West Oakland Youth Help Bay Bridge Reopening

(L to R) Back row – Mark Perra (Faith Network), Omar Masood, McKinley Williams, Austin Holliday, Joe Nuni (Faith Network), Marnell Richardson (CalTrans mentor); middle row – Joanne Perra, Kearney Smith, Jr., Elden Suratos, Courtney Riley (OUSD Career Coordinator); front row – Randy Roth (Faith Network), Reba Maestas (CalTrans mentor), Tydesha Morris, Shelley Suratos, Elaine Suratos (CalTrans mentor), Shemeila Watkins, Aronnisha Smith, Cynthia Miniz (CalTrans mentor), Margena Wade-Green (CalTrans mentor and organizer), and Kenyon Johnson (CalTrans mentor). Photo courtesy of Faith Network of the East Bay.

(L to R) Back row – Mark Perra (Faith Network), Omar Masood, McKinley Williams, Austin Holliday, Joe Nuni (Faith Network), Marnell Richardson (CalTrans mentor); middle row – Joanne Perra, Kearney Smith, Jr., Elden Suratos, Courtney Riley (OUSD Career Coordinator); front row – Randy Roth (Faith Network), Reba Maestas (CalTrans mentor), Tydesha Morris, Shelley Suratos, Elaine Suratos (CalTrans mentor), Shemeila Watkins, Aronnisha Smith, Cynthia Miniz (CalTrans mentor), Margena Wade-Green (CalTrans mentor and organizer), and Kenyon Johnson (CalTrans mentor). Photo courtesy of Faith Network of the East Bay.

As the old Bay Bridge closed and construction teams worked over Labor Day weekend to prepare for the opening of the new span, a number of teenagers were among those who worked tirelessly to help get the job done.

Young people had the opportunity to gain work experience in different capacities – engineering, directing traffic, and raising awareness about the bridge closure. They had been hired through multiple organizations including the Caroline Yee Future Scientists Fund through Faith Network of the East Bay, the Transportation Management Association of San Francisco (TMASL Connects), Job Corps, and Teen Challenge,

Investing in the West Oakland STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) corridor, the Caroline Yee Future Scientists Fund was established by Gary Yee, superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District, and the Faith Network to give students hands-on experience. The future scientists fund partnered with CalTrans to hire 12 youth, including students from McClymonds High School, on the Bay Bridge project and funded their internships.

“Students worked in a number of areas that included document control, and they were like tour guides. Every student had a chance to go aboard a boat and give visitors a chance to see the bridge from the water,” said Randy Roth, founder and president of the Faith Network of the East Bay.

“This was a historic moment for them. We want to continue providing summer internships for McClymonds and beyond, but especially for the West Oakland community,” said Roth.

Through TMASF Connects, a nonprofit that offers commute assistance, 11 young people worked on the bridge project.

“When something like this comes up, I go for it,” said Jeffery Lee, a student at UCLA who worked on the project directing traffic to Treasure Island.

Having interned with TMASF Connects before, he says their network of opportunities has been helpful when looking for a summer job.

Through a Caltrans partnership with the Job Corps Center on Treasure Island, 25 to 40 youth were hired on the project doing security work, excess monitoring, and traffic control.

“Treasure Island is located in the heart of our project. Job Corps generally is going to fill the majority of impacts to that area because they’re right in the heart of the bridge,” said Margena Wade, Public Information Officer, Education and Community Outreach Manager at Caltrans.

“It’s been an important partnership as far as our educational outreach,” Wade said speaking on the entire project.

“It makes a difference in our youth development and economic situation for people who need a boost.”

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