talking about with the district's here in Stockton. Where you come from what we see here with the different things in Stockton. It is a complete breakdown of the entire week in one activity.
George: So you're essentially also providing the context of each district is really the context of how a municipal government / politics power structure is set up.
George: So they get a chance to really understand the game.
Anthony: Uh, hummm, you know, it's bigger than a game.
George: Yeah much bigger.
Anthony: It's much bigger than a game
George: But, it sounds like at the end of this week. They're also inspired to realize it's more than a game. It is a game there a player in the game. They have to engage in the game, and either become a better player at the game and or create coalition's of other players, right, to create Community Based power.
Anthony: Yeah, we are Pawns in the plan. How do you become something else. How to you become a Rook, how do you become a Knight? You know, how do you become those things?
Anthony: Education, laughter.. How do you discover that, you can not just be a Pawn. You can become a part of the chessboard now. You become a strong player on that chessboard. Education
George: Right. So for you, the Aaha is that you are creating awareness at a level that, when they first show up that they have no idea.
George: Right. And so by creating that awareness, they come out of the program, how many of the students, or participants have been able to go on to Delta College or UOP or a state college?
Anthony: A Fair amount actually. We cannot keep track of all of them because eventually some of them move away. But they always tend to come back and visit and let us know how they're doing. But like I said that 95 to 98% is the amount of kids that are graduating with high school diplomas and actually pursuing higher education.
George: How does that compare to a district-wide but would you say that District numbers are?
Anthony: The district numbers, the last time I had checked I think were between 65 to 70% going on to higher education. And the other amount either goes to the Army or start like working or end up in harshier circumstances, unfortunately. But that piece is really what keeps us strong with the people who sponsor us during the summer to keep the program going is that number that we keep high
Anthony: For ourselves, but yes, it's definitely greater than the Stockton Unified's overall and that's good for us. You know we want to make sure our students are getting to where they need to get to where they want to get to.
But yeah, I don't know the exact number but I remember Ty-Licia she was saying and I had told somebody it was like 85, 86 percent when I was there at the summer and then I wish I had to stop me. She said like 95, 98 percent. I just know it's in that area 95 98, it's not a hundred like we would want.
George: Right, but that is realistic
Anthony: Laughter, that's realistic yeah
George: It is still anywhere from 10 to 15 points higher than the average of the district.
George: You're inspiring students to be engaged and believe enough in themselves that they can do the academic work to propel themselves into another level.
George: Anthony is our one thing about yourself that you don't feel people know about.
Anthony: One thing about myself that people don't know about? I'm sure there is plenty. Aaah, Oh wow, I would say that you know, I have not made a big announcement about it. But you know, I'm currently getting ready to have a child. My first child and it's really started to help me look deeper at the world and issues that are going o. And I do what I do..... Teach because I want to see a better place for my child.
I want to see people creating a better place, better streets for my child to walk down. And that has really become apparent to me in the past few weeks as I've had to wrap my mind around this whole thing about bringing a child into this world, is no it's a scary thing. But I think oooh gosh, what I want people to know about me is that I do this show up to work every day.
I get up every day. I walk into my classroom every day because. I want to see those children create a better world for themselves. Not only for the benefit of having the things in the dreams and aspirations and all those things that they want, but also for the people that they love around them.
And working in south side is difficult, it is, it's stressful, it's frustrating especially when you know your students; they come to school one day and everything I taught them the day before we'll just go in one ear out the other. Because they have to go home at the end of the day and some of my kids go home to places with, abusive parents and um, gang activity and you know for me that's even more empowerment to get up in the morning.
So yes, people don't know that, you know, the reason I do what I do is for... my babies, not just my babies, my baby. And I want them to have the dreams, the aspirations and everything that they want when they reach the end of that road. And I want them to write their own story not the story that's written for them.
George: Anthony, thank you for being on voices of community.
Anthony: Thank you.
Episode Outro: That’s, it for this episode of voices of the community. You have been listening to Anthony Rodriguez, educator, father, and lead mentor who shared his work with the Summer Success Leadership Academy to increase high school graduation rates, support student’s efforts to pursue higher education and write their own life story and create a better world for themselves.
Series Outro: Voices of the community as a labor of love. This documentary series on the City of Stockton's reinvention is a tribute to my mother Josephine Koster Wiley who grew up in South Stockton and passed away during the production of the documentary series. My mom was a first generation Italian immigrant whose family migrated to Stockton and owned a motel on the Old Charter way now renamed Martin Luther King Boulevard in the Heart of South Stockton. Mayor Michael Tubbs also grew up in South Stockton with his single mother Racole Dixon. Throughout the series, you'll hear voices of community members who are working with Michael Tubbs in both creating new organizations as well as working with fellow community members to reinvent both South Stockton and the greater Stockton Community.
Series Credits: I want to thank my associate producers Eric Estrada and Nick McClendon as well as advising producer Malcolm Cecil. Please go to georgekoster.com to check out our next episode of From Bankruptcy to Reinvention - The City of Stockton California documentary series as well as our archived past shows which feature community voices working on solutions to critical issues facing Northern California communities. Please rate us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts and share this story with your friends. Follow us on twitter @georgekoster and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org I'm George Koster in San Francisco and thank you for listening.
In memoriam of Jo Koster Wyllie
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