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A publication of Oakland Serves Vol. 2 Issue 1


The Oakland Serves program is an innovative way to meet the needs of the city and the school district by connecting students with internships and mentorship experiences that are life changing. I fully support and endorse this program. Sincerely, Bernard McCune Deputy Chief, Post Secondary Readiness Oakland Unified School District

OAKLAND SERVES MOVES FORWARD INTEREST AT McCLYMONDS McClymonds High School is now seriously interested in setting up the academic mentoring part of our pilot program during the present school year, taking ten of our mentors. Regardless of funding, they prefer to leave the question of internships aside for the time being. We are ready: we have more than ten mentors who have secured background clearances and undertaken trainings at Be A Mentor. We have given the school the information they need on them for making their choices and have been promised a further planning session once final approval has been granted.

CHANGES AT SKYLINE Skyline High School has made some changes and it now looks as if our mentors will be working within a broader open door tutoring program run by Athletic Director Don Ardissone at Skyline. Mr. Ardissone is working on how to bring this to pass. We cooperate, of course. One step at a time is okay, when the step is in the right direction.

PROGRESS WITH CLEARANCES AND TRAININGS Beyond the ten already fully cleared and trained, we have at least that many more potential mentors who have been interviewed and either begun the clearance process or said they are going to do so. Oakland Serves Board Member Ina Zhang is now Acting Volunteer Coordinator, staying in touch with them all, easing them forward through the clearance process with our partner organization Be A Mentor. To ensure trainings at times and places that work for everyone, Board Members Sharon Rose and Bruce Calderon are taking over trainings, with Be A Mentor assistance. The date is set for the next one:

Be a Mentor Training Las Bougainvilleas Senior Housing Saturday, December 9th 1223 37th Avenue Oakland CA 94601

For those taking public transportation, it is well within walking distance from Fruitvale BART Station. For those driving, it is located adjacent to the Fruitvale BART station parking lot. It will be in the morning, exact time to be announced; if interested, send an email to both Sharon ( and Bruce (

WHAT ABOUT INTERNSHIPS? Providing students in our program with 5 hours of paid work (stipends) per week at sites and times convenient for them is an intrinsic part of our program and we will not consider it fully installed until this has been accepted and funded by the District. Right now, however, we must begin with academic mentoring. McClymonds wants only that for now. Skyline might be ready to take on internships in the spring. But Deputy Chief Bernard McCune’s warm endorsement (see above) cannot now be accompanied by the funds needed, given the current difficulties in all OUSD funding (over-extended budgeting by previous administration, possibly looming receivership). Our own efforts at building a fund for internships must thus be greatly increased and we are hard at work on that as well. Mr. McCune has put us in touch with Greg Cluster, the District’s own Work Based Learning Coordinator, and he is working closely with us, providing contacts and counseling to help us achieve our goal. We are also hiring a part time person to do the necessary research into foundations that have been recommended to us by someone with the contacts necessary for effective followup. And pursuing other leads….

RECRUITING MENTORS Given the interest of both McClymonds and Skyline, we are definitely still recruiting mentors: If interested, please go to, scroll down and submit an “Expression of Interest” – if this isn’t for you, please pass the idea on to someone else.

RECRUITING FOR THE OAKLAND SERVES TEAM How do we keep our mentors faithful while they are waiting to be matched with mentees? How do we find the man and woman power we need to follow up on good ideas? Answer: we bring those who have time for it right into our team. Everyone can do as much or as little as they have time and inclination for. They hear the news, meet each other, go on visits to present and possible future supporters. And in the process they learn how to build a non-profit which is 100% committed to the goal of helping those who need it most. Now we have some very special needs to meet.

  1. Our Finance Committee needs more people to write the actual grant applications: we have a Master Grant Application available for adaptation and this does not involve making personal contact yourself, just intelligent writing. The work can be done at home if you prefer.

