Oakland Kids First (OKF) works with 125 core youth leaders and engages 3,400 additional students across five high school campuses in Oakland, CA. Our programs cultivate belonging and build power for young people to advance racial and educational equity in public schools. OKF integrates positive youth development, leadership skill building, student-led organizing campaigns, youth participatory action research, community building and restorative justice so that all participants are supported to learn, grow, develop skills, and build positive connections to their community while being given the platform and power to transform inequitable systems.
Representing Educated Active Leaders Having a Righteous Dream (REAL HARD) Youth Leadership Program is a stipended after school leadership development and youth organizing program that engages at least 100 student leaders, grades 9-12, at five high schools annually. Youth participants engage thousands of their peers and teachers in community organizing and school culture change efforts designed to increase educational equity. REAL HARD meets twice weekly at Castlemont, Fremont, Skyline, Oakland High, and Oakland Technical High Schools. REAL HARD is Oakland Kids First’s longest running program.
Oakland Kids First serves as the Lead Agency for Castlemont High School’s Castle Cares, Knight Success and Knight Time Programs that serve over 400 youth after school annually and engage 120 students daily. Programs offer comprehensive college, career, and community readiness programming including workforce readiness and internship placements as well as academic support, credit recovery, health and fitness, after school enrichment, positive youth development, family engagement and literacy activities, as well as support for International and Newcomer students.
Youth Organizing Council (YOC) was established by OKF in 2018 as an advanced leadership cohort for youth leaders with previous program experience. YOC convenes 18 student leaders from each of our program sites during the summer and each week during the school year. YOC offers intensive leadership development and youth organizing support to champion justice and educational equity for low-income, marginalized students across Oakland by focusing on district and citywide campaigns.
In 2019, Oakland Kids First supported the release of our first East Oakland comic book as part of a series featuring a crew of four high school students called Town Force One: And The Battle for East Oakland. The comic book follows the youth as they battle head on with the challenges that come their way – from school closures to gentrification and rapid urban development that threatens to erase their culture, history, and roots. Copies of the comic book are available for purchase through the Get Involved – Shop page on our website, and educators can request free class sets.
OKF founded Justice For Oakland Students (J4OS) in 2017, and served as the fiscal sponsor for the coalition through December 2020. The J4OS Coalition is made up of students, parents/families of Oakland youth, teacher allies, and staff from community-based organizations working to center the experience of Black, Latinx, Special Education, Newcomer or International, and other marginalized student identities in city-wide or district policies and campaigns. J4OS serves as a convening and coordinating entity so member groups can work collaboratively towards shared goals that will improve racial justice and educational equity in Oakland Unified School District. OKF continues to collaborate as a member of the J4OS Coalition.