Jun 5, 2015
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When striving to reach lofty goals in youth education, some of the best ideas come from those with the greatest potential to achieve change: the students.

That’s the main principal behind the unique Potential Project, which allotted up to $500 apiece to groups of local students this year who were tasked with creating ways to forward goals listed in the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which aims to improve student outcomes.

About 60 students from district schools took part in the inaugural run, said Pastor Dave Clark of Richmond’s Living Hope Neighborhood Church, a project sponsor. How they chose to spend $500 was truly impressive.

At Verde Elementary in North Richmond, a group of students concerned about physical activity at their school used the money to supply physical education equipment such as soccer goals and hurdles (see video below).

At Richmond College Prep, students seeking to boost parent participation hosted a science event at school last week where parents joined their students in building rockets. More than 100 people attended the event.

Richmond High had four groups participate. One group decided that rather than punishing tardiness they would reward students who show up on time, hoping to improve student attendance. They funded pizza, ice cream and tacos as rewards and are currently looking at other ways to provide meaningful incentives, Clark said.

Another Richmond High group started a club to promote college readiness by making students aware of specific requirements for acceptance into UC and CSU schools, while yet another began a cooking club focused on healthy eating.

And students from The RYSE Center developed an outreach cart equipped with a speaker, literature and a student survey in order to spread the word about LCAP.

The idea for the Potential Project was born from a group of educators who attend services at Living Hope Neighborhood Church, which is located down the block from Richmond High on Rheem Avenue.

“We have a handful of educators within our congregation who are very passionate about educational equity and about seeing all students thrive,” Clark said.  “They often times meet for lunch after service, and kick around different ideas.”

Students as well as the district benefit.

“It provides them a platform for their voices and ideas to be heard around issues of systemic improvement,” Clark said.  “It empowers them with funding, to put their ideas into action.  I also believe it communicates to the students that the adults in their community believe in them.”

Clark spearheaded this first year of the project by building collaboration between the faith community, non-profit leaders, city leaders and others.


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.