"What young people need more than anything is a trusting relationship with an adult who really cares and affirms what they are going through." 
A Lifeline for Asian Youth in Oakland
Invisibility. It's the biggest challenge facing Asian and Pacific Islander (API) youth in Oakland, says David Kakishiba, executive director of the East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC). The Asian Pacific Fund is helping EBAYC address the needs of these young people with a three-year grant to strengthen and build the organization's infrastructure.

APF: What challenges do API youth face growing up in Oakland?

David: The view that all Asians have beaten the odds is pervasive, and it means that their needs are not visible to public institutions and decision makers. Three-quarters of the youth that we serve are from immigrant families. For Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders, especially Hmong, Mien and Cambodians, there’s a disproportionate level of involvement in the criminal justice system and the sex industry. Among Chinese and Vietnamese, we see a lack of attention to mental health issues, which can result in self-mutilation, withdrawal and truancy. There’s just not enough support in Oakland, and essential after-school and recreational programs simply don’t exist for our teenagers.

APF: What’s EBAYC doing to help our youth be successful?

David: What young people need more than anything is a trusting relationship with an adult who really cares and affirms what they are going through. These kids may forget how to do algebra, but they’ll always remember that camping trip, that summer program or that counselor who got them out of a jam. Those things are what help move young people to get better, to progress and to become strong adults. We work with more than 2,500 youth and are the only organization providing after-school and summer programming that is school-based for API youth in Oakland.

APF: Which of your programs could use more support?

David: There are two. First, counseling and mentoring. These are classic areas where the model minority myth negatively impacts our youth. Second, we need to engage more parents in the governance of their kid’s school.

APF: How is the grant from Asian Pacific Fund helping?

David: Asian Pacific Fund is one of those rare grant makers that provide support to build organizational capacity versus a specific program. It’s providing what we call our "glue money," our R&D resource. The APF grant is also helping us engage parents in civic life and school district policy, which has been an important part of our work since our founding.

You can learn more about EBAYC's work in Oakland by clicking here.

Photo credit: Dee Khang

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The Asian Pacific Fund is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to strengthening the Bay Area's Asian and Pacific Islander communities. We help donors achieve their philanthropic goals, support organizations that serve our most vulnerable, and raise awareness about pressing community needs.

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