California Educator

December/January 2022

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Page 19 of 63

Making Dreams Possible says Aba Ngissah, who teaches a fifth and sixth grade com- bination class at Hudnall Elementary School in Inglewood. She encourages her students to dream big, although many face challenges and are low-income. During the pandemic, she and other teachers used their own money to buy families food and cleaning and hygiene supplies. Inglewood students may go without some things, but Ngissah didn't want them to go without enrichment oppor- tunities available to students in wealthier communities. Because she too dreams big, this past summer she brought together a team of educators, administrators, district leaders, tech leaders, artists and musicians for a summer enrichment camp where approximately 200 students were encouraged to discover their creative side and explore career paths. Professionals volunteered their time or were paid to teach career skills, serve as role models, and work with Inglewood Teachers Association (ITA) members. STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) was inte- grated throughout. Amazingly, Ngissah (who is president of ITA) convinced the school district, foundations, nonprofits, private busi- nesses and community organizations to provide resources and funding. The summer camp was so successful that new course offerings based on the program are becoming available in the district. This collaboration between ITA and the district honors the goal both parties set to work coopera- tively to help students succeed. The camp was a huge step toward equity for Inglewood Unified, which was taken over by the state in 2012 and remains in receivership, with severe budget cuts imposed to keep the district afloat. The arts were mostly eliminated, says Ngissah. The eight-week summer camp, held at Woodworth- Monroe, a TK-8 school, offered "academies" for students to choose from. For the music academy, Ngissah and her team partnered with Musicians at Play (MAP), a Los Angeles foundation that provides students and teachers access to music edu- cation through live performances and mentorship. They also partnered with the Musicians Guild union, whose members worked with students. Bertrand's Music store donated instru- ments. The district paid for the program, which served some 50 students in grades 2-10. The program is continuing, says Ngissah, "with four inter- ested school sites and after school. MAP is also working with us to get either credentialed music teachers or CTE [career technical education] credentialed music teachers." Ngissah was key in creating the summer animation acad- emy for high schoolers, funded by the district, by partnering with BRIC (Break, Reinvent, Impact and Change), a founda- tion that aims to increase representation in entertainment, gaming, media and tech for women and underrepresented people, plus Sony and Nickelodeon, which provided resources for teachers and students. Students were encour- aged to pitch ideas for their own animated series. The partnerships continue, Ngissah says. "Students will be " I B E L I E V E T H AT M Y J O B AS A T E AC H E R I S TO F I N D O U T W H AT E AC H C H I L D N E E D S — W H AT T H E I R G OA L S A N D D R E A M S A R E — A N D F I N D P E O P L E A N D P R O G R A M S TO CO N N E C T T H E M W I T H , TO M A K E T H E I R D R E A M S PO S S I B L E ," ABA NGISSAH: "I have seen students blossom and say they want to go to college and become excited about opportunities in the real world." 18

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