Safe Passages Career Pathways: “Where Are They Now?”

At Safe Passages, we believe that it is critical to creating positive life pathways for our youth and young adults. Through the “Where Are They Now?” series, we will highlight the trajectory of some of our young people who have participated in one of our Career Pathway training programs, including AmeriCorps, VISTA, Social Work Internship, Life and Career Road Map, and Get Active Urban Arts.  We are proud of our alumni and excited to share their stories!

Michael Maldonado’s journey with Safe Passages began in 2011 as a young man out of college, unsure of his career path but looking to give back to the community. His path has been varied and interesting from the start.

Today, Michael is a Senior Policy Associate at Safe Passages and wears many hats. He explains his position in broad terms, saying, “I study systems, work within systems, and build partnerships with systems to change and improve them for the communities that we serve.” He graduated from UC Berkeley at the height of the recession and was unsure how to market his Sociology degree in a precarious economy. A friend suggested that he stay in the East Bay and serve for a year as an AmeriCorps Volunteer to boost his resume while giving back to the community – bringing him to Oakland and Safe Passages in August 2011.

As an AmeriCorps Volunteer from 2011-2012, Michael served as the liaison between the AmeriCorps members on-site at the Havenscourt Campus in East Oakland and the Safe Passages’ central office. Michael describes his year with AmeriCorps as “an eye-opening experience that helped me navigate what I wanted my career in the education field to look like, and realize that there is an important overlap between the education and mental health fields.” His time with AmeriCorps inspired him to pursue a Masters of Social Welfare (MSW), and he was accepted into UC Berkeley. He was required to complete an internship each year of the two-year program, so he returned to Safe Passages to gain the necessary hands-on, graduate-level experience. He assisted with the nonprofit’s program management, planning, and market research, and helped develop a business plan for a new program to train and inform educators about trauma-informed care.
Fast-forward to 2017, and Michael is heavily involved with Safe Passages’ Career Development Pathway for youth and young adults. He is currently developing a curriculum for Alameda County’s Behavioral Health Care Services, with the aim being to “increase knowledge of traditional and non-traditional mental health careers for young people of color, and help them identify and navigate their education.” He helps prepare students for their eventual matriculation into a four-year institution and connects them to resources that will help them be more competitive in the world of higher education and beyond, such as career exploration and college success courses. For him, the goal of these classes is for students to “see the big picture and understand the importance of higher education, especially for underrepresented students of color.”

Michael’s work with youth extends to coaching 15 middle and high school-aged students at a Martial Arts Training Camp in East Oakland, which is now in its third year. Students get to participate for free in the summer if they maintain good grades during the school year. The camp is loosely modeled after Safe Passages’ Get Active Urban Arts program, in that it provides case management services and offers participants a more creative and tangible way to cope with stress and trauma.

Michael shares that “community is at the core of what we do at Safe Passages, and the work I do informs who I am as a father. I want to be an example to my three young daughters, who will all grow up to be women of color. I want them to have a community mindset, and grow up knowing that community is important. They can grow up to be whatever they want, but I want them to value community, and I’m proud to be part of an organization that upholds that.”


Josefina’s Letter- A Heartfelt Ask This Holiday Season

A Heartfelt Ask This Holiday Season

November 15, 2017

Dear Safe Passages Family.

Let me start by thanking you for opening this newsletter. We could not do this transformative work without the support of our families, allies, strategic partners, and funders. Your investment helps to sustain our spirits and our mission. This season we call on you once again to renew your support for our concrete social justice work.

This year our national leadership’s systematic undermining of American democracy, the rise of white supremacy, the unjust anti-immigrant enforcement, federal neglect of Puerto Rico, and the war on poor people left us disheartened and angry. However, after each new distressing headline, we here at Safe Passages have doubled our resolve, channeled our energy towards imagining solutions, and implemented those solutions driven by our communities.

At Safe Passages, we believe that our work is a marathon, not a sprint. We invest in our communities for the long haul — with the intent to sustain meaningful outcomes for our families. Many initiatives come and go, but our commitment to the communities we serve is unwavering. Our families deserve real sustained solutions.

Over the last two decades, we have found that one of the most critical elements of our work is infrastructure because it allows us to be innovative in our work while remaining consistent in our community collaboration. Infrastructure matters because it allows us to be nimble and responsive to the communities we serve over the many years it takes to improve the trajectories of our children and families. The infrastructure allows us to deliver Thanksgiving meals to a family in need, enroll that same family in CalFresh, teach that same family about the brain development of their young children, and offer that same family a pathway to self-sufficiency.

We have used our creativity throughout the years to cobble together the resources to support our continuum of services, from birth to college and career. Despite the many funding challenges, we will not be swayed from our core strategy of investing in the families that we serve. Please continue to help make the work we do possible by donating to our 2017 #GivingTuesday campaign on Tuesday, November 28th.

We are hoping to raise $5,000 between Tuesday, November 28th and Tuesday, December 12th. We promise to leverage every dollar, and put your money to work serving the children and families in our communities to disrupt the cycle of poverty. Only collectively can we sustain the solutions our communities deserve.

Yours in Gratitude,
Josefina Alvarado-Mena, J.D.
Chief Executive Officer, Safe Passages

After School with CCPA

Coliseum College Prep Academy (CCPA), a small public school in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), opened in fall 2006 to offer high-quality college-prep education for historically underserved students in the Coliseum/Havenscourt neighborhood of East Oakland. CCPA combines rigorous academic coursework, extensive support services, and enriching after school programming to deliver a holistic education to 475 students in grades 6 – 12.

Participation in the After School Program is free for students, thanks to a partnership between OUSD, the Oakland Fund for Children & Youth, and Safe Passages. Safe Passages is proud to partner with CCPA to help implement the After School Program. Furthermore, many of the After School staff are either CCPA or AmeriCorps alumni that have since been hired full-time by Safe Passages.

New partnerships for the After School Program this year include a Bike Club for the high schoolers facilitated by the Oakland Department of Parks and Recreation, where two Parks & Rec staff members take a group of 12 students to mountain bike in different parks. So far the club has explored the Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline, Tilden Regional Park, and the Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline; and upcoming trips include a UC Berkeley “college tour” where the students will bike around campus and have an opportunity to have a closer look at the school.

Another new partnership this year is Seeds of Awareness, an organization that teaches mindfulness-based social and emotional learning to 14 CCPA students. Campbell explains that this skill is especially useful for students at CCPA because “trauma in this community is so pervasive,” and he hopes that it will eventually become an after-school class held every day. Campbell says that according to a student survey, “more than half of our 6th graders have experienced more than one significant trauma, and at such a young age, trauma can have very lasting effects. Intervention is necessary.” The students learn different methods of calming themselves, such as breathing techniques and various focus exercises, and learn skills that they can use in their daily lives. Studies show that mindfulness instruction has a positive impact on executive functioning, decreasing anxiety, improving focus, and enhancing overall well-being.

The last new offering in this year’s After School Programming is a physical education class taught by Campbell himself called “Fabulous Fitness for All,” which takes place in the newly renovated weight training room. Campbell explains that his vision for the class is “to be an exercise option for kids who aren’t traditionally athletic or team-oriented,” and that his class is in addition to the physical activity required for the after school program.  An important aspect of Campbell’s class is talking to the students and their parents about nutrition, sleep, and overall wellness. Campbell adds that he and the students “are really in this program together. I’m working out more  because I want to be a healthy role model for the kids.”