Oakland – Four weeks into the new year, and several schools across Oakland Unified School District are in mourning because they have recently lost valued members of their communities. The OUSD District has lost a total of five young people who were getting ready to graduate or had recently graduated. Some had come back to the schools to support the students of today.
Zakiya Thomas attended Oakland Tech and was currently studying at Dewey Academy when she was killed in a car crash. Her cousin Terri’Nae Williams was killed in the same crash. She graduated from Castlemont High School last spring. 19 year old Zavier Patton was a graduate of Skyline High School, who also attended Claremont Middle School. He was a victim of gun violence. Former Oakland High, Fremont High and Skyline High student, Quinton Williams also fell victim to gun violence, as did Skyline graduate, Sampson Luu. Luu also worked in the after school program at Roosevelt Middle School.
Zakiya Thomas and Terri’Nae Williams were in a car on the night of August 25 heading north on Highway 680 in Walnut Creek when the car exited the freeway at a high rate of speed and crashed into a tree. KTVU News reported there is evidence that one of the girls may have been driving even though neither one of them was an experienced driver. A 47 year old family friend who owned the car also died in the crash. “It’s something that could have been prevented. They didn’t have a license and the person’s car they were in, it was his car. He had a license, so why did he let her drive,” said Adrienne Semien, Zakiya’s mother, to KTVU. Zakiya lost her brother three years ago to gun violence, and Zakiya was her mother’s only remaining child. She was set to graduate from Dewey Academy in December.
Terri’Nae Williams had just turned 18 years old in June. On a GoFundMe page, her sister, ShayNesha George said she “was an excellent student who was continuously on the honor roll. She was such a caring gentle free spirit. My baby sister had a whole future ahead of her, she loved school and looked forward to going to college and becoming a nurse. She loves fashion and beauty. She was an advocate against violence for Teens on Target in Oakland throughout her four years in high school and after. She was so beautiful, loving, funny, ambitious and strong. She inspired me.” Additionally, Castlemont staff said Terri’Nae was an honor roll student, and on both the Volleyball team and the Cheer team. She was also a student organizer with her 2020 graduating class. Here is a GoFundMe page created in her honor.
Zavier Patton was a 2019 graduate of Skyline High School where he took part in activities such as African American Male Achievement and played on the varsity boys basketball team. “Zavier was a very good, wise and beautiful soul. He was senselessly taken from this earth on August 15 in a drive by shooting. He is now on the list of innocent victims of crimes. Zavier was 19 years old and about to start his second year at California State University, Northridge. This young man had overcome and accomplished quite a bit at this point in his young life,” said Zavier’s brother, Bryan Bassette, and the rest of the family. Bassette is an assistant principal at Elmhurst United Middle School. “Zavier was an example of exemplary character and inspiration.”
Also recently lost to gun violence was Quinton Williams who attended Oakland High School, Fremont High and Skyline High. He was another beloved student who had a profound impact on those around him. He spent two years at Fremont High School, where Co-Principal Tom Skjervheim got to know him well. “Quinton was always one of our brightest stars; smart, hard-working and full of promise. In addition to being a star football player, he was also a nearly 4.0 GPA student.” He finished up his education at Gateway to College. His life was cut short on the first weekend of August. Here is a GoFundMe page set up in his honor.
“Each of these young people leave deep holes in the lives of those they left behind,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “As a parent, I can only imagine the anguish their families must be experiencing. I implore anyone who gets behind the wheel of a car to exercise extreme caution, because one small mistake can lead to tragic consequences. My heart goes out to the families of Zakiya and Terri’Nae and their family friend. Likewise, I am always heartbroken when I hear that one of our young people was lost to gun violence. And here we have lost three bright young lives. Zavier, Quinton and Sampson all had profound impacts on their communities and I send my love to their family and friends. To people who think that violence is the answer, I remind you, it never is. You solve nothing when you use a gun, and only leave misery in your wake. I implore everyone to find ways to solve problems peacefully, and to teach our children to do the same.”
OUSD sends its deepest condolences to the families and friends of these five remarkable young people.
About the Oakland Unified School District
In California’s most diverse city, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is dedicated to creating a learning environment where “Every Student Thrives!” More than half of our students speak a non-English language at home. And each of our 81 schools is staffed with talented individuals uniting around a common set of values: Students First, Equity, Excellence, Integrity, Cultural Responsiveness and Joy. We are committed to preparing all students for college, career and community success.