Tag Archives: Berkeley Youth Alternatives

Berkeley club partners with youth group for bowling fun

BLBC Coach Erwin Vista points to the good form and concentration of the BYA camper rolling “the real thing.” Photo- Jim Corr
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Lawn bowling is often (mistakenly) seen as a sport of ‘the older set.’ This summer, the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club (BLBC) set out to counter that myth, joining forces with Berkeley Youth Alternatives (BYA) to offer coaching on the basics of lawn bowling as a summer camp activity for BYA participants.

BYA is a local community organization that seeks to provide a secure and nurturing environment for children, youth, and their families. Through sports, counseling, educational support and other means, BYA places special emphasis on shifting ‘children at risk’ into ‘individuals with potential.’ Its 2016 Summer Jam Day Camp provided spaces for 40 children and teens ages 6-14 from diverse backgrounds to enjoy exciting and fun activities. For the first time in several years, lawn bowling was one of those activities.

Spearheaded by Erwin Vista, a Bowls USA-certified coach (and a grade school and music teacher off the green), the weekly program put the fun back in the fundamentals of lawn bowling, initially by using tennis balls as substitutes for actual lawn bowls and beach balls as substitutes for jacks (the target ball in lawn bowling) — and later graduating to use of actual lawn bowls and a real jack.

The young bowlers were first asked to select blue and gold team names, which happen to be the colors of the two sets of mats BLBC owns, as well as the colors of Berkeley. One week, for example, the Blue Tornados competed against the Golden Hurricanes. … Continue reading »

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Elisha Davis: Determined to be great, on and off the court

Elisha Davis, a Berkeley High alum, is succeeding on the court and off. Photo: Sun Devil Athletics
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For a college student athlete, there is no season more important than your senior year. It’s the year when everything could soon be coming to an end: the long practices, the extra work on weekends, the countless hours in the library. For many, it is a bittersweet reality.

For Arizona State Sun Devil and Berkeley High graduate Elisha Davis, senior year is an opportunity to live out dreams she has worked for since she was a child. Through her hard work and dedication, Davis has become an honor roll student with WNBA potential. She enters this season with pro aspirations and graduation right around the corner.

Davis, who graduated from Berkeley High in 2012, was introduced to basketball at the age of 6 by her father, and has been in love with the game ever since.

“My first love was really football,” said the 21-year-old Oakland native. “My dad wouldn’t let me play because I was a girl. So he gave me a basketball and basically told me to stay off the football field.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley teen, recent grad, shot to death in Oakland

Ayana Dominguez (right) at a Berkeley Youth Alternatives Graduation program on June 6, 2014. Jamee Harris, her counselor, is on the left. Photo: Berkeley Youth Alternatives
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Ayana Dominguez, an aspiring hairstylist and 18-year-old recent graduate of Berkeley Technical Academy, was gunned down last week in a Wendy’s restaurant parking lot in Oakland, according to police.

Officers responded Thursday, July 10, to reports of gunshots in the Fruitvale district of East Oakland at 8:45 p.m. When they got to Wendy’s, at 3111 International Blvd., they found a man suffering from gunshot wounds. He refused an offer by police to take him to the hospital and went instead with a friend. He was Dominguez’s 22-year-old boyfriend, according to the Oakland Tribune. 

Police learned that a Berkeley teenager also had been shot and was taken to the hospital by friends. She later died of her wounds. Police identified her as Dominguez.

On Monday, friends and business associates of Dominguez were reeling from the news. … Continue reading »

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BOSS to honor Berkeley’s ‘Rising Stars’ on Thursday

Kyle Evans, one of the Rising Star honorees, has been accepted to Brown University. Evans was homeless only last year
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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.

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Berkeley offers free summer lunches, snacks for youth

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Berkeley is facilitating free lunches and snacks for under-18-year-olds this summer at locations across the city.

In the Berkeley Unified School District, 42 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch during the school year, which is easily accessible when school is in session but can become difficult to find during the summer. City Councilwoman Linda Maio recently sent an email to her district asking her constituents to spread the word about the free summer lunch program.

Berkeleyside has created a map, above, that shows where the lunches are distributed. Below is a list of the dates and locations of the free lunch and snack programs. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Youth Alternatives attracts statewide attention

The murals put the Berkeley Youth Alternatives' values – including high academic and personal expectations – into the foreground. Photo: Eden Teller
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When Kevin D. Williams first found himself at Berkeley Youth Alternatives, it was, he says, a “naked building.” His mother, Niculia Williams, now executive director of the nonprofit, which supports underserved youth, had joined the staff in 1988 and brought her family along to help. Though still a student at UC Berkeley, Williams “fit in where [he] could” between classes by cleaning up the building, tutoring or helping coach the basketball team.

Today, the bustling youth center is a brighter, better place, complete with kitchen, community garden and gymnasium. And Williams, who is now the agency’s associate director, was last week recognized as an inspiring youth advocate by the California Wellness Foundation. Williams was honored at the 11th Annual Champions of Health Professions Diversity Award ceremony in Los Angeles and received a cash award of $25,000.

Speaking to Berkeleyside last week, Williams said he was familiar with the California Wellness Foundation award, but was quite surprised when he received the call from the program director. The nomination process leaves nominees somewhat in the dark, he said. Williams speculated that the board looks at who’s engaged in the award requirement of “actively increasing the diversity and numbers of California’s health care workforce.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley residents tackle safety issues after shootings

BYA safety meeting 2
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Two weeks after two multiple shootings rattled southwest Berkeley residents, more than a hundred neighbors gathered in the gym at Berkeley Youth Alternatives on Bonar Street on Monday evening, just a few yards away from the first shooting, to discuss possible causes, as well as preventive measures.

