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Finding His Roots

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The Oakland school board has voted to close Roots International Academy after this school year. Roots will be the first of many Oakland schools expected to close or consolidate in the coming years. Here’s YR Media’s Danny Lopez on how he was shaped by his time at Roots.

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 school district has announced that Roots will close. That’s like losing another home. I wonder, if I had not gone to Roots, if I would 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.

With a Perspective, I’m Danny Lopez.

Danny Lopez is 15 and lives in Oakland. His perspective was produced by Youth Radio's new network of journalists and artists, now called YR Media.

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