by Kristin Arzt
Since Ledora Hightower first encountered The Crucible at Fire Arts Festival back in 2008, she has become an integral part of our community, encouraging her family and neighbors to come in, take classes, and gain lifelong skills in welding, blacksmithing, glass blowing, and more. An Oakland native who lives just a few blocks away, Ledora Hightower has been The Crucible’s ambassador, directly facilitating scholarships for free Crucible classes for our neighborhood’s youth, adults, seniors, and many more. After working in the East Bay Conservation Corps and driving for AC Transit, Ledora started working as our custodian and as an instructor in our Woodworking Department. We have Ledora to thank for many of the youth who started taking classes at The Crucible on scholarship, and are now lead instructors in their departments.
How did you first find out about The Crucible?
The Crucible had a Fire Arts Festival, and I could hear and see the fire from my patio. My uncle was driving AC Transit, and he kept encouraging me to check it out around the corner. I finally walked over, and beyond being hypnotized by the fire, I started talking to someone about scholarships and volunteering. They encouraged me to get my daughter into summer classes.
When did your daughter get involved?
In 2008, I brought Reginae to take her first class. From the time she was seven years old until she graduated high school, Reginae spent every summer here in youth camps for ten years. With her being here, she missed the street life that we have over in Acorn. A lot of kids end up in jail. For me, The Crucible has been a lifesaver. It’s been a daycare, a safe haven. It’s been everything for me. I knew when I brought my daughter here that she would be safe. I discovered it was a hidden treasure that we had in West Oakland.
I was able to tell people in the community what The Crucible was really about. You know how people talk about church? I’m not religious, but I can talk about The Crucible, and what I know your kid is gonna get out of it. No one can take these skills away.
Once you brought your daughter for classes, how did you encourage other kids to come to The Crucible?
I brought them myself, and got them scholarships. In 2009, I started working at the Acorn Recreation Center with kids. Acorn didn’t have a lot of resources—a basketball or a couple little tools—and I knew what The Crucible had. I knew where the treasure was. Once I gained the trust of Acorn, I asked for more youth scholarships at The Crucible, and started walking kids from Acorn over to The Crucible for classes.
I started bringing Abdollah Hamdan when he was twelve. He ended up taking Blacksmithing, becoming a lead instructor, and now, ten years later, he has a job. YES! He sure does. Let your kids come here, and no one will be able to take away the skills they’ll learn. We’re the bomb. That’s just it. What they learn here will guarantee work in their life.