A year ago, Kyle Evans and his family were sleeping in motel rooms and, at times, their car. Despite his circumstances, Evans focused on keeping his grades up and being a role model for his younger sister. He had to forgo various activities enjoyed by his peers, as his family didn’t have the money to pay for them. He managed to keep a positive perspective and achieve success despite the odds.
“Adversity is a chance to find the God in you,” said Evans, who has been accepted to Brown University and plans to become a doctor. “It makes you a stronger person.”
Evans is one of 20 youth who will be honored Thursday at the first annual “Rising Stars” gala, put on by local advocacy organization Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) to recognize youth for achievement in the face of adversity. The group is also raising money this week for a scholarship fund for award recipients; scroll down for details.
BOSS was founded in 1971 to combat homelessness in Berkeley. Today the nonprofit provides aid to over 1,500 people throughout the East Bay, according to its website. The group offers workshops in employment, benefits eligibility and housing to disadvantaged people of all ages.
BOSS will host the Rising Stars Youth Leadership Gala on June 5 at the Northbrae Community Church. The event will run from 6-8 p.m and the Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble will perform, as will local musicians Michael Nelson and Aquarius Groove. A catered dinner will be provided by Café Rouge, Cake4Kids.org, Free Juice and others. Tickets are still available, though organizers say they are pleased with the response so far.
The ceremony was conceived to honor youth who are “shaping bright futures against the odds,” as opposed to kids who are “at the top of ‘traditional’ achiever lists,” according to BOSS. Each awardee was nominated by BOSS, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, Berkeley High School or Berkeley Technology Academy (B-Tech) for the award.
The teenagers — several of whom live at Ursula Sherman Village in Berkeley — have overcome obstacles from homelessness and addiction in the family to mental illness, criminal justice issues and family separation, among other challenges. Honorees are set to receive an award Thursday as well as a prize of some kind.
BOSS highlighted some of their achievements in brief biographies prepared for the event. One recipient is Clintera Miller, who was homeless with her mother for several years. The family moved into BOSS housing, managed some significant medical issues and is in now the process of moving into permanent housing. Throughout, Miller has helped to take care of her mother’s health and look for a new family home, all while maintaining good grades.
“When the family first came to BOSS, it appeared that Clintera was the mother of the household. As her mom became more and more stable, Clintera was able to be a kid,” according to BOSS. She will be honored in the “caring for family” category.
Thursday’s honorees will receive awards in five categories: consistency, caring for family, role model, new direction and community involvement.
Donald Frazier, executive director of BOSS, said it is difficult for many people to imagine “being in high school, homeless, and going to a homeless shelter when you get out of school, as your home.” But he said that experience is too familiar for many BOSS clients. (Frazier replaced longtime advocate Boona Cheema as executive director of BOSS in January 2013.)
“Normally when you do a youth leadership event you’ve got your basic high achievers, the kids building these rocket ships to the moon,” he said. “We said it would be great if we could honor these kids for the fact that, in the situation they’re in, they’re finding a way to navigate through life successfully.”
Tickets for the gala ($30 for one, or $50 for a pair) are on sale now via the BOSS website. BOSS is also raising money for its Rising Stars scholarship fund. Donations of any size are welcome. Those who are interested can donate online until Thursday.
Charles Siler is a summer intern at Berkeleyside. He grew up in the North Bay and now attends Tulane University in New Orleans.
[Correction: Not all of the youth who will be honored Thursday live at Ursula Sherman Village, though all of them do live in Berkeley, according to BOSS. This error was introduced during the editing process, and the article has been corrected to reflect this.]
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