District aims to make improvements, add positivity


Maria Castillo

Consultant Dr. Almitra Berry was the keynote speaker at Stockton Unified’s Imagine Promise Summit held April 4 at the University of the Pacific. Many community members like the mayor, SUSD board members, and business people gathered to discuss the importance of education and the steps that will be taken to make it better.

Dr. Almitra Berry, a graduate of Stockton Unified schools, took center stage at last month’s Imagine Promise Summit. She was there to talk not just about the classroom and the importance of education but about businesses.

“Very often school systems are disconnected from the business community,” Berry said. Imagine if that were different. Soon, for SUSD, it will be.

Many businesses and organizations like Barnes & Noble, NAACP, Farmers Insurance, and the Probation Department will be partnering up with schools so students can have contact with people who can not only mentor them but inspire them as well. “Over the years, I have been very disappointed in the data that exists in Stockton Unified and what those numbers look like,” Berry said. “Now there is a much more strategic plan to turn it around.”

The goal is to help all students graduate college and career ready as well as community ready. Another aim is to create pathways — for students who know they want to become a teacher, entrepreneur, policeman or a doctor — where they’ll learn the skills needed for these positions through internships or hands-on experiences. “Businesses want the best human capital to run and work their business,” Berry said. “Partnering with school systems makes good sense.”

To do this, though, support from the community is also needed. She said, “As a community, we should see the great things our children can do.”

The summit was held April 4 at the University of the Pacific where nonprofit organizations, local businesses, City Council members, district personnel, and students came together. Among those students was junior Hector Rodriguez. In the presentation, topics like absences, transportation, motivation, and school culture were discussed, leaving a great impact on the junior.

He said, “There were people there who were living proof of achieving what they wanted no matter what it took.” Before the summit, Rodriguez knew that he wanted to eventually create his own business and take off in search of success. But after, not only did his ideas become much more concrete, but he realized that he could help build his community with his skills. “Right now I want to be an entrepreneur,” he said. “I want to teach people how to own their business so they can have something to fall back on. If you want something done bad enough, you have to imagine it already done. Persistency with passion always makes things work.”

A strong advocate for students well-being is Principal Andre Phillips. He makes sure that the students aren’t only doing well academically, but that they are also doing well emotionally. He does this by trying to reach out to those students who seem to be having a bad day. “Your positivity or your affirmations could be the only ones they get that day and it can make a difference,” he said. “Our duty as educators is not just to educate them in the classroom, but to educate them for life. We need to pass on our wisdom and be an inspiration.”

Phillips believes that involving businesses and implementing career pathways will also help students thrive. He said, “Partnering up with businesses, especially when they’re Stocktonians, can serve the needs of the students. We have to invest in our kids.”