When her counselor first told her about Berkeley Youth Alternatives, a non-profit organization that supports underserved youth, Tamisha Bradley wasn’t interested.
Having lived in three different foster homes, Bradley, a student at Berkeley High School at the time, was still unsure of what she wanted to do after she graduated. Youth are referred to BYA by their teachers, probation officers, and others friends who go to its programs or summer camps. The 43-year- old program has seen thousands of young adults pass through its doors on the corner of Allston Way and Bonar Street.< p>“I was having a tough time in school, and my guidance counselor got me involved in BYA which allowed me to get my first job teaching kids at Longfellow Middle School about eating healthy and digestion,” said Bradley.
“I was nervous because I had never worked with kids before, but my supervisor showed me how to create PowerPoint presentations and teach so I was able to learn from that experience.”
The services are provided through interns, both paid and volunteer, from UC Berkeley who will act as tutors, recreation leaders, role models and mentors. BYA offers tutoring, recreational activities, and computer training for over 80 participants during the academic school year and recreational and computer services during the eight weeks in the summer.
Now 19, Bradley will be attending California State University East Bay in the fall and says that the case managers and counselors at BYA helped find her a job that compliment her interest in public health.
“One of our challenges here is finding housing for homelessness,” said Nkiru Ajaelo, a case manager in BYA’s Youth and Family Opportunity HUB. “Our work varies from day to day, but many times, we’ve dealt with issues like domestic violence, getting these kids back into school and on a career path. We’re constant learners here; both the counselors and the students.”
Aside from helping young adults from ages 14-21 with finding employment, BYA provides workshops on writing resumes, workplace communication, job training, and counseling.
To be eligible for most summer jobs, youth need to be enrolled in a year-round workforce program. Students must meet a 2.0 GPA requirement as well as sign a contract to increase their grades.
“BYA’s job is to provide youth with a voice and avenue to educate the community,” said Katherine Brown, Program Manager for Public Health in the City of Berkeley. “The programs offered are essential to making changes in the neighborhood.