Alameda County earns 3 state awards
Programs help teens throughout region
Alameda County has received three top awards from the California State Association of Counties in its annual awards program for 2010.
The county's New Beginnings Initiative for At-Risk Youth, a public-private partnership with the Aramark Corp. food service company, received a CSAC Challenge Award. The initiative provides paid jobs at three Fresh Start Cafes to foster youths and youths who have been in the juvenile justice system.
Susan S. Muranishi, Alameda County Administrator, said the county also received two merit awards from the CSAC for special programs. They were:
* The Teen, Senior and Computer Gadget Connection, a program led by the Alameda County Library that helps local teens earn school-required volunteer credits by teaching seniors basic computer skills.
* Youth Uprising, a one-stop center created by Alameda County to provide youth and young adults with tools in health and wellness, arts and expression, leadership development, life skills and career and education programs.
"These awards are a gratifying tribute to Alameda County's commitment to youth and our ongoing efforts to find ways to help young people contribute to the richness of our community," Muranishi said.
Aki Nakao, director of Alameda County's General Services Agency and a key player in launching the three Fresh Start Cafes, said: "These awards recognize three areas where our county has created effective partnerships with other agencies and individuals to address important needs in our community.''
New Beginnings provides a much-needed boost in the lives of at-risk youths -- those who have been in the juvenile justice system and those who are transitioning away from foster care -- by providing paid jobs and vocational training to prepare them for productive lives as adults, Nakao explained.
Currently, there are three Fresh Start Cafes: at the Alameda County Recorder's Office in Oakland, the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center in San Leandro and at the Castro Valley Library.
Alameda County Auditor Patrick O'Connell, who oversees operations at the Recorder's Office on Madison Street in Oakland, says the café there has made this hub of activity more pleasant for customers to do business.
"The Café provides a much needed opportunity for respite and refreshment for the people from all over our county who come to our building to do business,'' O'Connell said. "The fact that it helps young people in transition causes customers to support the Café with even more enthusiasm.''
Officials at the Alameda County Library said that the Computer Gadget Connection program is helping to bridge a generation gap and provide important skills to people of all ages.
Teen volunteers in the program parlay training in library services and basic computers into teaching older adults a wide range of computer and Internet skills, according to Muranishi. The program has become so successful that at any given time there are up to a dozen trained teens and a waiting list of seniors wanting their assistance. Teens gain an understanding of the important role of teaching, and participating seniors learn in a comfortable setting that fosters accomplishment and self-esteem.
Youth Uprising, located in a 25,000-square-foot building in East Oakland, grew out of challenges faced by Alameda County following racial unrest in 2005 at Oakland's Castlemont High School. County officials responded by bringing together a coalition of community-based organizations that led to the creation of this one-stop center adjacent to the school that provides youth and young adults:
* Comprehensive health and wellness education;
* Arts and expression;
* Leadership development; and
* Life skills and career and education programs.
Today, Youth Uprising involves more than 5,100 members from eight cities in the county. In surveys of Youth Uprising participants, more than 77 percent said the program helped develop long-term career paths and 81 percent felt more hopeful about their lives.
The $1.8 million program is jointly funded by the county and various philanthropic, individual donors, and community foundations.