By Rebecca Parr
Staff Writer, Bay Area News Group
HAYWARD -- The city is going beyond test scores to elevate pride and grit among its students with encouragement and success stories from local leaders and prominent graduates of area schools that each day see tens of thousands of students, from kindergarten to college.
It is getting others to join its "Made in Hayward" campaign, including Cal State East Bay, Chabot College, private and vocational schools, the city and the park district and plans to gather video endorsements from graduates who have succeeded.
"We want to let our students know you can graduate from Hayward schools and go to Harvard, Yale, MIT, or locally to Cal State East Bay, and have a successful career. Our goal is for kids to realize this is a good place to graduate from," said Christy Gerren, director of the school district's student and parent support program.
"We want to make everyone in Hayward proud to be living here, working here and going to school here," she said.
Since the beginning of the year, thousands of Hayward Unified students have taken a Made in Hayward pledge, saying they are "proud to be college-bound."
"The understanding is that we're going to have some great expectations for our students going forward," Gerren said. It's still early to know if the campaign is resulting in improved academic performance but "already, our students are carrying themselves a little taller," she said.
The campaign gives the district a chance to tell what kind of schools Hayward has, said school board Trustee Annette Walker.
For years, Hayward Unified has had some of the lowest test scores in the county but, Walker said, there's more to education than scores.
"People aren't getting the full picture with just test scores. When I've visited the schools, I see the achievements of the students, the teachers, the staffs. There's pride, there's compassion, there are students who want to learn," she said.
"Educating the student is not only measuring their API (Academic Performance Index) scores. It's social skills, it's their engagement with the community, it's the whole child. They're more than just a number; test scores don't measure the well-being of a child," she said.
As part of the campaign, the district made a video with comments about Made in Hayward from Mayor Michael Sweeney, City Council members, school board members, Police Chief Diane Urban and park district board member Paul Hodges.
"I would hope students would want to work harder, would want to achieve," Hodges says in the video. "You can become very successful right here in Hayward."
The district also plans to create videos highlighting accomplishments of well-known Hayward graduates.
Each day, more than 60,000 people are educated at the city's public schools, Cal State, Chabot College, private and vocational colleges, and preschools, according to the district. Last week, the district brought together many of the educators and civic leaders to aid the Made in Hayward campaign.
The campaign culminates at a summit May 17 at City Hall, where the educational groups will share information about their programs, Gerren said.
"We want our students to feel Hayward is a place to come for education. We want to be known for a city that educates," she said.
Made in Hayward focuses on the positive, Walker said.
"We're celebrating what is working and working on what isn't," she said.