Jose Andrade arrived more than an hour early at the recent Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade in Long Beach. The 2011 Wilson Classical High School graduate was eager to join some of his younger and former classmates to help carry the Male Academy banner down the parade route.
“I have to thank the Male Academy for what they gave to me,” said Andrade as he volunteered on the spot to help decorate the Long Beach Unified School District’s stake-bed truck that would carry LBUSD school board members and students up Martin Luther King Avenue.
As a freshman at Wilson, Andrade earned mostly F’s on his report card, but he says that with the guidance of mentors provided through the school’s Male Academy, he turned his life around. By the time he was a senior at Wilson, he was earning mostly A’s, headed for Long Beach City College, and dreaming of transferring to USC.
The academy – offered at high schools throughout LBUSD – helps to cultivate high school student leaders and steer kids away from gangs and violence. Academy members engage in team building and community service projects. They’ve made a tradition of participating in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade – a tradition that expanded this year to include members of a newly formed LBUSD Female Academy.
The students also visit universities and participate in eye-opening field trips to the Museum of Tolerance, the Museum of Latin American Art, the African American Museum and elsewhere. Such experiences can result in dramatic transformations for students like Andrade.
“He transitioned from being a very troubled person to being a source of peer support and a class role model for change and academic independence,” Wilson teacher Jennifer Stuart said of Andrade. “He’s a great person. He really wants to serve his community. Jose would stay after school sometimes until 5 o’clock, without compensation, to support a student through graduation. He led group projects, such as the class theater ensemble, and he guided his friends in positive decision-making.”
Wilson Male Academy co-leader Ted Hollister said it was rewarding to see Male Academy alumni giving back to other students.
“I am extremely proud that we are now having kids like Jose and others come back to help with the Male Academy and spread the word to the younger kids,” Hollister said. “I was so happy to see him march with us at the parade. Talk about great attachment and buy-in!”