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The EOYDC and Me
Hi my name is Danielle Weems. I am one of the youth that participate in activities at the East Oakland Youth Development Center. Before I get into my experience at the EOYDC I am going to say a few words about myself and where I’m from so that you can understand how much of a difference the EOYDC has made in my life.
I come from a family of 10, 4 boys and 6 girls. I am the third oldest so there is a lot of responsibility on me to be a good example to my younger, and at times my older siblings. My family had been going through a lot with my mother being sick off and on. There were times when me and my younger sister had to miss school to take care of the children that weren’t old enough to go to school. We had to get jobs to help our family out financially. It was a lot for a new teenager to experience, so of course I was still irresponsible at times. There was a lot that I didn’t know. There was so much that I hadn’t experienced at that time. I thought that I knew it all. Well of course I found out that I didn’t.
I came to the EOYDC in September of 96. I was employed under the Hope VI project which is funded by the Oakland Housing Authority. From day 1 I started learning. I learned irreversible leadership skills. When I first began Hope VI I was hired as a worker, but before too long I was promoted to a Youth Coach. This position offered me experience keeping records, writing reports, organizing meetings, conflict resolution, and the list does go on.
There is so much that I’ve learned from being at the EOYDC. I have already graduated from the computer class. I am two tests away from having my GED. I attend a video production class. I have had first hand experience in producing music videos. Just last month I assisted in producing a video from the beginning until the completion My typing skills have improved by 100%. They took a nobody youth, and turned her into a public speaker. I’ve spoken at several different functions. They were all in my own words. Meaning, no premeditated scripts written by everyone but me.
I have had a lot of firsts at the EOYDC. My first real poetry reading. My first time going to Marine World. My first Outward Bound Experience. I spent 22 days in the wilderness. My first time experiencing the love that I have received from my co-workers. My boss Taurean Wallace always lets it be known that he is here for us. It’s the same with Regina Jackson-Rasheed. There were numerous times where she went way out of her way for me. Just to make sure that I had. And it never fails for either of them to say “Hey I’m here for my kids.” That means a lot to me because to claim me is to claim all that I am. Not only the good stuff.
One thing that really gets some of my associates is when I tell them that the EOYDC is a nonprofit organization. This makes them want to stop by. They wonder why a place so special is doing what it does for free. I can remember telling my father that it was a youth development center. A place for us to be developed into the kind of people that can hold our heads up to this society. And that is what makes the center so great. That is also what makes our supporters so great too. It is people like you that have made the way for people like me. Already since I have been at the EOYDC I have been joined by two sisters and a brother.
Before I close I want to share one of my assignments that I completed in my computer class. The title of it is If I Had Three Wishes.
Well I want to thank you for listening to me and my experience at the EOYDC and I hope that someone out there is willing to give someone else an experience the same as mine or better. At EOYDC we are all one big family. That is why I’m here, to support the whole family. This is a personal invitation from us to you, so that you may join us in being a part of the solution.