ASHLAND, Ore. — Black students make up around one percent of the Ashland School District.
That’s according to the assistant principal of Ashland High School Becca Laroi, who felt that low percentage growing up in the Rogue Valley.
“That’s not to take away from a lot of the really awesome things that I had in my upbringing and childhood,” Laroi said. “But there definitely were things that I had to unpack as an adult.”
It’s now part of her mission as an administrator.
“I did have a lot of students come share with me experiences they had,” Laroi said. “Because you know, when you look like somebody, you’re like, oh, they have similar experiences to me.”
In 2020, the Ashland and Medford school districts received state funding to improve support and resources for black students.
Laroi said the funding has since grown to cover all school districts in the Rogue Valley.
“So, there’s a lot of really awesome opportunities for growth,” Laroi said. “Building leadership capacity in students, and for students to just be able to be in a space they don’t often get in this homogeneous area.”
Another administrator that oversees funding of the grant is Southern Oregon University’s Marvin Woodard jr.
He said it’s been absolutely beautiful to watch the different black organizations and the overall diversity of Southern Oregon grow.
So much so, Woodard says it’s time to begin outreach beyond the valley, to make connections beyond our immediate area.
“How do we connect with the folks who are in Portland and Eugene, and Bend, and LeGrand and Klamath Falls,” Woodard said. “Pick the town, how do we connect with those folks who are doing the same type of work?”
Both Laroi and Woodard are involved in the Black Youth Leadership Summit later this month.
Now in its fifth year, it brings youngsters together to explore cultural awareness, community engagement and personal growth.
“Another networking opportunity,” Laroi said. “But to also see black leaders in the community talking about things that they’re doing.”
The two also work together on a summer program.
A student that attended last year just told Woodard the other day that that experience changed her life.
“That lets me know that our family is passing it down,” Woodard said. “We really are taking care of our village so I’m excited about that. It makes my heart super full. Super full.”
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