“The world is your oyster” is a popular phrase that helped inspire a local non-profit organization in Baton Rouge to teach children that America is an oyster of opportunity.
Bea Gyimah is the president and founder of America, My Oyster Association, an organization dedicated to celebrating the victories of all individuals in America.
“We seek to preserve the diverse histories, recognize the various struggles and celebrate the victories of all individuals in America, those who were born here and those who immigrated to this country,” Gyimah said. “We also have an education component because we want young people or anyone who’s pursuing their education to look at their high school or college education as their ticket to the American Dream and then look past their present circumstances and keep their eyes on the prize.”
The organization’s name comes from the popular saying “the world is your oyster”, and the name is also partly inspired by Zora Neale Hurston’s essay “How it feels to be colored me.”
“We know that there are just blatant and distinctive historical barriers and hindrances in America that persist and pervade this country,” Gyimah said. “But at the same time, we believe that not only the world, but America continues to be that proverbial oyster of opportunity. And if you have tenacity, empathy, resiliency, integrity, and hard work, you can become whoever it is that you seek to become in America and if not that, you may reach the second best thing to it.”
Building a Better America Today program offers various online certification courses
The courses are offered through the Building a Better America Today program. The program, that’s made possible thanks to the partnership of AMOA and the EBR Parish Library, is now in its second year.
The AMOA partners with the East Baton Rouge Parish Library along with other community partners. The organization provides online certification training specializing in diversity, equity, inclusion and empathy for middle school, high school, and college students, recent grads, working professionals, and adult learners.
The training is through LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, which is an online learning and teaching marketplace. All of it is brought to the students by the East Baton Rouge Parish Library system, according to Gyimah. Students can register for free as long as they have an EBR library card.
Gyimah said the classes are based on the student’s classification. Middle-school-aged children take a “communicating with empathy course” and an “unconscious bias course.”
Students complete courses at their own pace
Gyimah said since the courses are online, the student decides when to complete their work. The courses ranged from communicating with empathy to the psychology of diversity.
“We want to help cultivate the type of leaders that we all can be proud of,” Gyimah said. “We want them to be leaders at school. One of the ways that we do that is that everyone has to take a mandatory course on empathy. There are several other classes but the bare bones are unconscious bias and communicating with empathy because we believe with the right level of empathy, you can build someone’s world up and a lack of empathy can tear someone down.”
Program had double the amount of graduates from Year 1 to Year 2
Gyimah said 25 people graduated from the program in its first year in 2021. Fifty-eight people graduated in the 2022 ceremony held on July 23 at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s main branch.
The graduates were honored with certificates signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office and Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.
Tina Harris, Ph.D., gave the keynote address at the graduation. Harris is the inaugural Douglas Manship-Dori I. Maynard Endowed Chair of Race, Media and Cultural Literacy at LSU.
“I’ve always wanted to cultivate within individuals, an ability to know that they have greatness and everyone has different levels of greatness,” Gyimah said. “That’s one reason why I wanted to start the program and to give them an advantage in terms of how they market themselves later in life with those certifications but also to give them the fundamentals on making them a better person. It’s not enough for a student to graduate if they don’t have values if they don’t know how to conduct themselves and behave.”
For more information visit theamoa.org.
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