Lynwood – The National College Resources Foundation honored 40 African American high school students graduating from the Lynwood Unified School District for their academic success during a Rites of Passage Graduation Celebration at Firebaugh High School.

The graduates were visited by Grammy-nominated recording artist Yolanda Whitaker, who is known as Yo-Yo. The event’s keynote speaker was Actress Dawnn Lewis of “A Different World.” Both spoke about the importance of believing in yourself and not giving up on one’s dreams.

The event’s sponsor, the National College Resources Foundation (NCRF), coordinates a program called The Movement, which provides high schools with peer advisers who tutor and mentor students of color, including students who are in foster care or are homeless, so they can reach their academic goals and pursue higher education.

“It is our moral imperative to ensure we provide any support necessary for our students to be successful and continue their learning into higher education,” LUSD Superintendent Paul Gothold said. “I’m very proud of everything these students have accomplished and grateful for the NCRF’s guidance and support.”

Dazane Tippens is among the graduating students who was helped by The Movement. About four years ago, she was living in foster care when her mother died of cancer, forcing her and her two younger sisters to shuttle between family members’ homes until ultimately coming to live with her grandmother.

Tippens was able to help her grandmother buy food and keep the electricity on by working part time at Jack in the Box and at a couple of warehouses. Once her grandmother became more financially stable, she was able to spend more time on her studies.

Then she was introduced to peer advisers from The Movement at Firebaugh High’s college and career center, who reminded her to keep up with assignments and got her interested in attending a historic Black college.

“My mentor stayed on me about deadlines and about being ready for school,” Tippens said. “She was the constant driving force outside of school. You had a mentor, you had a counselor and you had a friend.”

This fall, Tippens will attend Harris-Stowe University in St. Louis where she plans to pursue pre-medical studies. Her long-term goal is to become a doctor or anesthesiologist to help cancer patients and their loved ones not feel helpless, as she once did.

“Since meeting advisers with The Movement, I became a lot more school-oriented,” Tippens said. “Like many of my friends, I never thought I would go to college. Now I’m so excited to go to Harris-Stowe next year!”

The Rites of Passage Celebration was bittersweet for Tippens because it meant leaving high school, but it was also an exciting recognition that she and her peers made it through together.

Five students received $100 scholarships and two received $750 scholarships from the NCRF.

Theresa Price, founder and executive director of the NCRF, said a rite of passage is a ceremony that marks a person’s movement from one stage of their life to another. The ceremony at Firebaugh High School was intended to celebrate student accomplishments and acknowledge their new responsibilities and opportunities as graduates.

“I am so proud that our students have overcome the challenges life has put in front of them,” LUSD Board President Alma-Delia Renteria said. “Because of their unstoppable will to succeed, they are on their way to prestigious universities in pursuit of their dreams.”


RITESOFPASSAGE1: Actress Dawnn Lewis (center) with Firebaugh High Seniors Skyler Jackson, Dazane Tippens and Rayvon Davis at the Rites of Passage Ceremony.

RITESOFPASSAGE2: Actress Dawnn Lewis (right) with Firebaugh High Seniors Skyler Jackson, Dazane Tippens and Rayvon Davis at the Rites of Passage Ceremony.