Where are they now? Two Oakland high school grads, four years later

Henry Grant, 200620110608__eoak0530henry05~1_GALLERY

Darielle Davis, 2007Davis, 2011

When Henry Grant and Darielle Davis were high school seniors in 2006-07, we wrote about their college aspirations. Grant, then an Oakland High School student and All-City Council president, was looking at private, out-of-state colleges. Davis, valedictorian of EXCEL High School in West Oakland, was headed for UC Berkeley.

This spring, we learned they were about to graduate from college. We caught up with them to hear about their college experiences. They told us how they kept going, despite unexpected, life-changing events, and how they found college-level work. (Both said writing was a major challenge at first.)

You can find Grant’s story here, and Darielle’s story here.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • wdcrachel

    This was a lovely article. Thank you for revisiting these students.

  • Nextset

    Hmmm. Interesting stories.

    I’d have several conccerns. The first being the dollar cost of the four year degree (nice if paid for by others, charity, scholarchips, savings, family). If these students undertook student loans that covered the actual costs of their 4 year degree I’d really be worried. Because the degrees they took are not known to be very valuable – in terms of pay scales.

    Since these articles failed to disclose how the payment of these specific degrees was done we can only guess.

    Nowadays you have to consider the non-dischargable debt involved against the economic value of a particular degree. And the unemployment/underemployment risk of holding a particular degree. The job prospects of these two are not discussed either. Their degrees do qualify them for law school application, though. (That’s a huge can of worms for blacks…more on that later)

    I do hope they are not sitting on $100,000 student loan debt. I really do.

    Remember my examples of Medical Technicians I know in their mid 20’s making $65k to $120 a year with two year training programs and student loans in the $10k range.

    And as far as the female student deciding to start a family now, well there are stats about what that does to her earning power and career prospects. It is simply too soon to have done that. There will be a price to pay, by her, her child and any other family she has.

    So I’m sorry to be the skunk at the garden party again. It’s great that they got degrees as fast as they did, but what are they thinking of as far as making a living – competing against whites and asians and foreigners in this job market exactly? The Brave New World is really really tough for their generation now. What is the plan for making a living? Applying these degrees and all the rest of the things they were suppposed to learn about live at college to get a career? Maybe they have prospects the articles didn’t have time to get into. I hope so. I worry, too much?

    I’m not the sort by experience to believe these things will take care of themselves. Myself, my classmates and most of my friends all got to where they are professionally and careerwise by contacts and referenced developed over years through family and outside of family through contact with faculty & classmates and their families. The degrees only made you eligible to stand in line with the other degreed people. We were made to understand that by age 19 and we could see some people getting great summer jobs and internships and some doing food service. We learned to hustle and that didn’t include starting families or getting married early.

    Good luck to all. Now the real work starts!

  • J.R.

    Fairly bleak assessment, but unfortunately I concur. Those degrees don’t exactly have front and center -real world- job market application, although academia is a possibility. If it weren’t for academia a lot of people with willy-nilly majors would be out of work. With the tax money drying up,even academia is getting hard to work in.

  • Catherine

    Congratulations to both of you. What you have shown yourself and others is that you set goals and achieve them, regardless of obstacles.

    When working with my students I try to reinforce the 16 habits of mind: Persisting, Managing Impulsivity, Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision, Listening with Understanding and Empathy, Thinking Flexibly, Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition), Responding with Wonderment and Awe, Creating, Imagining and Innovating, Gathering Data through all Senses, Striving for Accuracy, Taking Responsible Risks, Questioning and Posing Problems, Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations, Finding Humor, Thinking Inter-depedently and REmaining Open to Continual Learning.

    I would like to know from each of you, what, if any, of these habits of mind helped you focus on your goals? What habits of mind would you recommend to others?

    May your hard work and success continue through life.

  • Brian McGhee

    Great article on the college graduates. I am extremely proud of Darielle and her accomplishments. She always had a desire to excel in the classroom while dealing with life stressors. I believed in her when she was an 8th Grader at Westlake Middle School. She will do great things in the future. I want to also give acknowledgements to her mother and family for supporting her, along with her former track & field Coach Relonda McGhee, at McClymonds High School. Welcome to the Cal Alumni Family. Go Bears!

