Pandemic Proof: An Interview with After School Educator Meisha Marshall

This is the third in a series of blog posts focused on how hands-on learning can be made accessible at homeThis post is by contributing writer Dion Evans. 

A black woman wearing a colorful head wrap, a mask, and a shirt that says "Black Nerd Squad" helps pack paper straws into home maker kits.
Meisha Marshall helps pack paper straws into Home Make Kits for distribution to Oakland youth. Photo by Antonin Dominic Dighera.

The advent of COVID-19 has forever altered life as we know it, and the lives and learning of students all across America.

However, it is during times like these that heroes and heroines are born, those willing to serve and support others despite general communal fear. These are the people that sacrifice their own health and safety for the protection and safety of others. 

Today’s Maker Education Initiative interview consists of a casual conversation with such a person, Meisha Marshall. Meisha is an advocate for youth in East Oakland needing alternative ways of learning, and she explores cutting-edge ways of ensuring they have access to tools that support their mental and physical health and development.

The following is an interview recently conducted with Meisha Marshall who I’ll call, for the purpose of this article, a Pandemic Proof Pioneer.

A Black woman wearing a face mask holds up two paper bags with home maker kit materials inside. There are two rows of additional kits in front of her.
Meisha Marshall, an after school educator and the program site lead at Madison Park Academy, stands behind several of the Home Make Kits distributed by a coalition of after school educators to Oakland youth. Photo by Dion Evans.

DE: How has the mission of Maker Ed, “to harness the potential of making to transform teaching and learning,” impacted you as the Site Supervisor for a leading after school program?

MM: Their mission allows me the opportunity to ensure youth are provided the platform to advance the utilization of their minds, free of media influence, to generate hands-on learning via radical critical thinking. The After School model is based on enrichment, youth choice and voice which serves as the perfect system to advance Maker Ed’s innovative approach to student self-learning.

DE: How has the current pandemic forced you to change your approach to leadership?

MM: During this pandemic I refused to have an excuse not to lead my youth and team. I am loyal and understand Zoom meetings can not be a system that causes us to hide our leadership, I must still perform essential tasks for the overall stability of those I serve. The pandemic does not excuse quality leadership on the ground. I’m still on Madison’s campus twice a week. I am human, I have my fears, but my leadership compass mitigates my fear. 

Meisha Marshall, a Black woman, helps distribute apples at a school meal distribution site. She is wearing a mask to protect others against coronavirus, and has platinum-blonde hair.
Many of the Home Make Kits are distributed through school Grab and Go meal sites, which provide OUSD students with nutritious food. Photo by Dion Evans.

DE: Tell us a Real Story behind the trials and success of Maker Ed?

MM: The Achieve Team, After School program for Madison Park Academy, was one of the OUSD sites awarded the Kids Coding Grant. We needed this partnership and with it we were able to provide Chromebooks and expose coding the correct way while utilizing creative hands-on learning. It was Maker Ed who first taught me how to code and how to bring the lessons and knowledge back to the youth.  

DE: What is your vision for Maker Ed as it relates to further integrating their workshops into mainstream classrooms?

MM: My vision for Maker Ed is to gain further partnerships with the teachers on the Madison site.  Due to the pandemic, distant and virtual learning has become the dominant educational choice. However, it should not be the only access to education for students. I believe all youth deserve to be taught in their natural learning styles. Maker Ed kits provide additional natural learning opportunities. Maker education has the innate capacity to lead youth into creating future inventions simply by using their mental vision to manipulate materials towards a manifested object they are proud to produce.

DE: How are you using the kits to support your youth?

MM: The kits give the youth an opportunity to have a variety of crafting supplies to create whatever they can conceive in their mind, it supports them mentally. In these times, it gives them the opportunity to be creative, in a safe space, with the freedom to speak honestly through art and science.

DE: Why did you choose Maker Ed kits over other ideas?

MM: I chose Maker Ed kits over all other ideas because I was impressed by their motto, focus, and their creativity to make learning fun and enjoyable for all youth.

DE: How have you been distributing kits?

MM: I have been distributing kits via the OUSD Grab and Go Meal Program, Madison Park Academy’s 8th grade drive-thru promotion, and its summer school.

DE: How can donors assist in reaching students with Maker Ed kits?

MM: Donors can donate to Maker Ed directly while notating kits be provided for the Achieve After School Program at Madison Park Academy.

This post is part of a series about our partnership with after school organizations in Oakland, California. Learn more about the Home Make Kits project here.

If you would like to support this project and help us reach our goal of distributing 1500 home make kits to Oakland youth, please consider making a donation to Maker Ed.



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2 responses to “Pandemic Proof: An Interview with After School Educator Meisha Marshall”

  1. Na'Dra Hennington Avatar
    Na’Dra Hennington

    This story is empowering and a testament to the quote that “Leadership is not a title but a behavior.”

  2. Alyssa Sayavedra Avatar
    Alyssa Sayavedra

    Thank you Mrs. Marshall for your leadership, compassion and courage on this project throughout the spring and summer and beyond.

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