Pastor Kirk Davis Joins Rise Prep Board

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Kirk Davis was born and raised in San Francisco. He’s glad to say that he is a product of Mission High School.

Kirk Davis is a program manager at YCD. In 1998 he became a Youth Pastor at Providence Baptist Church and joined YoungLife a para-church youth serving organization. He was Area Director in the Southeast sector of San Francisco (Bayview Hunters Point). He has also been an assistant Chaplain at Juvenile Hall Youth Detention in San Francisco. 

He was the founder of Street Survivors, a ministry that helps kids deal with post-traumatic stress. With the help of his wife, he ran an after-school tutorial program and summer day camp that grew to over 100 kids in Bayview Hunters Point. He’s been the recipient of the KQED Essence of Excellence Award in 2005 and the recipient of the Black Educators of the Year Award in 2003 and other congressional awards. 

In 2008 Mr. Davis started a non-profit organization called Rapha House Foundation, Inc. which had a program called YLDP (Youth Leadership Development Program) which taught life-skills and did college tours yearly. 

For the past several years, Mr. Davis has served as Families and Community Life Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Hayward. 

He has been married for 31 years to Denise Davis and has 3 children (Destini, Curtis, and Isaiah).

Youthful Muse: 78 year old Iona Lawhorn Speaks of Rivers

Ms. Iona Lawhorn lost her sight in her twenties, but she did not let that stop her from reading and experiencing life through poetry and words. 

Ms. Lawhorn visited her public library asking the librarian for recordings by black authors, and she became enthralled by the poet Langston Hughes, listening to his poems on cassette tape.  

"I was infatuated by Langston Hughes because he told the story of the struggle of African-Americans." Her interest in civil rights and the stories of the African-American struggle led Ms. Lawhorn to college where she received her bachelor's degree in history.  

Ms. Lawhorn recited the poems, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", "Negro," "Jim Crow's Last Stand," "The Ballad of Sam Solomon," and the class favorite "Mother to Son."

"Mother to Son"

Well, son, I’ll tell you

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor—


But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.

So boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps

’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now—

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Ms. Lawhorn ended by reading from her Daily Prayer book in braille: "I have every answer and a mind with confidence, and others when I experience self-doubt.  I am a unique and perfect expression of the divine and I am human."  

These words of our unique identity created and loved by God help our students to continue climbing up step by step even in the midst of splinters and darkness.  Ms. Lawhorn's words and example show how even in blindness and tribulation, we move forward surrounded by God and others who encourage us along the way--climbin' and risin'. 

Wilderness and Invention

Wilderness and Invention

“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.” - Wendell Berry

Camila Shares Her Story of Seismic Success

In an interdisciplinary project that included Mr. Boyd and Mr. Wong's Makers' Lab and Mr. Cahill's Science class, students designed and created buildings to withstand the effects of an earthquake.  Hear Camila's story of both structural and personal resilience--the building--a metaphor for her own growth in character and confidence.  

Video and story by Emma Marie Chiang @echiangphoto

Challenging inequity

For a student like our very own passionate and articulate, Miracle (above - video), what challenges lie ahead of her?

In this week’s article from the New York Times, Times researchers have found that “Even with Affirmative Action, Blacks and Hispanics Are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago.” 

According to the Times, “Affirmative action increases the numbers of black and Hispanic students at many colleges and universities, but experts say that persistent underrepresentation often stems from equity issues that begin earlier. Elementary and secondary schools with large numbers of black and hispanic students are less likely to have experienced teachers, advanced courses, high-quality instructional materials and adequate facilities, according to the United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.”

Rise University Preparatory’s first class of students is comprised of 35% black students and 50% Hispanic students from San Francisco blue collar neighborhoods.  Rise Prep works to address the inequities in the article by putting forward a small school model, with highly experienced teachers--15 years average experience from Ivy League and top public universities--advanced courses, and high-quality instructional materials.  

At Rise Prep, the achievement gaps for our students have been most apparent in our advisory/tutoring times where students clearly show gaps in knowing their multiplication tables and in grade level reading.  These gaps, which can often be masked or not attended to, as students flow from large classroom to large classroom, are out in the open and can be addressed because of our low student to teacher ratios (currently 5:1).  

The work requires persistence, fortitude and time.  We look forward to knowing, teaching, and loving our students over the next seven years.  We’re glad to be part of this work of justice, raising the numbers of students of color who can access the top universities in our country.  

Source: New York Times “Even With Affirmative Action, Blacks and Hispanics Are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago” Ashkenas, Park, Pearce (August 24, 2017)