Youth Leadership

Real Hard

REAL HARD, which is short for Representing Educated Active Leaders Having a Righteous Dream, is OKF’s longest running youth leadership program. The REAL HARD program’s goal is to center young people’s voice, agency and decision-making power through organizing around their own educational experiences.

REAL HARD has chapters on high school campuses that meet twice a week after school and engage 120 total student leaders in grades 9-12. Youth participate in stipended activities focused on community-building and healing, skill development, political education, power mapping, campaign planning and civic engagement in order to improve the culture and climate at their school.

Three youth leaders smiling and posing for photo


REAL HARD leaders reach thousands of students and teachers at their schools in transformative educational equity campaigns and culture improvement efforts. Successful campaigns include:

  • Surveying and interviewing over 1,400 OUSD high schoolers about their priorities for safe and supportive campuses when returning to school after Covid-19 closures. This research informed development of a Student Justice Platform.

  • Pre-registering over 450 16 and 17-year olds to vote as preparation for participation in local school board elections as soon as Oakland Youth Vote is implemented. Efforts will continue for all eligible voters, each school board election cycle, including 16 and 17 year olds.

  • Developing school-wide Codes of Respect. Castlemont’s Knight Way, the Pillars of Oakland Tech and the Fremont Way were all created through REAL HARD leaders’ research, and synthesizing of shared values. Youth now run school stores at Fremont and Castlemont to incentivize students to uplift positive school culture by demonstrating code of respect values and earning currency that can be traded in for items that boost school pride.

Each year, REAL HARD brings students together across campuses through an overnight retreat and field trips to build community while developing campaigns.

Partner Schools In Oakland

  • Castlemont
  • Fremont
  • Oakland High School
  • Oakland Tech
  • Skyline

Reach Out to US

Interested in joining the program or bringing a chapter of REAL HARD to your campus? Reach out to

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Skills Gained

Building relationships

Facilitating and leading activities, processes or conversations

Improving collaboration or learning how to work with other youth

Feeling more connected to their community

"REAL HARD and YOC taught me how to work collaboratively with other youth leaders and adult allies to amplify youth voice and to build student power. Being part of the Measure QQ campaign and having it successfully pass taught me how to engage with my community and collaborate with city leaders."
Image of Allyson Chen
Allyson Chen
Senior at Oakland High School
"REAL HARD had made me realize that change doesn’t happen when you wait around for adults it starts when you get up , stand , and work behind the people who want the same thing."
Image of Morgan Lee-Clark
Morgan Lee-Clark
Senior at Oakland High School
Image of Senayt Sium

Senayt Sium


(She/Her/Hers) is a Program Coordinator for REAL HARD and facilitates after school programs at Oakland Tech and Oakland High School. She attended OUSD public school and is a proud alumni of Oakland High School. Senayt is a first generation college graduate from University of California, Davis in Sociology with concentration in Law and Society, Public Health Science and Chicano/a Studies. One of her key passions is advocacy. She strongly believes in addressing and combating systemic issues that affect marginalized communities.

She strives to empower and support youth in developing essential skills while fostering activism. As a former REAL HARD student organizer, Senayt is very excited to be working with youth, and provide them with the necessary resources to support and help them accomplish their goals.

Peter Truong

Peter Truong


Peter (he/him/his) supports staff across OKF programs to incorporate best practices in positive youth development. Peter oversees the REAL HARD after school program and supports all chapters to develop youth-led transformational school culture campaigns.

Peter also writes curriculum for Oakland Kids First programs and supports organization-wide youth organizing campaigns such as development of the Student Justice Platform. A life long learner and educator, Peter earned a degree in Ethnic Studies at the University of Oregon.

Cara Holiday

Cara Holiday


Cara (she/her/hers) is the Senior Development Manager who oversees fundraising, communications, grant writing and reporting and also serves on the senior management team. She has been part of the OKF community since 2009 in a range of roles including volunteering as a board member from 2009-2012, and then working on staff.

Cara currently works for OKF remotely from her hometown of St. Louis, MO. Throughout her career, Cara has focused on supporting students to reach their individual goals to graduate and access post-secondary education while also advocating to improve systems and equity in public schools. She earned a MA in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies from Stanford University, a teaching credential from San Francisco State University, and a BA in English from Washington University in St. Louis.

Previous positions include working as Assistant Director at the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at Washington University, as a Community Programs Manager for Alternatives in Action and as an English teacher on the McClymonds high school campus in OUSD. In her free time, Cara enjoys hiking with her family and two dogs, and exploring the local food scene.