Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Berkeley's 'Best-Kept' Secret: National Summit Seeks to Involve Youth in How Communities Are Redeveloped

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Berkeley's 'Best-Kept' Secret: National Summit Seeks to Involve Youth in How Communities Are Redeveloped

Article excerpt

BERKELEY, CALIF.

"I always planned to drop out of high school and have three kids," exclaims a smiling young woman swaddling a baby. "I've always wanted to have asthma," rejoices a corn-rowed teenager, standing in front of a construction site that hints of a new factory in the neighborhood. "I always planned to go to my friends' funerals on Saturdays," says a third young woman, a granite monument visible behind her stark silhouette. In each of the scenes, the inviting images contrast sharply with the harsh words as they repeat on a Macintosh screen in a windowless room on the University of California-Berkeley campus.

At the controls are five young women, the same youth who appear in the footage. Each comes from a different part of the country--Birmingham, Ala., Los Angeles, Charleston, S.C., Phoenix, and nearby Oakland, Calif. What the 14- to 22-year-olds share is a connection to federal housing projects that are being converted to mixed-income communities in a project known as Hope VI.

Using footage shot around campus and a little ingenuity (a water bottle and cookie box wrapped in a sweater became the baby, a campus engraving was enlisted as a headstone, and a campus construction site doubled as a factory going up), the students are crafting public service announcements about healthy communities. The plan is to take the 30-second spots back to their regions, but more important are the skills the youth have come to learn with assistance from Berkeley graduate students and leaders from an Oakland nonprofit called Youth Sounds.

In nearby classrooms, other students are learning graphic arts and radio broadcasting with coaches from Below Radar graphics and Youth Radio. And in a separate workshop, a group of adult chaperones is meeting with housing officials, planning researchers and community leaders to learn the ropes of the housing system and discuss ways of getting young people more engaged.

Bringing together youth and adults from 15 Hope VI projects around the country, the Youth Leadership for Change is the third national summit of its kind. HUD used to fund the program, but now support comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the San Francisco Foundation. At least some participants say the experience has been invaluable.

Monique McKinstry of Birmingham, Ala., says her attendance at the last two summits led to her current role as a youth coordinator for the federal Housing Authority in Birmingham, and she expects this summit to do the same for other young people. …

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