1,100 students. 21 languages. 56 teachers. Encina Preparatory High School (grades 6-12) in the Sacramento suburb of Arden Arcade, serves families who come from around the world and across the street. In some ways, Encina fits the typical profile of an underperforming school — it has low test scores and low graduation rates.
But at Encina, key critical issues facing California converge: 96 percent of its students qualify for free and reduced lunch, over 50 percent are English language learners (20 percent are refugees) and more than 15 percent are homelessness. And the area around Encina is changing quickly. It has both the fastest rising poverty and highest income inequality in the state.
For the 2016-2017 school year, Capital Public Radio’s Multimedia Producer Andrew Nixon documented culture, resilience, challenges and change at Encina through photos and video. Radio reporters covered Encina’s attempts to improve student outcomes through student advocacy, increased funding, teacher training, and community support. Community engagement strategist jesikah maria ross led storytelling workshops for students and staff to tell their own stories through social media.
Now, CapRadio is bringing these stories together in an all new exhibition at The California Museum. Passion and Perseverance: A Year at Encina explores what the school’s history reveals about California itself, tackling issues of equity, immigration and stigma as well as the meaning of community and family. Through photographs, videos, Instagram posts, and school artifacts, the exhibition challenges the narrative of low-income schools by highlighting It how dedicated teachers and staff navigate pervasive poverty and trauma to transform the school into a home away from home where students feel they belong and can succeed. It also shares the stories of students who work against the odds to make connections and achieve their dreams.
Encina is a window to California’s future, where resilience and building relationships across cultures are essential skills, and where equity demands new kinds of teaching and learning within disadvantaged communities. The story of Encina shows that achievement cannot be measured by test scores alone.
Passion and Perseverance: A Year at Encina runs March 1 through Sept. 2 at the California Museum. For more information, visit californiamuseum.org/encina.