August 10, 2017: Kids + People Power = Thriving Communities

Regardless of whether you have children in your life, everyone’s children are raised by the people power of the community in which they live. It is people power that tutors the third-grader after school, people power coaches our athletes and opens summer schools; people power is what mentors and guides our young people. Our communities thrive when youth and young adults feel supported, safe, fed and free to pursue their dreams. 

When Black Panther founder Bobby Seale led neighbors to distribute free breakfasts to children in 1967, 28 states followed his lead and established free school breakfast and lunch programs within the next two years. I was reminded of this recently when I had the privilege of joining ATU Local 1555 for their backpack give-away at McClymonds High School in West Oakland. Spending the afternoon with volunteers and high school students was a reminder of the importance and transformative impact of summer youth programs in our communities!

As a mental health worker who works with students, I see the stress put on families, when there are few summer programs available. For many families the challenge of how to pay for child care, sports team and club fees -- not to mention lost time at work -- is a major financial and emotional strain. That is why I have been committed to ensuring that there is a West County summer group for my clinic clients every year for the past 17 years I have been on the job.

Together, Californians can and should put our collective power and resources into public schools, public programs and teams of education professionals to grow children’s lives. It will take people power to get Sacramento legislators to prioritize our children’s best interests over corporations’ interests.

Fortunately, there are some great summer programs in the East Bay– although these programs are typically under-resourced, too far and few between. In the City of Richmond, we have the YouthWORKS Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) that offers Richmond youth, ages 16-21 the chance to work during the summer with various employers; we also have RYSE and Urban Tilth, organizations dedicated to our youth. Oakland and Berkeley have unique youth programs like Hack the Hood and Youth UpRising.