Name: Nyeisha DeWitt
Hometown: Oakland, CA
Profession: Program Director of Oakland’s Promise Alliance, Co-founder of Oakland Natives Give Back
"My name is Nyeisha DeWitt, and I am passionate about bringing out the best in my community."
For Nyeisha DeWitt, the high school dropout crisis isn’t some distant and abstract policy challenge. This Oakland native and current doctoral candidate at the University of San Francisco quit high school before graduating herself.
Although she eventually earned her GED, her background helps her relate to the young people she encounters while working to turn around Oakland’s low graduation rates.
“I can understand the challenges people are growing up with on all ends,” said DeWitt.
Dewitt, 38, is now the program manager of Oakland’s Promise Alliance, a citywide dropout prevention program. She is also co-founder of Oakland Natives Give Back, which sponsors an annual Back To School rally. She works with the Oakland Unified School District’s Truancy Task Force and its Effective Teachers Task Force. This mother of three is also pursuing an ED.D in organizational leadership.
For DeWitt, the solution to her community’s challenges rests on two things: education and jobs.
“My dream is that we attract more businesses and that we graduate our students,” she said.
Without jobs, parents cannot take care of their children. Students miss the connection between finishing school and getting a job. Businesses do not stay put when there aren’t enough educated workers to employ, she explained.
In recent years, she’s learned that it’s important to get involved in your community, regardless of how qualified you feel or whether an invitation is extended.
“You miss out on so many opportunities if you believe it’s going to be taken care of without your input,” she said. “Our role is to make a space at the table even if there isn’t one made for us.”