  • Gordon Danning

    1. When Henry Grant was my student, I used to tell him that he would be the first African American president. Then that Barack Obama fellow had to ruin everything!

    2. Nextset and JR: I certainly advise students to avoid student loans like the plague. HOWEVER, nowadays many, many private schools offer free rides to students with incomes below about $70,000-80,000. The UC system offers free tuition to such students. So does UNC Chapel Hill. If you guys don’t know that, you should, or you shouldn’t be posting so much.

  • Nextset

    Catherine: I looked at your items you try to impress on your students – I’m a bit concerned.

    Where is it covered such things as Duty (as in supporting yourself, obeying the law, not being a burden to others), Realistically planning for the future (I remember the parable of the 3 little pigs with the houses of straw, sticks and brick), Calculated Risk Taking, Not running up unsupportable debt and financial planning in general, Family formation and not being an unwed mother in the early 20s or associating with such women, Use of statistics and actuarials, Career exploration and planning, use of professionals to add to your fund of information to make important decision, consultation with reference materials and research, etc??

    Why is it that I constantly see educators of Blacks harping on wishing and hoping and dreaming while educators of Jews, Asians and Whites running MMPs on their kids and consulting with professionals as they put the kids in internships and career related programs starting at 8th grade. I’m sick of this double standard, I want at least the bright black kids in all the schools to have the benefit of this kind of training and attention. It looks to me (hope I’m wrong) that they are all getting exactly the opposite, starting with the black churches training them that they should let God handle it.

    I went to kindergarten in Berkeley at the end of the 1950’s. Although most of my grade school classmates were working class Irish and Italians. Jewish classmates and their families were only too happy to become close friends and the difference between the way they raised their kids and the ways the black families did was pretty striking. Same with the working class immigrant Irish/Italian immigrants. Nothing happened by accident. Everybody hustled and you were taught to make your own luck and to constantly be on the lookout for an opportunity to exploit and to carry back to the family so they can get onto the bandwagon too. Through the 1960s I saw the Italian/Irish democratic base unseat the protestants (republicans) in civil service, union and political positions (Remember when Oakland was Republican?) . They did this by force of will and constant backscratching, “enemies” included. Where is this being taught in our black schools?

    Your points that you wanted your students to keep in mind to me don’t compete with what I have seen that works. But they do explain how your students might decide to get a philosophy degree (perhaps) without a plan for making a living with it, or deciding to become an unwed mother in her early 20s with a Black studies minor. These kinds of decisions do not appear to be the decisions of a well educated (in high school) student. They appear to be decisions people make who have been taught that fate will smile on them. Maybe there’s much more to this. I don’t see it.

    I don’t want black kids in OUSD and LAUSD taught to depend on fate smiling on them. They need to be taught that if they are black they have to be better, tougher and stronger in something marketable in order to overcome the stats and odds we blacks are dealing with. And they can really do it, they have strengths the other ethnics don’t. It’s up to the black schools to get them going and that was commonly done in the days of Dunbar High and such public black schools. Heck, all the WWII generation blacks I know who were successful were public school grads, and all black public schools at that. They were not unwed mothers and they didn’t seek philosophy degrees either.

    Henry Grant: Your best career path may require a post grad degree unless you already have something lined up that can use your 4 year degree. Your issues include the cost of the graduate degree and the loss of income while you earn it. A licensed clinical psychologist state license will require a PhD or PsyD and another 5 years of work to get licensed. A law degree would require an expensive JD, 3 more years of school and a daunting State Bar exam with problems if you want to cross state lines in practice (you might have to commit to a state to live and work – even in selection of law school). The alternatives are to stop with the 4 year degree and live with the income it can earn you. (teaching perhaps?) and if you do teach, you need to decide what level – primary, secondary, Jr college, or go for 4 year college teaching – each with more requirements that cost time and money to get. Presumably you have already started grad school testing and test preparation to keep your options open.

