What's Up With Heads Up?


9th grader, Allie, at the Black College Expo exploring her college options.

On February 8, Heads Up students engaged in day-long immersions with our community partners. The Center for Community Engagement hosted our 6th graders for a “Big Build”; Mycelium Youth Network offered a sustainable gardening workshop to our 7th graders; our partnership with Mission Bit offered our 8th graders a Unity Game Design workshop; our team chauffeured 9th-grade students to the Black College Expo.

6th grader, Sanaa, testing the durability of the bridge she and peers built.


Mycelium Youth Network taught our 7th graders about soil health and had them gardening at Head-Royce.


Mission Bit generously provided a Unity Game Design workshop that showed our 8th graders how to design a video game. We are especially grateful to Laura Z. in the Head-Royce tech office who made sure the correct software was installed on our computers.


We couldn’t have imagined that a month later all of our lives would need to shift so significantly. 

Our 116 Heads Up students are attending over 30 different schools sprinkled throughout Oakland. As you can imagine, their experiences transitioning to an online learning platform vary quite a bit: while some of our students have received a consistent and cognitively-challenging curriculum, others have experienced inconsistent online learning with little to no support. 

In addition to the significant shift that our students are now experiencing in their daily routines, many of our families have lost employment and are struggling with providing some of the basic needs. Most impacted, are our undocumented families that also qualify for little to no government support. Many of our families are attending the Oakland Unified School District Food Distribution Centers, while others have also found food banks and community organizations that offer food, diapers, and other household needs. 

Over the last three weeks, we’ve been in contact with families individually to get a sense of how Heads Up can best support them. Through this we’ve identified four areas of need: 

  1. Socio-Emotional Support

  2. Community Building

  3. Academic Support and

  4. Community Needs

Over the next six weeks, we will focus on generating interest, building capacity, and getting ready for summer. Here are some of the ways our programming will focus on meeting the diverse needs of our students and families: 

  • Opportunities for online engagement that focuses on having fun, reconnecting with peers and teachers, and physical movement. 

  • Workshops for students and parents that discuss gardening, mental health, and tenant rights. 

  • Regular updates on sites that offer free food and household items or financial assistance. 

  • Partnering students with academic mentors that can support them organizing their workload and tutor them.

  • Leveraging our community partners and sharing opportunities with our students to take advantage of their free programming. 

  • A modified summer program that will be hosted online.

We will be launching our first round of Google Meet activities during the first week of May. I’ll be hosting two drop-in lunches and “DJing” my middle school tunes from the ’90s. Alums will also join us in the fun hosting online games like “Heads Up” and “Skribbl” as well as opportunities to move with Tik Tok Dance Challenges and Fitness Sessions. We’re hopeful that the ability to connect virtually will give us all some sense of community even as we shelter in place. 

There are many ways that you can support Heads Up during this time. If you can offer a workshop for students or parents, are interested in donating books, food, or other household supplies (diapers, disinfectants, and paper goods), or want to make a financial contribution, reach out to Heads Up Director Liz Solis via email–all gestures are welcome. 


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