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East Oakland charter school celebrates senior students at college declaration event

East Oakland school celebrates senior students at college declaration event
East Oakland school celebrates senior students at college declaration event 03:16

OAKLAND —It was a day years in the making for Lighthouse Community Charter School seniors.

Wednesday, more than 50 students declared what college they will be attending next school year. Many of the them have overcome life and academic challenges to get to this point.

Some students, like Yafet Aklilu, have been a part of the school since kindergarten. He will be moving on to UC Berkeley in the fall.

"When I got that news my jaw dropped," Aklilu said, remembering the moment he received his acceptance message. "I was just super excited and so was my family."

Aklilu is a first-generation American, and he will be a first-generation college student.

 "It means a lot for me and my family because my family are immigrants from Ethiopia who work really hard day and night for me and my sister to receive a higher education. So, just being able to go to the best public university in the world is really meaningful to me," Aklilu said.

He said, over the last 13 years, there were times when UCB seemed like a distant dream.

He was born and raised in East Oakland but credits the Lighthouse Community Charter's tight-knit community for keeping him focused on his education and future.

"Oakland has its ups and downs, violence, crime, but I usually try to stay away from it whenever I see something and just try to focus on my education," he said.  

CEO of Lighthouse Community Public Schools, Rich Harrison, said school leaders work on bringing out the best in each kid.  

"It's really important to have an inclusive strategy because every child here in Oakland has hopes and aspirations for themselves and their families, and we really want to connect their aspirations with their path," Harrison said.

He said they understand that supporting students in Oakland comes with challenges, but there are ways to overcome.

"We have a wrap-around model where we make sure students are connected to local agencies that provide support around housing food and things like that because it takes a community to really lift up opportunities for young people," Harrison said.  

For Aklilu, Berkeley is just the next step in pursuing bigger goals.

"My dream is to be a digital marketer. I want to use my platform to support social causes that I care about and just portray a positive message," Aklilu said.

More than 90% of students in this year's graduating class met the minimum requirements to be accepted into a University of California school.

Leaders at Lighthouse Charter hope other Oakland schools can be inspired by their success and set higher academic goals for students.

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