    I’ve been pleased and surprised at the earning power in corporate America younger relatives have had with a communications degree from Cal State. One broke through to $250k at age 28 – 5 years after the degree 20 years ago (she later added a MBA, employer paid). The cost of that career was constant world travel, moving across the USA often and changing employers a lot. Another with the same degree and a business minor is very happy in a defense contractor in SoCal. But it seems every day is an encounter with younger non-blacks who want their positions. These relatives are the first blacks and the only blacks in their line of positions. And they are constantly competing with co-workers with business degrees.

    Some have said I talk about my family too much – I’m older. These younger relatives have a network of black classmates and cousins they keep up with and help each other with job placement. Their war stories are just as rough as mine, I get my info on what’s happening to industrial black professionals from their stories. This making a living in commerce and industry is not for the faint of heart. I have lots of friends in civil service and that’s interesting also. The future there for new applicants doesn’t look so good.

    The one thing we all have in common (regardless of the generation) is how tough our high school teachers – and grade school teachers were on all of us even the younger generations. I just don’t hear or see this kind of toughness on this blog being used on todays black students. So I worry that we are losing the black Drs, Lawyers, Engineers, Accountants and Businesspeople we could have had and we’re all going to be black senior citizens going to the other ethnics (Indians? Nigerians?) for everything as we get old, starting with our primary care Drs.

    Mainly because the public school teachers today wanted to be nice and friendly and fountains of hope instead of what was really needed for the black students. Don’t worry, the other ethnics are going to be just fine. It’s the black folks I worry about. Racist, I suppose!!

    Brave New World!

  • J.R.

    I made no academic financing assertions other than choice of major, and job opportunities therewith(that’s it).I know very well that colleges give low or no cost tuition, I did not even broach this subject.

  • Darielle Davis

    First, I would like to thank Katie for the wonderful interview and article. She was very considerate for my young energetic son, curious of everything around us.

    Second, I would like to thank my family and community member, teachers and scholarships that supported me on this journey.

    Lastly, I would like to address some of the concerns of NextSet as it pertains to my particular experience. I agree that the dollar amount of education is alarming. With many of my friends graduating with over 30k in debt and no real career or financial plan for the next couple of months, let alone the next 5 years. Many students do not understand what a credit score is, yet alone the process of paying back student loans. In my case I as funded through the Incentive Award Program, Cal Grants and Pell Grants,Kiwanis Club, 100 Black men of the Bay Area, DST Bay Area, Marcus Foster, and SEEDS Scholarship, leaving me debt free. I also made it my duty to take an financial literacy course at the School of Business at Berkeley to ensure I fully understood credit scores, debt, retirement savings, etc..

    I am fully aware of the earning power of my particular major and the amount necessary to maintain a health self sustainable life for my family. (Many UC graduates in Political Science have went on to Harvard Law, Various Public Policy Schools and a few into education.) This is why my education does not stop at the doors of UC Berkeley, I will be starting my Masters in Education this coming July. Many undergraduates in the 21st century understand that a BA/BS is not enough to make you competitive in the current job market. A combinative of drive, networking, degree’s and personal character are necessary to be competitive today. To assume that we would only stop at a BA was an incorrect assumption, and seemed to be the foundation of many of your concerns.

    In 2011 we use our undergraduate career to build networks and critical skills necessary to help us be more competitive in graduate programs not to enter directly into the work force. I’m this is different from when you where an undergraduate.

    When it comes to my decision to start a family that is one I will not address. I believe my ability to compete my undergraduate career despite the demanding task of motherhood reflects my ability to maintain a sustainable life for my family. That partnered with my acceptance to a fellowship and graduate program and a father soon to be in law school is enough for me.

    I just wanted to address some of your concerns when it comes to my story. I was inclined to address your comments because your assumptions where not reflective of someone with positive intentions. While my desire is not to please you by any means, I felt it necessary to defend my hard work.


  • J.R.

