Reflections On: Youth Development

When the Rogers Family Foundation announced the sunsetting of our Oakland education strategy in October 2020, our team knew we’d reach a point of reflection on our grantmaking and improvement efforts over the last two decades. That time is now. This piece represents the first in a series designed to highlight the work and reflections of grantees across our strategic focus areas over the lifetime of the Foundation. Our hope is that these pieces will remind our grantees, partners, and community of their incredible journeys, lessons learned, and accomplishments in service of students and rally efforts to persevere for years to come.

From its founding in 2003, the Rogers Family Foundation’s mission has been to support the youth of Oakland. The Foundation has always sought to support excellent organizations that help children learn, grow, and reach their full potential. While schools were a main focus area of the Foundation strategy, the time and programs that children spend out of school can be just as instrumental to their growth and learning. The symbiotic scaffolded supports, safe environment, and caring mentoring relationships provided by out-of-school youth development organizations play an important, and at times critical role, in the growth and development of young people. Therefore, the Foundation made an early commitment to funding quality youth development programs in addition to quality schools.

Early grants to youth development organizations and programs focused on college readiness, science, the arts, sports, and safety. After a few years of making grants to various youth development organizations, we began to notice an important distinction between the organizations that created short term impact, and those that were truly moving the needle for Oakland children. Our learning as a Foundation is that the most effective youth development organizations, those which create sustainable positive growth and learning for students, are anchored in the community they serve. Only by being truly embedded in a community is an organization able to foster trust, increase access, bolster program relevancy, build multi-generational relationships, and create the long term positive outcomes that children need to thrive. Below we highlight three such deeply rooted organizations – East Oakland Youth Development CenterEast Oakland Boxing Association, and the Boys and Girls Club of Oakland. The Foundation has had the privilege of working with each of these organizations over the last 19 years.