East Bay Non-Profits Working to Improve Access and Transition to Higher Education





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Published on Dec 22, 2009

As part of the Berkeley Engaged Scholarship Initiative at the University of California, Berkeley, students in this Sociology seminar volunteered with one of 5 non-profits in the Oakland-Berkeley area, which work to help underserved young people aspire to and prepare higher education, gain access to it, and then adapt to the new college environment. This is a webcast of the capstone event for the seminar, where students discuss their experiences and what they learned first hand about the challenges the non-profits face in addressing the serious issues they tackle. They also discuss the organizations themselves: their missions, leadership, management, activities and funding. The non-profits are: Think College Now, Stiles Hall, Marcus Foster Education Fund, East Bay College Fund, and East Bay Consortium.


Good afternoon. Im Prof Tom Gold of the Sociology Department here at Cal, and I would like to welcome all of our partners and guests to this capstone event. First of all I want to thank you for coming and for your continued support of our students and class. I realize that some people have to leave early, so please feel free to do so. One recurring theme this term has been the extraordinary commitment of time and energy by the staff and volunteers of all of our partners, so we really appreciate your taking the time to join us today.

This afternoons agenda is as follows: I will make some remarks about the background of this class, the Maria Hollowell-Fuentes, a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology who has assisted me will speak, and then the students, divided by the organization they worked with, will make 15 minute presentations about their experiences. We will then open it up to Q&A and I will make some closing remarks.

This seminar is a class in the Sociology Department, and part of the Berkeley Engaged Scholarship Initiative, or BESI, a program which began in the 2008-2009 academic year. I want to thank Victoria Robinson and Megan Voorhees for their unstinting work with BESI and the development of this course. The campuss commitment to service learning is indeed commendable.

The Sociology Department in particular stresses public sociology, meaning the engagement of faculty and students in the world outside the classroom. Personally, I have been involved in many non-profits over the course of my career at Cal, but most of them are in the area of my expertise and research, which is the study of East Asia, primarily China. In 2002, in a major departure, I began working with the East Bay College Fund, which was established by friends of mine and you will hear about later. My experience with it brought home to me many of the serious issues involved with education in Oakland and throughout the East Bay, especially in the areas of even thinking about aspiring to higher education, getting access to higher education, and then making a successful transition to the demands of university life in all aspects.

When the BESI program was announced, I leaped at the chance to offer a course where the students would get a chance to volunteer with East Bay College Fund or one of the other organizations involved in this mission. My goal was not only to have students take some of the burden off the staff of these organizations, but also to learn about the entire process of envisioning, establishing, funding and managing nonprofits.

The organizations we have partnered with, are, in the order you will hear about them today: Think College Now (http://www.thinkcollegenow.org), Stiles Hall (http://www.stileshall.org), Marcus Foster Education Fund (http://www.marcusforster.org), East Bay College Fund (http://www.eastbaycollegefund.org), and East Bay Consortium (http://www.eastbayconsortium.org). They represent quite a range of history, mission, target clients, paid staff, community involvement, etc.

During our class sessions, students shared their field notes about what they had been doing, and we reflected on what we were learning about the non-profit world as well as about education, various forms of inequality, culture, and organizations. The discussions have been passionate, energizing, reflective and emotionally draining.

The core of todays program is hearing from the students. Before we do that, I would like to invite Maria Hollowell-Fuentes to share some of her thoughts about the course.

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