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My Experience as EOYDC Intern-January 16, 2009
Walking into the East Oakland Youth Development Center, I had little idea what to expect. Having never done an externship of any kind, I presumed that I would spend my time in a question- answer format with Ms. Regina Jackson (Executive Director). Fortunately, my externship had hands- on structure that lead me to develop a well rooted understanding in the field of youth development.
Having an array of dedicated individuals in one space allowed me to benefit even by casual conversation. My first of such encounters was with the childhood spelling champ and tech wiz Dwight Hammons. Following one of his computer literacy classes, we had an extensive conversation about what I refer to as the “blacksmith mentality;” The ability to be the “jack of all trades, but the master of few.” He continually explained the necessity to build a skill set in a variety of areas even if they are not in your given specialty. He also reflected the mindset that it is versatility not perfection that inevitability makes someone valuable.
In addition to my interaction with staff, I was introduced to many external resources. I had a chance to attend an Oakland Fund for Children and Youth (OFCY) meeting where I was able to see how non-profits collaborated, networked, and vastly promoted their organizations. Later on, I visited Aaron Metals where I got an introduction into partnership creation. I noticed how Ms. Regina was able to create an extensive image of the EOYDC that grabbed the attention of her audience, while skillfully presenting the possibility of a partnership all within the span of ten minutes. I greatly benefited from seeing how, as an Executive Director, she approached business situations and networking opportunities.
Back at the center I began working with Jasmine (Pathway to College Coordinator) who introduced me to the world of proposals and gave me tips on the formalities of grant writing. I also worked more closely with Jasmine on her approach to creating a path for potential first generation college students. I set up meetings, collaborated with students, and ultimately got a brush up on my communication skills.
After surveying the center’s programs, I slowly found myself becoming attached to the G.E.D segment of the EOYDC. Working with Ms. Anana Scott helped me determine where my help was most need. I was able to affect real change in the lives of students by converting conventionally difficult topics into easy to learn segments of information that stuck well the students, especially those who needed the most help. Working around a broken education system, Ms. Anana’s compassion and no-excuses attitude engages and holds students accountable in ways that traditional school systems fail to do.
As my externship slowly came to a close, I began to notice themes to Ms. Regina’s approach as an Executive Director. Attention to detail, high accountability, and time efficiency were virtues that indefinitely project themselves from her day to day work. Needless to say that she quickly pointed out my apparent weaknesses in these areas that I failed to notice myself. In two weeks, I learned more than anything how to carry myself in a professional way, how to be true to my word, and assertive in my actions. In observing the center, I finally figured out why it is held as a national model in youth development. From education and job placement to sports and vocational training, the EOYDC caters to the whole individual. It seeks to be “part of the solution” by working to impact youth in an extraordinary amount of ways. I saw that the Center comes to light not just when staff helps students, but when students help each other. The integration of the youth lead model is one of the center points of the EOYDC’s success. I am thankful to have had this insightful experience; I thank Ms. Regina and the EOYDC staff for all their time spent helping make me feel at home. I have learned a great deal, and in all hope to continue as part of the EOYDC family.