Worldly Ambitions

Dayday Davis and Alexis Williams-Hall had a rude introduction during their freshman year in Seaside High School. Davis threw a bottle of orange juice at Williams-Hall’s head. “He was a jerk then,” Williams-Hall recalls. Davis was sent to the principal’s office, where he met with Principal Carlos Moran.

Davis got a talking-to, but he also got advice. “If you meet them halfway as a mentor, you have a better chance of building strong relationships,” says Moran, who four years later is still Davis’ principal.

For Moran, revisiting how to discipline and mentor all 1,100 students was a priority. It’s one of the changes he believes helped Seaside High become a success story, and sustain that success even after money from Obama-era School Improvement Grants was gone.

Those grants were meant for low-performing schools, and provided Seaside High with $2 million annually from 2010-2013. That money went into training for teachers and staff members, and was used for new materials like textbooks and computers. It was also invested in creating 10 more Advanced Placement courses, now totaling 15, and standardizing all grade-level classes as College Preparatory-level classes.

The hard work was recognized on Jan. 22, when the National Education Policy Center dubbed Seaside High as a “School of Opportunity,” celebrating exceptional gains in educational equity. Nine other schools have been recognized nationwide. NEPC highlights Seaside High’s preparation of “a high rate of first-generation students of color for its multiple AP courses,” and “the school seamlessly pairs career-pathway courses with rigorous college-preparation classes for every student.”

For Williams-Hall and Davis – who are now friends – success at Seaside High has been about more than academic opportunities. It’s also about socio-emotional support and kinship between students and staff. “It’s a family here,”’ Williams-Hall says.

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