New after-school program reaches out to foster, immigrant and homeless youth in East Bay



Junia Kim has spent the past nine years teaching in East Bay, and during that time, several foster care system students have come and gone from her classrooms. Sometimes they would leave without warning after being placed in a new living situation.

Witnessing this instability, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim was inspired to create Project re: Fresha free after-school program for youth in foster care, students in unstable housing, and youth who immigrated to the United States as unaccompanied minors.

Join the re:Fresh project

Students can register by completing the registration form on vu52.org/refresh. You can also register on site in the presence of a tutor.

Oakland
750 Boul. International
Mondays and Thursdays
3:30 p.m.-6 p.m.

Hayward
28200 Ruus Rd.
Tuesdays and Fridays
4-6.15 p.m.

Its goal is to provide these students with a versatile space where they can get help with homework or work on creative projects ranging from building a solar lamp to learning how to use an iron. weld or a laser cutter. The pilot program launched earlier this month in Oakland and Hayward and is open to middle and high school students in Alameda County. On Mondays and Thursdays, students can go to 750 International Blvd. in Oakland to do hands-on activities and flex their “social muscles,” Kim said. On Tuesdays and Fridays, Kim is with students at Hayward Space at 28200 Ruus Rd.

“I started getting into all of this as a teacher, having young people come in and out for a few months and then come back. I thought, ‘What would it be like if we created a program for them?’ “, she said.

The re:Fresh project is a program of Vu52, an organization Kim founded earlier this year to serve students who have been impacted by the child welfare system. It is supported by the Alameda County Office of Education, as well as the Oakland Public Education Fund and Hayward Promise Neighborhoods. As a pilot program, Project re:Fresh will continue until next August.

Before Kim left her teaching position at Lazear Charter Academy in 2020, she spoke to over 50 students to find out what they liked and disliked about school and college environments. She then tried to incorporate those comments into Project re:Fresh. Overall, many students wanted less discipline and more time for the arts, outdoor activities, and opportunities to learn life skills.

When Kim was brainstorming ideas for the re:Fresh project, she spoke with dozens of her students about what they liked and disliked about school. Credit: Amir Aziz

In addition to the twice-weekly after-school program, Kim also plans field trips. Later this month the group will travel to Oaktown Boulders, an indoor climbing gym, and next month they will visit Crissy Field in San Francisco. During the after-school program, students also receive snacks and lunch each day.

Kim wants her students to feel comfortable making mistakes and learning from them.

“It’s not just the 8th period. We take breaks, have fun, play games and eat out,” she said. “The goal is to try things beyond what they see every day. Often our students have not extended beyond the five mile radius of where they are.

Kim named the program Project re:Fresh as a nod to the idea of ​​refreshing a webpage. During the pandemic, many students’ lives have been interrupted or put on hold, and this is a chance for them to return to some form of normality. The Oakland program can accommodate 20 to 25 students, but attracting young people has been the hardest part, Kim said, largely because of transportation issues. That’s why, on Wednesdays, Kim brings Project re:Fresh to Alameda County group homes to work with youth in their own environment. She is also working to land a contract with HopSkipDrive, a car transportation service for young people.

Working with young people in foster care also means recognizing that students may not be diligent. During the 2019-2020 school year, Alameda County hosted 803 youth in foster care, and of those, 344, or 43%, were in the Oakland Unified School District, according to state data.

“We’ve had students here before and their placement has been changed. Knowing that we are serving a transient population has become much more real now that we are putting this program in place,” Kim said. “If students were to get anything out of this program other than being seen and loved, I want it to be that to fail is fine.”

To register for the re:Fresh project, students can complete the registration form at vu52.org/refresh.