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Incoming Student Excited to Participate in Public Health Research

Meet incoming first-year student Jordynn Lewis.


CVV News-Posted: July 27, 2022

UC Merced is highlighting incoming first-year students for fall 2022 — a dynamic, diverse and accomplished cohort of new Bobcats.
Jordynn Lewis is excited to start her journey as a UC Merced Bobcat when the fall semester begins in August. The first-year student recently graduated from Holy Names High School in her hometown of Oakland.

As an incoming public health major, she is ready for all that UC Merced has to offer — the academic, extracurricular and research possibilities.

“I chose UC Merced because it is the newest UC, it has great research opportunities, and it has an amazing community, “she said.

Despite limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lewis participated in numerous activities at the college preparatory high school, including track and field, volleyball and as the school’s photographer for its yearbook and other publications.

Lewis took three years of American Sign Language (ASL) classes in high school. When she became fluent, she started translating the school’s prayer services in ASL.

“I got involved in American Sign Language because I wanted to take another language other than Spanish and French (offered at her school). I have always been interested in how deaf people communicate and deaf culture,” she said.

She also served on Student Council, where she participated in fundraising, planning trips and orchestrating painting the senior class mural.

California’s Largest Charter School Network Launches First-of-Its-Kind Program

By CVV News MAY 18, 2022

 Amid Book Bans and Race Education Restrictions in States around the Country, School Embraces Black Experience and Culture

Aspire Public Schools (Aspire), has partnered with Nzinga Incorporated, an education nonprofit organization, established to disrupt inequitable and racialized outcomes for Black scholars. The Black is Lit program, developed to promote Black student literacy and leadership, launched this spring at two of Aspire’s California schools, with plans to expand to all 17 Aspire secondary schools over the next year. The novel program was created by Tiffany Herndon, an Aspire Black educator and founder of Nzinga, to address the disproportionately low literacy rates of Black students.     

Nationally, nearly half of Black eighth-grade students scored below basic in reading and literacy assessments, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Report Card. The Black is Lit program was developed to address low literacy outcomes among Black students and to celebrate Black culture. The program was inspired by Black American literary societies—gatherings that emerged during the early nineteenth century to improve literacy and exchange ideas among free Black men and women for social advancement. Under the mentorship of Black educators, small groups of students attend weekly seminars to discuss a literary work that has cultural and historical significance and addresses a social justice issue.  The inaugural group, consisting of 22 students in Stockton and Sacramento, will read Kimberly Johnson’s “This Is My America,” which explores inequities in the American justice system.      

“Schools across the country are banning books and rejecting curricula that merely mention race. As an anti-racist organization, we must offer our Black scholars greater opportunities to thrive academically and provide them with a sense of agency when it comes to their education,” said Aspire Public Schools CEO, Mala Batra. “Programs like Black is Lit not only validate our Black scholars’ history and culture, they also provide opportunities to deepen academic engagement and enrichment.”     

Students develop critical thinking and analysis skills, eventually graduating to become “Lit Leaders,” literary experts who develop a social change project addressing an issue highlighted in the book. Lit Leaders also mentor new “Lit Crew” members, coaching them in literary practices and developing them as Lit Leaders for the next project. Framing literacy as the ultimate form of liberation, the program empowers scholars to develop an academic mindset through cultural and identity development.    

 “With 85% of all juveniles who interface with the court system considered low literate, the Black is Lit program seeks to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by empowering our Black scholars to embrace education as a tool for social justice,” said Herndon. “Our goal is to reframe literacy as a liberatory practice among Black students and empower them to unleash their brilliance.”    

Black is Lit launched in February at Aspire’s Langston Hughes Academy in Stockton, California and Alexander Twilight College Prep Academy in Sacramento. Next year, Nzinga has plans to further expand the program. Students from Stockton Unified School District are also invited to participate. The program is one of several at Aspire that elevates Black experience and Black excellence.  Black Student Unions and scholarship opportunities for college-bound scholars of color exemplify the school’s mission to support the academic and life success for students of color. 

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