  2. Our Outreach Committee needs people to help us build community engagement near the interested schools – what do the people who live there think a program to turn kids away from dropping out should include? Would they like to volunteer as mentors or recommend others?

  3. The Website, Newsletter and Social Media Committee needs some reporters to find items for this Newsletter and some help with Social Media efforts.

  4. Our Mentor Recruitment, Clearance and Training is working hard on all fronts.

To join the Team, go to website, and submit an Expression of Interest. To join (or visit) a specific committee or seek further information, write our Coordinator,

THE TIMES WE LIVE IN: FINDING A VISION FOR TODAY These are not easy times for those of us who care about democracy and true equality of educational opportunity. So many fine rules and sensible admonitions tell us democracy means respecting those who hold beliefs different from our own. But how can we do that when power is held by those who use it daily to exacerbate the poverty, ill health and bias of every kind that we believe must be eradicated? How can we foster equality of educational opportunity when doors are daily being closed that no child can possibly open all alone? The answer is not easy to find. Our deepest identity, that of human being, is one we share, and as humans we do all seem to have in common a tendency to seek change. But the change we seek is so often a way to create a better world only for ourselves and people like us. Or to protect what we already have. There is, of course, a wider vision we sometimes share. One that contains but is greater than that of improving the lot of ourselves and those who resemble us in cherished ways. Sometimes we get it. Sometimes we can see that only by improving the conditions of all those now oppressed, by whomever and whatever, can all of us maximize our personal contentment. Every child is different, All children deserve access to programs that give them the ability to pursue educational goals that lead them to rewarding lives of civic trust and responsibility. It is not right to give up any child. Giving up on 600 of them every year in a single city, our city, makes all our lives sad and poor and angry. Building an inclusive community means less crime, less fear, less anger, more equitable distribution of resources, and good feelings about ourselves as well as all our children. Oh say can you see…

Guidelines for Choosing Whom to Ask to Mentor

  • Commitment: Mentors must be determined to stay the course. They will be expected to show up once a week for 30 weeks, minus holidays, starting in October. Substitutes will be available for serious emergencies, but this option should not be used unless absolutely essential.

  • Empathy: Mentors should be able to listen, learn, and change their own beliefs and behavior accordingly. They need patience and the ability to keep their cool as they move, sometimes very slowly, to inspire trust.

  • Knowledge: Mentors will help with the current academic work of 11th graders. That means first and foremost being able to write correctly and well (those with lower math skills can be provided with math helpers; more volunteers for that task are also needed). Past experience working with youth and/or teaching reading and writing skills are a definite plus. An Oakland Serves volunteer coordinator will be standing by to arrange other help if needed. Other resources will be available to mentors working with mentees who have problems beyond their own ability to help.

  • Motivation: Mentors need motivation, but different motives are fine. Some may want to obtain valuable experience and build their resume. Some could be looking for an internship for which their own schools will give credit. Some want to do something really worthwhile, something that helps make the world a better place. And some may want to do a job like this for particular honorable motives all their own.

  • A Clear Record: Mentors will need a background clearance, which they can get via our partner, Be A Mentor (BAM). This is easy and usually goes quickly, but sometimes Department of Justice clearance takes a while, so this is something to take care of right away by going BAM and Oakland Serves will help with any costs. Be a Mentor will also provide a helpful three-hour training. These are offered twice a month and should be taken in August or September.

What to tell potential mentors It is easy (and not binding) to express their interest: all they need to do is go to and click on the Volunteer page, then scroll down, fill out the very simple form and submit it. We will get back to them within 3 days. Or they can just contact the O.S. Coordinator, Kay Lawson, 510-849-1245 Personal interviews and an orientation session will follow. Please remember: The young people our program is designed for do not qualify on the grounds of merit; they qualify on the grounds of need. No matter how smart or well-meaning they may be, in one way or another they have not been well-served by life. They are the ones most likely to drop between the cracks of early childhood education and college readiness. They are the ones most likely to drop right out of school, and right out of opportunity. They need a better safety net. They need to join the graduates.


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