When looking for an example of a successful neighborhood school, one needs look no further than Leataata Floyd Elementary. The school is bordered by Interstate Five, Land Park, and Broadway, directly south of downtown Sacramento. Students can walk from home to campus in a manner of minutes, and families have an opportunity to consistently participate in school activities and initiatives. Formerly known as Jedidiah Smith Elementary, the school is named for Leataata Floyd, a local community member who has taught dance on the campus for years, and whose son works at the school as well. More than 300 students make up grades K-6, taught by a talented and dedicated staff of teachers and administrators, led by Principal Eric Chapman.
City Year Sacramento has partnered with Leataata Floyd Elementary for three years. This academic year, eight AmeriCorps members serve as full time tutors and mentors during the day and afterschool. Facilitated by the Boys and Girls Club of Sacramento and supported by City Year AmeriCorps members, the afterschool program serves as an extended learning opportunity, providing students with time to complete homework assignments, participate in engaging athletic and academic activities, and learn outside of a standard school curriculum.
Boys and Girls Club Site Coordinator Kenneth Duncan and City Year Program Manager Paul Willis designed a month-long calendar of special afterschool activities to observe and celebrate Black History Month. Community members provided students with a diverse range of presentations over the course of four weeks. The programming “exceeded our expectations,” said Duncan. “All of the speakers have been amazing.”
The month was kicked off by a presentation including a drum demonstration and a history of Africa. “That was pretty mind blowing for the students,” said Duncan. It gave the students a sense of self-worth to learn that many aspects of math and civilization originated in Africa. “If they don’t know their history, how can they move forward?” Duncan said.
The following day brought a presentation from a local African American young adult skate team. It was also a big hit for the students, and was part of a larger opportunity for students to see performers outside of traditional sports, or music. Marley Walker, a City Year AmeriCorps member serving at Leataata Floyd, said the February celebration was a great way for students to see people from their town, and from communities like their own, from a variety of careers providing a range of information. “They are learning a lot of history they didn’t have before,” Walker said.
The second week of activities included a college panel for grades three through six. Panelists included Michael Marion, executive director of Drexel University, and Jeremy Stewart of the Denver Broncos.
The month’s activities will culminate with a Black History Month celebration on Feb. 24, featuring a musical performance from City Year Program Manager Paul Willis. Duncan said he and Willis considered this month-long celebration to be really important. About 70 percent of Leataata Floyd Elementary School students are African American, Duncan said. He said he hopes the afterschool program can present a calendar of highly engaging community programming not just during Black History Month, but throughout the year.