Los Angeles, CA – Thomas Jefferson High School administration, teachers, and students gathered at the California African American Museum May 4 to celebrate the first annual awards banquet for its student groups Sister Circle and Jefferson African American Male Academy of Leadership (JAAMAL). Among this year’s honorees was Jefferson High School senior Nikki Scott, who received the Most Improved Personal and Academic Performance award. Scott, 18, has been accepted into California State University Dominguez Hills and will start there in the fall of 2012. Other honorees included Arecella Gant with the Corporate Award for her support of the Sister Circle and JAAMAL through her position at Neutrogena, Arturo Pena, who received the Community Support award for his work while he served as ActingDirector of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission and Juan Flecha, former principal of Jefferson High School now Area Superintendent for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Jefferson High School is the fourth oldest public high school in the Los AngelesUnified School District. Located in South Los Angeles (formerly called South-Central), its surrounding communities are Downtown, Florence, Historic South-Central and South Park. Out of approximately a 2,100 student body population, less than 8 percent are African-American.
Founded by Dr. Bobbi McDaniel, after a race riot between Black and Latino students erupted on campus at Santee High School in 2005, the Sister Circle was formed as support group for the Black female students at the school who felt that their voices and concerns we not beingheard or addressed. McDaniel, at the time was an integral part of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission as an Education Policy Advisor who had been deployed to assist in the efforts to bring calm back to the school. She remembers arriving on the scene at Santee High School to find a group of African American girls confined by police to the library. Those same girls would be the first members of the Sister Circle.
The Sister Circle through the years has provided African-American female students with a safe space to discuss issues not only related to their school but in their personal lives as well.
That year, there was little support for McDaniel or the Sister Circle at Santee High School where the number of African-American students made up less than 7 percent of the student body.
In the fall of 2006, the then principal of Thomas Jefferson High School Mr. Juan Flecha heard of the work of Dr. McDaniel and the Sister Circle and invited her to start the program at Jefferson High School where it has been ever since.
Jefferson High School’s current principal Mr. Michael Taft, has continued to support the Sister Circle and sees it as both a fundamental entity of the school and a much-needed program for his African-American students.
Similarly, Mr. Taft has shown the same support for Mr. Darrin Early and his JAAMAL group, which focuses on the African-American male students at Jefferson.
JAAMAL is an acronym for Jefferson African American Male Academy for Leadership and began in 2006 as a collaboration between Bridge Builders Network and Jefferson High School.
Spearheaded by Jefferson High School principal, Juan Flecha, Assistant Principals Harriet Ware and JeremyMcDavid JAAMAL was a real effort to address the academic and social-emotional deficiencies facing the young men at Jefferson High School.
Initially conducted as a 3 session workshop series, JAAMAL grew into a year-long program focusing on underachieving African American young men with academic and leadership potential.
As part of the program, young men are introduced to a variety of successful unsung heroes in African American history, participate in a series of character education and personal development workshops, attend a leadership conferences and university field trips, are trained in financial literacy and receive instruction in study skills, writing and college preparatory testing.
Young men participating in this program are supported and challenged to develop in the areas of leadership, integrity and social/civic responsibility.
Together both the Sister Circle and JAAMAL are providing much needed educational and emotional support for Jefferson High School’s African-American student body.
For more information on the programs and to get involved, please call Dr. Bobbi McDaniel at (213) 216-3862.