New Family Resource Center at Ralphe J. Bunche Academy

Rita McKeon, a second-year AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer at Safe Passages, is the Family Resource Center (FRC) Coordinator at Ralph J. Bunche High School. Rita was the Family Resource VISTA last year as well. The program was so successful that Ms. Betsye Steele, Principal of Bunche High School, made sure the program had its own designated space this year. The new and improved FRC even has a washer & dryer, computers, and a large freezer for the families to use!

Safe Passages partners with schools throughout Oakland and Alameda County to operate the FRCs,  including Coliseum College Prep Academy, Community United Elementary School, United for Success Academy, Bridge Academy, and of course, Bunche. The purpose of an FRC is to connect students and their families to the resources they need as quickly as possible and be a place for students and families to come and feel safe and supported on campus. If a member of the school community needs access to food, health/medical, housing, senior citizen services, employment, emergency benefits, homeless services or legal counseling resources, they make an appointment at the FRC and are then connected to the proper services.

A large part of an FRC Coordinator’s duties consists of building relationships with various resources so that they can be sure they are connecting families to agencies that will be helpful and responsive. For instance, one of Rita’s primary partners at Bunche is Annie Loe, the Agency Services Coordinator at the Alameda County Food Bank. The food bank sponsors all of Bunche High School’s food distributions and ensures that the FRC’s food pantry is fully stocked and up to code. Rita and Ms. Loe work closely together to ensure that the families always receive the best quality products. The first food distribution event of the year will be held at Bunche Academy on Thursday, September 21st from 9 am to 4 pm; make sure to check it out!

Because families are an integral part of the school communities, FRC Coordinators are also tasked with organizing family engagement activities throughout the year. At Ralph Bunche High School,  Rita and partners will be hosting “Family Engagement Nights” to be held the last Thursday of each month, which will feature performances by the students and prizes for the families. These events will also feature a particular workshop on various topics for students and their families, at the request of the parents – such as “Tax Prep” and “What to Expect When Your Child Applies to College.” Principal Steele says that she “wants families to have a voice on campus,” and is very supportive of parent outreach efforts.

Between the food distributions, various workshops, bingo nights, and holiday drives and celebrations, the Bunche  FRC served approximately 70 families during the 2016-2017 school year. Rita’s goal for the 2017-2018 school year is to increase the number of families served and having even more parent participation. She wants to make sure that the FRC is “a place for the families; where all families are actively involved, with the end goal being that parents will eventually run the center themselves.”

Get Active Urban Arts

Oakland artist and educator Jonathan Brumfield, manager of Get Active Urban Arts, a Safe Passages program in its 7th year, works with youth ages 14-19 living in East Oakland. The program is designed to promote social justice, cultural awareness, leadership development and community engagement among the students. In addition to the important and relevant topics of social equity in their own community and their role in it, the students are trained in how to conceptualize and market a complete production — including the planning, illustration, aerosol arts, graphic design, airbrushing, and mural production.

Get Active scholars to examine the concept of community and learn how to examine social politics, cultural histories, social justice legacies, and the inequity of privilege and power in modern America – all while exploring the role that urban artwork can play in conveying positive community messages to create change. Brumfield teaches his students that direct action is a key element of transformative organizing, and that “the paintings they create, the murals they put up for everyone to see – are a powerful form of direct action. Art has the power to change things.”

Mr. Brumfield has taught Get Active Urban Arts at Coliseum College Prep Academy (CCPA) and Skyline High School since 2010 and 2016, respectively, and has now expanded the program to Ralph J. Bunche High School for the 2017-2018 school year. At CCPA, the Get Active program is incorporated into Mr. Brumfield’s Ethnic Studies “Community Building & Transforming Urban America” curriculum. The students are exposed to a college-level course that prepares them for life after high school and frames college as an attainable and natural next step.

The program also highlights the importance of Community Engagement. As the first step to their art production process, the students are asked to participate in activities where they have open and honest discussions with the community about the issues they face. The Get Active artists then create artwork that speaks to a multitude of community concerns, especially those regarding violence, and develop anti-violence messages and convey them through murals and other forms of creative expression. Mr. Brumfield urges his scholars to have their art “reflect the community,” so that they can “teach the world about the value and importance of our community here in Oakland.”


Over 90 youth leaders are served annually by Get Active Urban Arts, and it continues to be one of Safe Passages’ most successful initiatives.

Click HERE to learn more about Get Active with our new program video.