According to the police, none of the men shot on the nights of March 2 and March 4 were local. They simply liked to hang out on the 2200 block of Bonar and on the 2100 block of Seventh Street. Both incidents, which do not appear to be connected, are still being investigated, according to Berkeley Police Lt. Dave Frankel who addressed the meeting. Berkeley Police do not believe they are gang-related and, Frankel added, not all the victims are “being cooperative.” … Continue reading »

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Field trip highlights programs in food-forward Berkeley

Foraging at the farmers' market.
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Tomorrow, Bay Area Green Tours co-hosts a food field trip spotlighting some of the best of Berkeley’s alternative food systems. It’s part of the 15th Annual Community Food Security Coalition Conference, which runs today through Tuesday in Oakland. The Community Food Security Coalition is a national nonprofit dedicated to creating a food movement that is healthy, sustainable, and just.

The national conference draws sustainable food advocates, anti-hunger experts, and food policy wonks from around the country. The Food Sovereignty tour, which is open to the public (though now sold out), introduces participants to community food gardens, farmers’ markets, school food, and alternative food businesses in this town, which, of course, is well known for its food-forward agenda. … Continue reading »

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Youth program to close after 18 years for lack of funds

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Update, 6:34pm: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that the city had withdrawn funding this year for the garden program which is closing. The funding was in fact for the BYA’s landscaping program. In addition, Calworks funded BYA’s Steps to Success Program in 2010, not the garden program as reported. We apologize for the confusion.


The Berkeley Youth Alternatives garden program is scheduled to close at winter’s end after 18 years in operation, and Kim Allen, the program’s manager, will leave at the end of the month after 4.5 years in the position.

Allen said the program has been tight on funds for at least the past year. “Berkeley Youth Alternatives as a whole has been affected by state and local budget cuts, and we have lost foundation support too,” she said. The garden program has been funded largely by private grant monies for a few years and these have run dry, while other grants have not come through, she added.

Berkeleyside reported in July that the program was in trouble but it received a temporary reprieve over the summer. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley youth program gets temporary reprieve

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Berkeley Youth Alternatives provides minimum-wage positions for roughly 15 young people, aged 14-18,  who work during the school year and over the summer maintaining two city parks: Strawberry Creek Park and Grove Street Park. The landscaping program is one of many run by BYA. The youth also work on BYA’s own community garden on Bancroft Way between West and Bonar. The program employs three staff, two full-time, and one part-time, according to BYA’s Executive Assistant Vivian McBride.

In an effort to cut costs, the city last month recommended eliminating the program, which costs $57,000 and is funded by Berkeley’s general fund. Despite petitions from the organization and supporters, BYA was given notice in June that the program would no longer be funded.

However, the program will be able to continue unril the end of August, McBride said, after an injection of funds by CalWORKs, a government-run welfare program. … Continue reading »

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Made in Berkeley: Dirt Dinners celebrate local food

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It doesn’t get more locavore than this. On Sunday February 20, Berkeley restaurant eVe is partnering with the Berkeley Youth Alternatives garden to serve the first in a series of family-style “dirt dinners”.

All the ingredients for the dirt dinners will be sourced straight from Berkeley soil, many from the Youth Alternative garden itself. As Berkeleyside’s food writer Sarah Henry says:  “I love the idea of dirt dinners, communal, casual eats, that support local community farmers.”

The menu … Continue reading »

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Garden teacher Kim Allen offers youth space to grow

Kim Allen at the Bancroft Community Garden/Photo: Sarah Henry
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For four years Kim Allen has served as garden program manager for Berkeley Youth Alternatives (BYA), which provides a minimum-wage, internship program for socio-economically challenged adolescents ages 14 to 18. Some come to the garden through word-of-mouth from family or friends, others as part of mandated community service.

During the school year Allen’s youth garden crew, typically a group of six to eight, work and learn alongside her in two community garden plots in West Berkeley. There’s the half-acre Bancroft Community Garden, which the BYA shares with two dozen community gardeners on Bancroft Way, and the smaller Community Orchard garden on land the nonprofit owns on Bonar Street. The fruit tree garden includes many heirloom varieties, donated by Trees of Antiquity — among them citrus, apples, and pluots. The Bancroft Garden boasts typical farmers’ market fare.

In the summer, BYA offers an eight-week program for a dozen youth, who put in about 20 hours a week. The organization runs a small Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) during peak harvest season. It sells flowers and whatever is in abundance in the garden to Bill Briscoe, who owns The Bread Workshop. Briscoe puts surplus fava beans, sunchokes, garlic, and other vegetables to good use in his in-house soups. BYA youth harvest about two to four boxes of produce a week for The Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice program, which serves low-income residents. Every other week the garden provides perishables for a local food bank pick-up point. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Bites: The Bread Workshop’s Bill Briscoe

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William (Bill) Briscoe has been in the food business for more than 30 years.

He started as a dishwasher, went on to work as a short-order cook in a steakhouse, then did stints in five-star restaurants around the Bay Area and attended culinary school. In 1989, he decided to open a wholesale bakery serving mostly restaurant clients.

The Bread Workshop, which moved to new digs on University Avenue in 2004, now includes a cafe that’s open for brunch, … Continue reading »

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