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Music, Young Adult Literature, Re-thinking College: Three Alumni Share Their Playlists.

The year’s first quarter is a time to refresh your reading and listening lists. Three alumni living in the Bay Area gave us a peek at their passions and their media diets.

February 27, 2019

Susan Brenna

Cassandra Tesch (Houston ’10)

is a published poet and performer who once taught Portuguese to college students and is now an instructional coach in the English department of John F. Kennedy High School in Richmond, California. “It matters to me to diversify the stories that teachers put in front of kids, to include LGBTQ writers, African writers, indigenous writers,” she says. And just as she encourages students to write and perform through the Bay Area-organization YouthSpeaks, Tesch keeps her own passion for teaching alive by continuing to write creatively and perform her work through the adult side of the same organization.

Tesch finds fresh inspiration for books to share with students by searching the new publications lists of favorite libraries (Seattle Public Library is one she checks often). Among the books Tesch has discovered that speak strongly to her students are:

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, a generational family novel that begins with the slave trade in Ghana

Two by Victor M. Rios: Street Life: Poverty, Gangs, and a Ph.D., a memoir of Rios’s own life in Oakland, California, and Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys

Cedric Jones (Bay Area ’14)

who taught math and science to Oakland middle school students, is working to launch an East Bay-area high school that stresses workforce development. The school will merge core academics with apprenticeships and studio courses taught  by working professionals. As he develops the school design, he takes inspiration from:

The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere by Kevin Carey

“Recommended to me by my mentor at Bay Area After-School All Stars, Namrata Gupta, this book reinforced where I stand as a proponent of workforce development in K-12 schools,” Jones says. “Our institutions of higher learning have not caught up to the skills needed to perform in the new economy, so why not help disadvantaged youth by demystifying college as the ‘end-all-be-all’ source of higher education when other venues of gaining knowledge exist?”

The Third Education Revolution,” an article in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Selingo

“This article speaks to how key change-makers within education are on the cusp of overhauling frameworks and practices of schooling by shifting from a mass-schooling model to a more personalized model that reflects the landscape and industries of localized communities. I believe in exposing youth to the skill sets they need to have access to jobs in the Bay Area so that they can sustain themselves within their communities, even as they face gentrification and poor distribution of wealth and resources.”

Lifelong Learning is Becoming an Economic Imperative,” a special report in The Economist

“This article shows the value of offering workforce development and career exploration within the school day alongside core subject matter. Providing both kinds of learning will allow our youth to test the waters now, in an applied manner, and lay the foundation to become lifelong learners.

Ty-Licia Hooker (Bay Area ’13)

lives half the week in Oakland, where she runs an after-school tutoring program for elementary students in West Oakland. For the rest of the week she commutes to Stockton, in the California Central Valley, where she works on the Summer Success Leadership Academy, which brings together Stockton high school students for monthly empowerment sessions and a summer university residency.

“In the work I do in Stockton,” Hooker says, “a big way we reach our students is through the critical consciousness of hip-hop.” Hooker is friendly with local musicians whose work she incorporates into a playlist. 

Ty-Licia's Playlist:

"Fly Away" by Karega Bailey (D.C. Region ’08) featuring Yusha Assad

“Fun fact,” Hooker says. “Karega and Yusha introduced me to education through their music and poetry, and that was the impetus for me applying to TFA. I play this song for my staff as we think about the work we are about to embark on.”

"Smile" by Jasmine Jordan

“We play this when students enter into our space in the morning. ‘Not giving up on you’ is an empowering message to send to our students first thing in the morning.”

“Changes” by Tupac Shakur

“It hurt me to discover my students didn’t know who Tupac was,” Hooker says. This song, though a classic, “is still very relevant and is the catalyst to dive into systemic injustice and what agency we have to combat it.”