RICHMOND (CBS SF) — Rev. Andre Shumake has never forgotten the late night calls he received from grieving mothers whose sons were killed on the streets of Richmond’s Iron Triangle.
“It was horrific,” recalled Reverend Shumake. “To see the mothers come out and recognize that that’s their baby boy laying up under that tarp.”
The Reverend would minister to those mothers and their families, but says he soon realized that prayers, although greatly appreciated, were not enough.
“I wanted to look for ways to find out how can we turn that madness around,” explained Rev. Shumake. “How do we prevent the carnage that was taking place on the streets of Richmond?”
The Richmond native was invited to do some work with the West Contra Costa County School District, as a school community outreach worker.
“And it was there that I realized that this was my assignment,” recalled Rev. Shumake. “This is where I believe God would have me to be and particularly on the elementary school level.”
Now, he runs the Mafanikio program at Nystrom Elementary. Mafanikio, in Swahili, means achievement. And that’s exactly what the program has done.
Over the last three years, Mafanikio and Rev. Shumake have served close to 75 African American students at Nystrom, grades 3rd through 6th, providing free, culturally relevant programming, homework help and parental support. Afterschool classes run twice a week. Mafanikio at Nystrom is one of 18 schools serving the students of the West Contra Costa County Unified School District or WCCUSD.
So far district wide, Mafanikio has reached 991 students. Three more WCCUSD schools will soon add their own Mafanikio programs.
Rev. Shumake says each individual school tailors its program to the needs of its students. But it’s clear that Rev. Shumake is the driving force behind its Nystrom location’s success. He is loved by both parents and students.
Jacqueline Martin is raising her grandson D’Jae, and says the 9 year old has thrived under Rev. Shumake’ s guidance.
“He’s finally growing,” explained Martin. “And I am finally hearing it. And I am seeing it.”
Third grader Brooklyn Moore says Rev. Shumake makes learning fun.
“He tells us jokes and stuff,” said Moore. “But when we really get serious about it he gets serious too.”
Mafanikio operates on three simple principals: be focused, pay attention to your teacher, and follow instructions.
Rev. Shumake says the program provides Richmond’s African American families with a warm, and welcoming environment. Parents are encouraged to participate. And children are nurtured to succeed.
“This program has created an opportunity,” explained Rev. Shumake. “For us to come in and say to the parents and to the families not only are you welcome but your child has the capacity to learn.”
But it’s community leaders like Pastor Raymond Landry from Independent Holiness Church that say as student classwork improves, the community benefits and opportunities open up for Richmond’s young people to thrive.
“If we are going to change this community,” Pastor Landry. “We would have to involve everybody.”
Rev. Shumake says the next step is to offer Mafanikio during the summer. He is working on putting together a coalition of churches and others in Richmond’s faith based community to help provide safe spaces for classes.
So for expanding and creating new educational opportunities for students in Richmond, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Rev. Andre Shumake.