    Hard work is awesome, keep it up, and I hope you will find success which is so much more elusive these days. I am well aware of the fact that youngsters have a very difficult road ahead as compared to past generations(ex: one moderate wage breadwinner was capable of home and car purchases, which is only possible these days with two incomes)I had a neighbor a few decades ago who was a farm worker and his wife was a elderly care aide and they managed to buy a house. Those days are passed and now the kids will struggle mightily, and it saddens me when they make it that much harder on themselves by doing too much too soon. My hope is with you Darielle, go out and prove us all wrong, and I sincerely hope you can show us how wrong we were. I mean it, go get em’!

  • Amy Mueller

    Students like these two are shining examples of a dream fulfilled.

    It saddens me to read such negative comments from sour thinking adults who only see the down side of life. CELEBRATE you deserve everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve!

  • Nextset

    D. Davis: Thanks for the info about the financing of the degree. It’s brilliant to gather and use all the support that’s out there. Not everybody does. Too often I see students who just went to the college and signed massive students loans for a program that doesn’t reasonably support that debt level.

    Grad school has historically paid off. It needs to be pursued especially since there are programs that can offer funding for the grad degree and even the daycare required for your family. As always be careful about the expected financial return of the degree compared to the cost of getting it. Many schools are only too happy to enroll certain people for their stats into programs they well know will end badly.

    Careers are now being made in internships and school placement into projects and research positions. You seem to be aware that just going to class doesn’t cut it anymore. Good luck.

    Amy Mueller: If you haven’t learned that pats on the back are used to hold you back – I can’t help you. It’s very necesary to discuss the pros and cons and if you can’t handle that you shouldn’t come into public discourse lookling for validation. People are people – they have their strong points and they have their weaknesses. You do what you can and keep going.

    Don’t expect no one to discuss pros AND cons. People who only praise everyone are not going to really help anybody.

  • Nextset

    Amy: and some of the others:

    My point about family formation needs to be said. Stop getting emotional about discussion of economics and the racial and ethnic differences we see so commonly in these decisions. Stop emoting any critical point as being a personal attack on your darling of the moment. I can only imagine the damage you are doing to your students thinking and emoting this way.

    Starting a family early, much less without a marriage, is a huge hit on lifetime earnings, social mobility and careers. Good students are well trained around this. Many girls – women if you want to call them that – refuse to listen. Great for them. There are careers for EVERYONE. All our students should go for it. My point and the point is what when you decide to start a family without marriage and before careers are settled you give up things – options – careers – marriages – associations – that you are simply not free to pursue. You can pretend all you want it’s all the same, there’s no difference. That is not true and never will be.

    Different strokes for different folks. Everybody be as happy as you can in this world. But people have choices.

    Those who’ve read my posts over time know I prefer students keep options open for a longer timeframe and play the odds to win. Especially if you’re black (we can use the edge). That’s just me. Nobody needs my approval. You might want to consider my point on house odds, though. The casino of life is getting grim compared to what the baby boomers had handed to them. I worry about the safety and security of some people before they do. It’s my different perspective, I’ve grown up around a LOT of european immigrants and heard the stories of how bad bad gets. And they weren’t on drugs…

    The WWII generation I was trained by went from factory work, cannery work, field work picking things, to grad school and the professions. They told me their stories over the years. Never once did those that made it express that they ran around doing whatever they felt like expecting to be exceptions to the odds of making it. They followed rules and worked hard and associated with those who did the same.

    These (black?) young people think they will always be just fine and they can do as they please – they’ve been taught that. I never was – in primary, secondary schools college or in work. Good for them as long as somebody else is paying their freight. And that, I believe, is going to come crashing down in the forseeable future. Some people are going to get hurt, bad. And some people aren’t. Guess who.

    We have this debate often. Somebody is put up as a worthy soul and I point out the issues, and people have a hissy fit about me making somebody who I don’t even know feel bad. Geez.. What is it exactly you people are trying to promote to blacks – (it’s usually about that because OUSD is a black district). Have fun, get shot, get whatever, somebody is going to pass the hat for you?

    D. Davis made her choices. She’s got company. 80% of blacks are born of single mothers? Something like that. Good luck with that in the Brave New World.

    That’s the point. Being born into a caste with little mobility – the language and mores being so strong they keep people down.

    Brave New World.

    I’d just as soon have my students on the safer side.

