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June 8, 2010 > San Leandro Unified salutes African American student achievement

San Leandro Unified salutes African American student achievement

Submitted By Robin Michel

Proud families, friends, teachers, administrators, and staff celebrated as 200 San Leandro Unified School District (SLUSD) students in grades fifth through twelfth, as well as at the San Leandro Adult School, were honored for their academic achievements at the 9th Annual African American Achievement Night on May 25. Hosted by SLUSD parent groups, the event featured entertainment by the outstanding San Leandro High School Jazz Band, led by David Leese. Sarah O'Neal Rush, the great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington and founder of the Booker T. Washington Empowerment Network (BTWEN), a local non-profit gave the keynote speech.

"All of us found Ms. Rush's speech moving and inspiring," said Interim Superintendent Cindy Cathey. "Her message of overcoming obstacles and self-limiting thoughts, and her discovery and deepening connection to her great-grandfather's legacy is a powerful, personal story and an excellent reminder of how important it is for our students to understand and be proud of their culture and their roots."

Also on the program was Ben Wanzo, founder of TeachBar, who provided encouragement to the scholars and spoke of the importance of education and the entrepreneurial spirit in being a positive force in societal change.

SLUSD Board of Education Trustees Morgan Mack-Rose, Diana Prola and Carmen Sullivan were on stage to personally acknowledge the students' achievements. Dignitaries in the audience included San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos, Vice Mayor Ursula Reed, Councilmembers Joyce Starosciak and Jim Prola; Bobbie Brooks of the Southern Alameda County Association of African American Educators (SACAAAE) and Dr. Washington Burns of the Breathmobile.

"We are thrilled by the support of the community and our elected officials," said event coordinator Sheila Lawrence, SLUSD Director of Student Support Services, "and so grateful for the generosity of our sponsors. Their contributions made this an outstanding event. It was a pleasure to share in the well-deserved pride of the students and their families, and to celebrate their accomplishments."

The District would like to thank and acknowledge the sponsors of the 9th Annual African Achievement Night: the PTA's and PTO's of Garfield, Jefferson, Madison, McKinley, Monroe, Roosevelt, Washington, and Wilson Elementary Schools, Bancroft and John Muir Middle Schools and Lincoln and San Leandro High Schools; and San Leandro Adult School and faculty and staff; CK's Smokehouse and Maureen Brown; TeachBar Ben Wanzo; the Booker T. Washington Empowerment Network (BTWEN) and Sarah O'Neal Rush; California State University East Bay, and Jose Rocha; University of California - Berkeley, and Theresa Vidaurri; the San Leandro High Graphic Studio; the San Leandro High School Jazz Band; the San Francisco Foundation and Kurt Burton Photography.

For a list of all students honored, please visit the District website at

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