For years, Emelina walked past that purple building on International Boulevard. She heard the stories – a legacy of metamorphic achievement, a place that spawned doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, and businessmen. From what she heard, this purple building housed the keys to unlock one’s hidden potential. Under construction for some years now, Emelina had grown to see it as little more than a benchmark on her walk towards Castlemont High School but even that fact caught her attention – this building was the only structure under construction in the area. Now completed, Emelina could finally feed her curiosity.
Upon being buzzed in through the security doors, a sense of welcome filled her bubble. Emelina had just taken her first steps into the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC). The first thing she realized in her new environment was the feeling of safety, a rarity in the “killer corridor.” Beyond impressed (and even excited) by her initial introductions, Emelina eagerly searched for a way to get involved. Her friend had told her about a job opportunity working for EOYDC's “youth-led” summer program and she signed up immediately. Week after week in preparation for the job interview, Emelina was trained in instructional design, positive discipline, and team building all while making friends with other aspiring youth leaders. Her peers came from all walks of life, with each individual having something valuable to contribute to her experience. When the trials were all said and done, Emelina earned a summer youth leader position. Victorious, a smile crept over the teenager’s face… she knew this was only the beginning.
As the summer progressed, Emelina’s confidence grew. As a youth leader, Emelina was responsible for encouraging and motivating kids. She completed her tasks with ease and began to yearn for more with her sights turned toward her future. Emelina began to see glimmers of a possibility in this work beyond the center. She was developing the capacity and confidence in herself to visualize her potential in nursing, utilizing the people skills she gained through her experience at EOYDC. After Emelina’s first first-aid training led by Marcus, an EMT as well as former youth leader, there was no question where this young lady was headed. Encouraged, Emelina began to understand that she stumbled on more than just a job – she had joined a family, brotherhood, and organization whose culture supported dreams and turned them into reality. While the conclusion of the summer program typically yields a lot of sad emotions for our students and youth leaders who now need to part from their newfound friends, Emelina could not help but wonder what else was in store for her future.
Through the gracious generosity of the Oakland Opportunity grant, EOYDC’s Capital Campaign was completed and we were able to open the doors to a newly renovated, state-of-the-art building for our students. It is because of this selfless gift that we can continue to tell amazing stories of success like Emelina’s. Fit for hundreds of participants, the new building provides a series of new programs, experiential learning opportunities, health outlets, and most importantly, genuine people to call friends. This tremendous donation provided far more than steel and glass – it facilitated a home away from home. Our new building, that was in part made possible by The San Francisco Foundation, is a beautiful beacon affirming all who walk inside that each day is an opportunity to develop and build upon a dream.