On a breezy late May afternoon, members of Madison Park Academy's senior class donned shimmery white gowns and tasseled caps decorated with fabric flowers and celebratory messages. For most, it was the first and last time in more than a year they had set foot on their East Oakland campus.
Among them stood Eduardo Mendoza Miguel, an 18-year-old Guatemalan immigrant who spent the past year practicing his English watching Youtube and TikTok videos, and struggled through a bout of COVID-19 in the fall. Claudeth Armenta Gaxiola, 17, oversaw her young niece's studies while managing her own, and grieved a year of missed milestones. Sir Khalil Coleman, 17, made 4.0 for the first time while sharing a room with two younger brothers and trying not to think about the toll violence has taken on friends.
Of all the ZIP codes in Alameda County, 94603, which is home to Madison Park Academy, has been perhaps the most brutalized by the pandemic. Sometimes referred to as deep East Oakland, it had a COVID infection rate eight times that of the ZIP code with the lowest infection rate, 94618, which covers the affluent North Oakland hills at the other end of the city.
Children living in these two ZIP codes have not experienced the pain of the pandemic equally. Many of those lining up to cross the temporary stage on the Madison Park football field had seen COVID race through their homes, sickening them and their family members.