EOYDC offers stability for families in the community

EOYDC-Black-Futures-Ball-Chabot-Space-and-Science-Center-080523, EOYDC offers stability for families in the community, Local News & Views News & Views
EOYDC Black Futures Ball at the Chabot Space and Science Center Aug. 5.

by Zaire Saunders

School is starting back up and although I’m no parent myself, it’s not hard to imagine the alarm ringing in the ears of parents and the youth. Where can you go that isn’t outright draining you of your money? How will we maintain real-life connections in an ever increasingly digital world?

Well, for parents or guardians wanting to ensure that the youth have safe community, support and creative outlets, the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC) offers the right balance. I spoke with the EOYDC’s chief program officer, Landon Hill, to get a better understanding of the EOYDC.

Zaire Saunders: School is starting up again. What programs do you offer for the fall? How also do you help the youth make the transition from summer to school?

Landon Hill: We have what we call a continuum of programming for students starting from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Our programs consist of our After School Leadership Academy (ASLA) for our K-fifth students, Bridge for sixth-eighth grade, and Pathway to College and Careers (PTC2) for high school students. We also have a high school equivalency program called Education Empowerment. All of these programs are free and consist of both activities and workshops that focus on students’ socio-emotional development, as well as academic support. All programming is free and will begin on Aug. 28. 

Zaire Saunders: Do you find the community struggles to find productive ways to engage themselves after school?

Landon Hill: What we hear from families is that it can be hard to find a place for their children to go after school where they know they are safe and doing something productive. We know that there are options out there for families, but the combination of the location, the hours of operation, the age-group served, and services provided all need to be right in order for students to be able to participate consistently. 

Our primary focus is to create a culturally affirming space where students are physically, mentally and emotionally safe, allowing them to be able to learn, explore new things, and form meaningful relationships with their peers and adults. Our program hours start as soon as the school day is over and go until 6 p.m., which we hope provides additional flexibility to parents. And since we have options for students of all ages, our hope is that this structure meets the needs of the majority of the students and families in our area who are looking for options for their students after school.

Zaire Saunders: What are the age requirements to attend the EOYDC? What does the EOYDC offer each age group?

Landon Hill: The only age requirement is that students must be in or past kindergarten. Once they are, we will plug them into the respective programs I mentioned above based on their grade. We offer all of our programs free of charge. Before students can begin programming, their parent or caregiver must complete an application and attend an orientation. Once they do that, they are part of our EOYDC family! Students may attend Monday-Friday during specified program hours.

Zaire Saunders: What are the benefits of having a community center for the youth?

Landon Hill: A community center gives young people the space to be able to continue to engage with their peers and have more opportunities and resources outside of their school context. Organizations like ours help youth to channel their energy in a way that is productive and provides additional opportunity for young people to learn important life lessons like emotional regulation, decision making, communication etc. in a safe environment. 

Without community centers, many young people are often at home by themselves or in other environments that do not allow them to learn these lessons in healthy ways. At EOYDC, we pride ourselves on creating that safe space for students at every new stage of development they experience, even through adulthood. In the case of our center, most of the staff members – including myself – are alumni. Having the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with adults from your community who genuinely care is another critical benefit. 

Zaire Saunders: You recently had a Black Futures Ball. What was the inspiration for that and what comes next?

Landon Hill: Yes! We recently held our second annual Black Futures Ball at Chabot Space and Science Center on Aug. 5, where we awarded $150,000 in scholarships to students. The Black Futures Ball serves as our annual fundraiser supporting EOYDC’s Pathway to College and Career scholarship and program activities. 

Before the pandemic, we held a more traditional fundraiser event. When we were able to pause and really think about how we wanted this event to evolve, we decided that we wanted to curate an event that invites our community to come together and support our youth while embracing their radical imagination inspired by each year’s AfroFuturistic theme. This year’s theme was “BlackGalaxy510: from East Oakland to Infinity and Beyond,” and folks really went all out with their outfits – it was a great time!

For those who weren’t able to attend this year’s Black Futures Ball, it’s not too late to donate! Tax deductible donations can be made at bit.ly/BFBGIVE

Next year we plan to hold our third annual Black Futures Ball on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2024. Save the date!