Celebrating 100 Years of Oakland Technical High School
Anita Morgan-Woodley ’94
My great-grandma came to West Oakland by bus from Lewisville, Arkansas with my mama after my grandma died in childbirth at age 20. Growing up, I lived in Berkeley until 8 years old upon which I moved to East Oakland. I went to Tech because I wanted to go the same high school that my mother graduated from and also because I heard it was a great school.
The good things I remember are getting the big gold button from Ms. McGee, which I still have, that read “Count On Me To Succeed, Oakland Tech,” being supported by students and the administration to do fun events that made Tech, as we use to say, “poppin’ the most.” I loved the smell of cheese fries in the cafeteria. I recall the clink of the humongous key chain of the security guard we affectionately called “Grandpa” as he told us to hurry to class. The hard things I remember were being on the brink of losing our library accreditation which would have made our high school diplomas invalid, teachers walking out for higher wages, and not having the personal resources to dress trendy or visit a hair salon.
Things I participated in were: leadership class, reading the morning announcements over the PA system, Grad Nite, Junior & Senior Prom, Student Government as the ASB President 1993-1994 & Publicity Commissioner 1992-1993, the PTSA, Food Drives, Spirit Week, Homecoming Week Activities, and Lip Sync with the rapper Money B as a guest judge. I won 2nd place singing Smoove’s song “Female Mack.”
Three teachers I really remember are Mrs. Susan Drexler, Mr. David Christano and Mr. Hamner. Mrs. Drexler and Mr. Christano co-taught Interlinks for my 10th and 11th grade. They inspired me to later become a playwright and actress by allowing me to act out book assignments like “The Bride Price” in class, as well as paint large-scale backdrops and portray characters. I had no idea at the time that this would be a firm foundation for me to become an award-winning actress and playwright. I also could have never imagined that Mr. Christano and Mrs. Drexler would someday be in the audience to see me perform my shape “Mama Juggs” in Oakland or that Mrs. Drexler would fly in from Mexico to see me on stage in San Francisco!
Mr. Hamner, my 9th grade Drama teacher, is memorable because he helped me write my first play. We reconnected over 15 years later on Facebook and to my surprise, he still has the copy! He’s now my mentor in all things drama, improvisation, negotiating contracts and life. We even went on the road together to Los Angeles to debut my new play, “The Men In Me,” and he played guitar with me and operated my lights. We had an incredible time! I also remember Mr. Brooks, Mr. O’Keith, Ms. Lay and Ms. Pyatt as they all inspired and prepared me to work for Tech Scribe, our school newspaper, and become an award-winning journalist in both radio and television, working for CNN, NPR, NBC, CBS, FOX and PBS.
After high school, I was fired up and ready to succeed, so I jumped right into the workforce, full-time college and the profession of journalism. While in college at Humboldt State University I studied journalism, won writing contests, was awarded grants to put on one-woman shows that I performed on campus about black history. While a student at San Francisco State University, I studied broadcasting in radio and television and worked for the NBC/KRON-TV in San Francisco, first as an intern then moving up to a production assistant to a cable-cut in writer and producer overnight. I also worked at KMTP-TV in San Francisco hosting my own newscast called “Newsnight with Anita Morgan,” covering Pan-African and local news. Shortly after graduating SFSU, I got married, got a job at CNN’s Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia as an Associate Producer and at FOX 5 News as an overnight writer. The year I was at CNN, we won an Emmy for Exceptional News Coverage on 9/11, and I resigned a month after the World Trade Center event. Upon moving back to Oakland, we decided to have our only child in 2002 named Xavier Leo Woodley. We relocated to North Carolina where I worked 7 years for WUNC-FM, an NPR Affiliate, on a show called “The Story with Dick Gordon.” I won numerous awards until resigning to become a full-time artist in drama and literary arts. I have since been an entrepreneur winning numerous accolades in drama and theatre arts for my performance in the one-woman shows I wrote called, “Mama Juggs: The Breast Health Show” and “The Men In Me: Our Fathers, Our Brothers, Our Sons,” which covers HIV and urban male issues. You can learn more about all of my works on my website www.anitawoodley.com.
Now, some 15+ years later, on the social network Facebook, I have become good friends with many of my high school classmates from Tech.
I am extremely proud to be a Tech alumnus! My time at Tech taught me to speak up for myself and take risks, to formulate my ideas and put them out there in the world, and to assist in improving my community.
Tech turning 100 reminds me of how many changes it has withstood since 1969 when my mama attended. Now my nephew will graduate with class of 2014. Tech is a staple in the community that will be there for years to come and if we lived in Oakland, our son would likely attend Tech as well.
To today’s Tech students, I’d say, volunteer to learn everything you want to know in a career before graduating. Take advantage of the programs and college prep activities offered to you. Also do not be afraid to try college out. I did not want to go to college, but I filled out the applications anyway and got accepted to two 4-year schools. Once I went to Humboldt State University for a summer bridge program to try it out, I fell in love and stayed for the long run, graduating in top 8% of my class, in the top 15% of the country, and magna cum laude. My time at Tech redefined my life. I know I can do anything, but not everything at once. That’s what Tech Bulldog pride is all about. Woof!