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Alecia K . Eugene-Chasten
Founder and CEO , Urban Advocates and Achievers
Founder and CEO , iSound Music Performing Arts
When Alecia K . Eugene-Chasten ’ s son was in third grade , his resource teacher told him he should “ aspire to be a warehouse worker ” because of his struggles in math . Eugene-Chasten was “ shocked and appalled ” and quickly went to work advocating for her son and other students like him who she says experience “ the lack of educational equity that occurs at many school districts throughout the nation every day .”
After a 30-year career in IT with the State of California , Eugene-Chasten changed gears . In 2008 , she became the first African American woman elected to the Twin Rivers Unified School District school board . In 2012 , she founded Urban Advocates and Achievers , a nonprofit dedicated to stopping the “ School-to-Prison Pipeline ” for marginalized students and providing the “ Pipeline to Educational Opportunities .”
UAA serves K-12 and college students and their parents through eight core programs : Educational Advocacy , Achievement Tutors , Urban Arts , Healthy Minds & Bodies , Family Academy , Achievement Mentors , Reservation for College Community Program and STEM / STEAM . Through holistic programming , students and their families are empowered to pursue academic excellence and connect with their community in a meaningful way .
“ As a member of the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce , I believe there is a strong connection with UAA ’ s mission because we grow achievers prepared for college , career ( and ) economic sustainability for an improved quality of life ,” Eugene-Chasten says . “ These achievers will contribute to society , be a strong and educated workforce and / or be great entrepreneurs to stimulate the United States economy . … ( The SBCC ) plays a vital role of assisting UAA and many other business members to network , collaborate , flourish , thrive and maintain sustainability while serving its diverse community .”
Music literally saved James Jackson ’ s life .
“ I grew up in the ghetto in Watts ,” Jackson says . “ I ’ d run to church to play the piano while my friends were out there in gangs . Music saved my life .”
In 2016 , the music industry veteran and owner of record label iSound Music founded iSound Music Performing Arts in his hometown of Atlanta to give kids like himself a safe space to study the arts . But when his son was killed in a drive-by shooting in Sacramento , Jackson realized that his programming was needed elsewhere . “ I turned tragedy into triumph ,” Jackson says . “ To honor my son , I opened the program here in Sacramento … to wake up youth in impoverished and urban areas and get them focused on music , dancing and life skills .” iSound started as a summer camp in 2019 and has now expanded into a program that includes choir performance and classes in drama , piano and studio production with the mission of providing “ alternative and positive activities that will deter negative thinking , gang violence and bullying .”
Jackson and his students recently produced a music video of an original song called “ Stand Up ” about systemic racism and community violence that premiered on CBS 13 . The group is now also preparing to move into a donated building off Florin Road and take advantage of the connections the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce has brought their way .
“ People see me on the chamber and look me up , especially families moving in from other states who want to get involved in the arts ,” Jackson says . “ It ’ s good to be part of something that helps the community and lets people know about the arts . It ’ s what ’ s needed in the community .”
November 2021 | comstocksmag . com 21