The Mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, failed to apply for a $2 million grant from the US Department of Labor by the March 25 deadline. That money was supposed to go to summer job training programs for youth. Those programs keep kids off the street and out of trouble.
My friend Jaime Taylor told me about this tragedy which you can read about at the Post News Group. Jaime has been the executive director of Urban Mentors for about 10 years and spends day in and day out with these kids. They are good kids in a tough situation. They just need someone to care.
Having worked as the Director of the Trenton Youth Connection and as a staff member at the Bonner Foundation, I knew that providing these youth an opportunity to express their creativity would provide a valuable experience.
I asked Jaime, “What can I do?” We talked and came up with a program to help the youth of Oakland to develop job skills, stay off the streets, and receive a small stipend. Instead of going on vacation, I spent time this summer preparing for and running a program for these youth.
We picked fruit, made pies, made jam, prepared nutritious meals, created balloon animals, practiced face painting, performed creative reuse, made videos, visited LucasFilm, learned about environmental issues, and engaged art at the intersection of gender and identity. We even spent time writing code using the One Hour of Code program.
The program has been a smashing success with the help of numerous people and organizations including Chelle Austin and Josh McPaul at Oakland City Church, software engineering manager John Jacob, Emily Foster at Lucasfilm, Lynn Lohr and Gerald Reese at CGBD, Bryan Goldberg at Slow Burn Glass, and Soleil Summer at the Betti Ono Gallery as well as the many individuals who made generous donations to make this program possible. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to step into the gap and support Oakland’s youth.