Oakland, CA — Roots International Academy will be the first Oakland school to close. One former student, Danny Lopez, reflects on what he learned as a student there.
My two years at Roots International Academy were life changing. That’s the middle school I attended in East Oakland. I had moved from the Philippines to the Bay Area just two weeks before the first day of 7th grade.
I was scared walking into Roots. It seemed crazy to begin school right after moving to a new country. Other kids picked up on how disoriented I felt. They’d ask: “Do you know what BART is? Do you know what AC Transit is? How can you not know about BART?” I didn't know anything.
Some adults noticed. We sat in a small restorative justice circle. I had to explain that I was a brand new immigrant. Afterwards, I felt more comfortable and connected.
A teacher pushed me to join clubs, go on field trips, and attend the book fair. Most importantly, she told me about the Gay Straight Alliance. In the Philippines, I attended a Catholic school. I was very much closeted. Through the Gay Straight Alliance, I learned about my sexuality. I found my community.
At Roots, so many people went out of their way to welcome me, to make me feel seen.
Now I’m a sophomore at Oakland Tech, a massive high school. I credit my time at Roots for teaching me how to talk with people and to branch out.
Now, the Oakland Unified School District has announced that Roots will close. That’s like losing another home. I wonder, if I had not gone to Roots, would I be as open or as comfortable with who I am now? I look at my little brother. He won’t experience what I experienced — an incredible education for a recent immigrant.