  • Nextset

    Here’s an article about the type of stupidity – magical thinking and nonsense about family formation and career planning that is typical of the black products of US urban schools from today’s news..


    I love the part about “…her partner left her…”. Ran for his life is a better description I think.

    This is what we didn’t see as normal in black education in the early ’60s. This is what is taught to black girls in our ghetto school districts as being normal or acceptable now.

    It’s not acceptable. It’s a form of evil to do this to a generation of children. And there is no way the taxpayers should be paying a cent in healthcare, food stamps, SSI , or any welfare program to feed or care for such people. There was a time when anyone who wanted to do this would have to go to Charity Hospitals and ask private charities for food. That process apparently worked wonders in discouraging this behavior. That and the open contempt such a woman would get all day from people who worked and managed family formation and childbirth to stay within reasonable bounds of what they could afford.

    The racial gap in bastardy is way too large and it’s no accident – it’s being promoted by people with an agenda.

  • J.R.


    Here is some interesting reading for you, with the Oscar Grant case as a backdrop. This is about Black men abandoning black women.


    Very illuminating!

  • Nextset

    An interesting article. An interesting point. Black women generally have problems white women do not because of their own behavior and their own tastes and choices in who they associate with and how they interact with their associates.

    Run with the wolves you get bitten.

    There is a large and significant racial gap in women as victims – from child molest to domestic violence to child support non-payment and so on. I’ve noticed for some time that the “new” way of raising black girls in the public schools post 1965 puts them at risk for a host of problems. It all starts out with teaching dependency, running with the wolves, and being a good victim.

    And I know black women who are most definitely not brought up like this even in these times. It’s a difference in the way they are taught to see the world and their place in it. Maybe having a father in the home is a good part of it. But some of these stable, reliable and prudent black women did grow up without fathers (not likely though I think).

    In a nutshell the ones who wear better were never taught to give themselves away. Maybe it’s a factor of delayed sexuality also (that does seem to be a big factor). Being a black female is a huge risk factor with the unusual early onset of puberty – what was that stat recently, 23% of black girls are into puberty by 8 or 9? And combine that with (high rate of) no father in the home??

    So we look at this foolish “Destiny” in the article above. I’d bet she never even earned the money for those glasses she’s wearing. And 3 kids, all bastards… What are her odds and the kid’s odds of a decent life?

    And there is an increasing danger of a superinflation coming – when and if that occurs we’re going to find ourselves living in a “Katrina” type situation our world turning upside down in a short period of time…

    I don’t think it’s that difficult to teach black girls to defer marriage and child production, hold losers in contempt, get earning power, use education to get that earning power and consider non-traditional or “non-black” occupations that pay and travel well. And when the time comes to consider family formation, choose a suitable marriage partner first and start fa amily when it makes sense for the marriage and the careers. And space the children.

    You know, like other more successful ethnics…

    Maybe the problem is the black girls not having the correct role models regardless of color as they move through the school systems… Some of the old black school teachers I knew who were active in the ’50s and ’60s resembled the actress CCH Pounder – They were dark, spoke standard English and then some (College/Univ grads), had traveled a bit, were generally married to stable and significant men themselves, and were just fierce people. Some of these women were “firsts” – I remember some of them from Oakland. Some stayed as career teachers and some went off to raise families, get politically & socially active. But they had a certain toughness (you had to back then) about them to make it in white dominated schools and politics.

    Oh well, the past is done and we need to do better with the present.

    We need no more Destinys – and more black girls getting into careers in military & industry (for example) who shop around for husbands in their late 20s to mid 30s. Because the children of these women will then have far better odds of a safe childhood and a productive life.

    It’s a house odds thing. Don’t play against house odds.

    I don’t blame the black men for these Destiny girls. They picked them. The problem starts with the black girls and their own tastes and behaviors. They need more work in the public schools to better develop them. The black boys are another issue. Sure they can use more work also. But they do not bear the children – or raise them. So this thread is about the girls.

    And yes, I do believe a good school can overcome a bad family. Seen it too many times. Know too many, way too many people who overcame childhoods of victimization, deprivation and poverty with good primary and secondary schools.