Our mission is to enrich the lives of youth by creating a fun and welcoming environment that promotes a healthy lifestyle and fosters open communication, empathy, and the development of interpersonal skills. Our vision is to help youth aspire to live healthy and productive lives.
One of the most important aspects of our program is around food, which includes a teen cooking program, lunches, and healthy grocery distribution.
In our cooking program our older youth prepare healthy lunches for the participants and volunteers. Instructed in cooking techniques from trained staff, this activity takes the mystery out of food preparation. It also builds confidence and leadership skills.
In West Oakland there are 53 liquor stores and not a single grocery store. That's why we give the families a bag of groceries with fresh produce and other nutritious food products every week, which families tell us is extremely helpful.
In 2015, we distributed almost 15,000 pounds of groceries valued at $45,000, all free to the youth and community.
To give you a better idea what this program means to the youth, let us tell you about T’Juan.
T’Juan started coming to Oakland Youth Aspire more than 4 years ago. When he began participating in our cooking program it opened up new possibilities. He said, “when I first started, I had no cooking experience or being in a professional kitchen environment. It was a really good learning experience, engaging and fun, and I realized I had a passion for it, and I wanted to keep with it.” He even started cooking for his family, freeing his single mom to do other things. T’Juan showed real leadership and impressed everyone by overseeing a large BBQ lunch at our Back to School event that fed more than 300 people. As T’Juan recalls, “that really opened my eyes that I could help my community, and it gave me a chance to give back, something I’d always wanted to do.” T’Juan continues to give back and volunteers weekly in the OYA kitchen, encouraging others to discover the joy of cooking.
T’Juan graduated from high school and got his ServSafe certification. He plans to go to college next semester and get a degree in business to be a restaurant manager one day. He told us, “I’ve had many positive male role models at OYA and it’s helped keep me on the right track to be successful…and I want to thank them a lot for that.”
Our goal is to raise $7,500 by February 2016 to help us continue with our food programs in 2016. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, all donations are tax deductible and any amount helps. Thank you very much for your support!