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OIYC Senior, Saaniyah Tomlinson: An Essay

The Tomlinson family from left: OIYC alum Aliah, mother Leatrice, Saaniyah, and OIYC member Niara 

The Tomlinson family from left: OIYC alum Aliah, mother Leatrice, Saaniyah, and OIYC member Niara 

Growing up, my Mom gave us two jobs: be a good student and be a good person. She worked her jobs and took care of us so that we could do our "jobs" and grow up to take care of ourselves and others. College has always been in my future, but so is service to the people. I like to learn and I am excited to be in a place where I can explore and grow. I want to major in Political Science so I help be an advocate for those without power. In these times of political turmoil, it is important to have advocates on Capitol hill, state government, and local government. With a college education, I will be better equipped to teach others and uplift my community.

Three personal attributes that will aid in achieving these goals are: knowing how to build relationships, having initiative, and knowing how to ask for help. I’m proud of the choices I’ve made in keeping good friends, losing bad ones, and being a team player. I can figure out how to work with people to get projects done and to create a strong support system while I am away from home.

Initiative will help me be proactive with assignments. I had to develop this skill by learning the hard way in 9th grade. Older friends have told me how hard college work is when you wait to prepare for a test or write a paper. Knowing how to start early and get things done will help me succeed.

As much as I think I am prepared for college, I know that there will be times that I need help. I used to think that asking for help meant that I wasn’t as good as other people. Now I know that everybody has something they need help with. I know how to ask for help when I need it.

Half of my life has been a part of OIGC and OIYC. First my mother made me attend [OIGC] concerts, then I attended my sister’s [OIYC] rehearsals, then I became a member. Although I started in OIYC because of mother, I stayed and grew up in OIYC because of me. OIYC has contributed to my growth and development of educational goals and my identity as a whole.

When I was 11, I was shy (around people I did not know), nervous in front of crowds, and not always confident. In OIYC, I was pushed to go outside of my comfort zone even though it frightened me. I learned to be comfortable in front of hundreds of people, whether I was singing a solo or hosting a concert. I learned how to push myself, which translated to how I dealt with school and life in general.

Saaniyah directing the Oakland Interfaith Youth Choir to sing for their hosts during their trip to Hawaii (Feb 2017)

Saaniyah directing the Oakland Interfaith Youth Choir to sing for their hosts during their trip to Hawaii (Feb 2017)

The biggest way OIYC contributed to my growth is teaching me how to be a leader. When my [older] sister left the choir, it felt like we had lost our ringleader. She was the one who took over when Terrance wasn’t there and helped us with our singing. When she went off to college, there was a hole left. I did not want to take her place. I did not want to become “Aliah #2”, but then I realized that me being a leader was not trying to be like my sister. Me being a leader was me being ME. I started to direct more, sing solos, host choir concerts and help fellow choir members. I took on the role that had been left behind, and this really taught me how to lead. It helped me give presentations at school. It taught me how to work with different personalities. It taught me how to get people quiet so that we can work on our music. Most importantly, it taught me how to be a good role model for the young kids around me.

OIYC has also helped me develop educationally, because it taught me how to sacrifice for the good of my growth. I have missed many parties and hangouts with friends because of choir. However, this isn’t all bad. I learned how to prioritize my commitment to my singing and my section that depends on me. This translated to my education because I learned how to prioritize getting work done over giving into the urges to go out when I had an important deadline.

OIYC also taught me how to push through hard times. When there were only 6-7 kids in the choir, I felt like there was no point in being there. But then, I would look at Terrance and see that if he was not going to give up on us, then I wouldn’t either. This perseverance has helped me reach my educational goals. There have been many times when I felt like I would never understand a math concept and wanted to give up, but I thought of that exact moment. I remembered that when things are tough, the only way to go is up. That perseverance was instilled in me though Oakland Interfaith Youth Choir, and I am forever grateful for those lessons.


OIYC Senior Sending and End of Year Concert



Donations to Support the Youth Choir will be accepted

Imani Community Church
3300 MacArthur Blvd
Oakland, CA

Come celebrate our Graduates with us while listening to OIYC sing joyously. There will also be FANTASTIC food for purchase and a bake sale benefiting the Youth Choir.

Recipients of the Riley West Scholarship, available only to OIYC Youth, will be presented along with a bon voyage ceremony for our Seniors this year:

Saaniyah Tomlinson, Jacob Martin, and Victoria Smith.


I’m over the moon proud of Oakland Interfaith Choir youth and Alumni.

This Class of 2018 are attending:
Bethune Cookman University
Howard University

In addition, degrees received by previous alumni this year:
UNLV – Doctorate
San Diego State - Bachelor
UC Berkeley - Bachelor
UC Davis - Bachelor
USC - Bachelor
Harvard - Masters program enrollment
— Terrance Kelly

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