Oakland Kids First (OKF) works with 120 core youth leaders, 3,400 additional students across four high school campuses, and 100 teachers or administrators annually through programs that cultivate belonging and build power for young people to advance racial and educational equity. Our programming integrates positive youth development practices, youth-led school culture and climate improvement campaigns, youth participatory action research, restorative justice, and peer mentoring activities so that all participants are supported to learn, grow, develop skills, and build positive connections.
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 60 student leaders, grades 9-12, at four high schools annually. Youth participate after school and 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, Oakland High, and Oakland Technical High Schools. The program focuses on shifting school culture from punitive to restorative by expanding leadership roles for students to become culture drivers, by implementing shared Code of Respect values, and creating respectful learning spaces. REAL HARD is Oakland Kids First’s longest running program.
Peers Advising Students to Succeed (PASS-2), and the “Civic Engagement and Social Movements” class that integrates the program into an A-G credited course curriculum, create a peer-to-peer model of relationship building and information sharing. PASS-2 provides an engaging space for underserved students to access the resources, requirements and support that they need to succeed, thrive in school, and prepare for post-secondary opportunities. PASS-2 engages 30 student mentors annually at Castlemont and Fremont High Schools to facilitate workshops for 100% of 9th graders at their schools, and to offer restorative justice circles as well as one-on-one peer mentoring for 9th graders who most need support.
Oakland Kids First serves as the Lead Agency for Castlemont High School’s 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, 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 of youth with previous program experience. YOC convenes 15 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.