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The URGENT NEED for More Youth Focused Spaces in Oakland.

Catalyst has been serving the youth of Oakland for 2 years now both virtually and in the classroom. We have served over 60 youth through provided resources, training, mentoring and internships. Most of the youth we serve are from schools in Oakland that are statistically the lowest resourced. We provide over 20hrs of Jobs Skills and Social-Emotional Skills workshops to high school students seeking summer internships or employment. Our workshops focus on helping students develop both the soft and hard skills that are necessary to succeed in the workforce. We partner with students long-term with career coaches and mentors who continue to work with them over the course of roughly 10 years. Research has proven that having Mentors and access to Economic Opportunity are two significant factors that have shown significant impact on positive outcomes for underserved youth.

One significant challenge for youth in Oakland is lack of Economic Opportunity. This isn’t because the opportunities don’t exist. It is because there is a significant yet often invisible gap in access to those opportunities. When researching how people acquire employment we found statistics suggesting that networking alone is responsible for filling as many as 85% of all jobs. Job seekers have more success finding employment through networking, based on current networking statistics for finding jobs. In fact, between 70 and 80% of all jobs aren’t even advertised

This is one significant reason that we struggle to see racial and socio-economic equity in the area of Economic Opportunity because whether intentional or not many jobs are far out of reach of young people in Oakland who don’t have well-connected professional or personal networks.

Studies by the Measure of America Social Science Research Council classify a large majority of Oakland as “Urban Opportunity Deserts” for youth between the ages of 16 and 19. Our country’s disparity of equity is rarely more apparent than it is here, with most of these “deserts” existing within close proximity of opportunity-rich urban areas.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, teenagers have been feeling more hopeless and disconnected than ever. In 2019, one in ten Oakland youth (aged 16-19) were not enrolled in school or employed in a job. The number is now one in six. On top of that, the percentage of disconnected Black, Latinx, and Native American youth is twice that of White youth. And of the approximately 30,000 youth in Oakland, two-thirds do not participate in any positive after-school programs or sports.

So the question is — how can we connect teens to the mentors, career coaches, internships, and jobs they need? How can we provide a positive community space that is fun, engaging, educational, equitable, and safe?

Our youth advisory board has expressed the need for a space where students can “feel safe, do homework, learn new skills, relax, socialize with peers and mentors, and gain positive new experiences”. They also mentioned a need for mental health resources and counselors.


In Fall 2022 we are going to be opening a youth center in Oakland, that will be a hub that connects Oakland youth to vital resources, support, and opportunities. Considering how much more disconnected Oakland youth have become during the pandemic, the time for more youth focused spaces and resources is now, this is an urgent need for Oakland!

Having a physical space to interact with our youth will exponentially increase the impact of our current programs (e.g. Mentoring and Job Skills Training) and also allow us to expand the ways in which we serve Oakland youth. Our goal is for the youth center to be a safe place where kids choose to be because they want to be there, and a place where they have access to services and resource they need. We are excited to be able to make more resources available to youth that we could never offer without a physical location. (e.g. computer lab, food pantry, tutoring center, on site mentors, mental health center, art studios, social events etc.).

All of our youth resources and programs are holistically designed around tools, frameworks, and elements that have been proven to be catalysts for youth to overcome difficult circumstances, and become healthy and successful adults. The frameworks and methodologies we use are evidence based and proven to be some of the most effective in increasing positive outcomes for children and youth today. (e.g. self regulation skills, relationship skills, problem solving skills, sense of purpose, mentoring, caring adults, involvement in positive activities, positive peers, positive community environment, etc. according to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) )


We are honored and humbled to be one of many amazing organizations that serve the youth of Oakland. This youth center is just the tip of the iceberg for us, we know there is a lot of work ahead of us and there is a lot of need here in Oakland.

Fully opening this youth center is going to cost $300,000. We know this is possible with your help.

As you can see below everyone can play a role to help make this Youth Center a reality. All of our partners are vital to our success. You can partner with us anywhere from a Monthly gift of $25, or helping us get a Grant or Major Gift of $75k.

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