New Ashland Youth Center Opens in Alameda County

The REACH Ashland Youth Center

Alameda County this week celebrated the opening of the new REACH Ashland Youth Center, a $23 million redevelopment project that will provide a wide variety of youth-oriented programs including job training, educational assistance, art and cultural programs, recreation, and health and wellness services. The REACH Ashland Youth Center – believed to be the largest facility of its kind in the country – is the fruit of a decade-long effort led by local youth who mobilized because they felt Ashland, an urban enclave between San Leandro and Castro Valley, lacked adequate recreational opportunities and services for youth in a community struggling with problems including gang violence and some of Alameda County’s highest school dropout and teen pregnancy rates. This grassroots effort has resulted in a dynamic, 31,500-square-foot marvel of green architecture that includes a community health clinic, library, day care facility, multi-media room, dance studio, weight room, arts room and a café. The Youth Center, which provides all services to youth free of charge, is managed by the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency and is operated in conjunction with numerous community partners including La Clinica de la Raza, the San Lorenzo Unified School District, the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, the Alameda County Library and the Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League. “The focus is on youth, but this facility really is a beacon of hope for the entire Ashland community,’’ said Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, whose efforts in collaboration with the youth of Ashland were critical in seeing the project to completion. “It has the power to transform the lives of young people who until now have had little or no access to the many opportunities and services that are available here.’’ Participating in the dedication and providing tours of the new facility were several local youth who led the campaign for a Youth Center in Ashland. Not only did this effort garner strong support from the community at large, but local youth have continued to work side by side with County staff and design consultants to help guide both the program development and actual physical design of the building. For Dominique Parras, 19, the official opening of the newly completed center this week, “still seems like a dream.’’ Dominique, who at age 8 began attending community meetings and otherwise advocating for the Youth Center, was speaking at the facility one afternoon this week as activity buzzed around her – a Hip-Hop Dance class in one area, a quilt-making project in an art studio across the way and an exercise class in the Youth Center’s fully equipped weight room. “It is great to see all the people here, to see that the youth of Ashland have finally got the place they have always needed,’’ she said. The Youth Center was the catalyst of a string of redevelopment projects that have transformed a once-tired stretch of East 14th Street, bringing swaths of greenery, new architecture and heavy foot traffic to the heart of a community that for years lacked a central gathering space. The center is the centerpiece of a new youth complex that includes the newly constructed Jack Holland Sr. Park and the new open multi-use gymnasium at Edendale Middle School. The Holland Park brings much needed outdoor recreational park space to Ashland, while the Edendale Gymnasium will be utilized for middle school athletics as well as after-school activities operated jointly by the San Lorenzo Unified School District, Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, and the Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League. The REACH Ashland Youth Center is located at 16335 E. 14th St. (near 163rd Avenue) in San Leandro.
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