Josefina’s Letter September 2017 – Stand and Deliver

Stand and Deliver

Dear Friends,

We knew this would be a difficult year within a political climate that challenges our principals of democracy and decency. The pace of attacks on our community and deregulation of social and environmental protections is unrelenting. Our hearts go out to the families in Texas as they contend with an environmental disaster of historic proportions. This is a moment when we really need strong government; however, our confidence is at a historic low.

We are experiencing the dismantling of critical government infrastructure at a time when we need it the most. Our legal protections and social justice norms are overtly and covertly being undermined on a daily basis. The volume of dehumanizing rhetoric is blowing out our collective eardrums and the doublespeak leaves many of us with a constant knot in our stomachs.

Burned into our collective memory are the events in Charlottesville. A hooded shadow on our nation looms, reminding us of how far we have to go to create the America our children deserve. I found myself providing my children with the historical context of the torch lit march. The hatred fueled by clean cut, polo-wearing Nazis that culminated in many injuries to innocent bystanders and the death of Heather Heyer. Much was said and written about the administration’s response to the white supremacists in Charlottesville. Clearly, the response should have left no room to remain on the sidelines.

We owe it to ourselves, our parents, our children – and all of the generations to come – to stand up and speak out against the events in Charlottesville, and all of the on going attacks on our humanity. Although we appreciate their efforts, we cannot leave it to the late night talk show hosts to lead the way. We must be as equally unrelenting as the onslaught of discrimination, bigotry, and dehumanization that we face. We must resist the fatigue of negativity and double down on our commitment to realize our democracy. We cannot make excuses for not showing up in our critical daily work.

To be blunt, we must…

  1. Stand in the work of social justice everyday. We cannot sit down – and those of us with privilege must stand taller than we have in the past.
  2. Stand together and never acquiesce to what we know in our heads and hearts to be unjust.
  3. Be true to the facts. Teach our nation’s true history so we avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Share our stories in the context of race, gender, sexuality, and origin to inspire the justice and inclusivity of the future.
  4. Have faith in our imagination to create new solutions.
  5. Defend the most vulnerable among us.
  6. Never lose focus on keeping our children and families at the center of our work.
  7. Not sugar coat the situation – justice is more than one life’s work. It will take all of our collective talent, resources, and commitment to facilitate.


At Safe Passages we are more than committed – we are implementing the counter narrative to hatred and bigotry. We are actively challenging institutional and internal oppression with concrete strategies. We owe it to our children to love them and make every effort to implement solutions that empower them to lead a just society. And, at this critical moment in our nation’s history, we invite you to join us. We are currently seeking ambitious, talented, and courageous applicants for our AmeriCorps program. We have opportunities for Service Leaders to affect real and lasting change in marginalized communities that need it most. This is a chance to support our children, strengthen our communities, and invest in our future. Please spread the word, because it takes all of us to propel our community forward.



In Service,
Josefina Alvarado Mena, Esq.
Safe Passages


Josefina’s Letter September 2017- This is for the DREAMers

This is for the DREAMers

Dear Friends,

Today was another deal breaker for our DREAMers, immigrants in general, and all compassionate Americans. America is a nation of immigrants; built on the backs of people of color and people living in poverty who have sacrificed everything to call this nation their home. Some of us are indigenous to the Americas, some of us have been here for generations, and others were brought to the U.S. in the arms of their parents in the hopes of securing a better future. We have studied, worked, paid taxes, and generally kept up our end of the bargain. However, the same cannot be said of the federal administration. Today, the federal administration added DREAMers to its list of undesirables. A list that already contains: Women, Mexicans, African-Americans, Muslims, Transgender People, and Science, to name a few.

We are a people of compassion, and we are a people of law – but the law can only stand when it is just. And, there is nothing compassionate about ending DACA. The history of the DACA policy and the overwhelmingly powerful impact DREAMers have on our nation cannot be rewritten as a threat to the American way of life. DREAMers represent the fulfillment of our nation’s promise of prosperity to all those that work hard and pledge their talent and dedication to America. Only by the reliable implementation of that promise can we produce a robust middle class and economic justice for all Americans – documented and undocumented alike. Our nation was built on that promise. It was not built on Xenophobia and racism. Reneging on that promise is a deal breaker of enormous proportion that is already projected to have a major impact on the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

Luckily, we are also a resilient people; a people who dream and aspire for something greater for our communities and the nation. This is for the DREAMers: Do not despair, we will create a solution. Represent the best of America. Expect your allies to defend you. America is your country too. Millions of us are with you!

We must not abandon 800,000 children, loved ones, students, co-workers, and friends who also happen to be DREAMers. We need a new deal; one that is more expansive and permanent. At Safe Passages, we will support you until we have one.


In Service,
Josefina Alvarado Mena, Esq.
Safe Passages