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Summer interns invest in Oakland

Over the summer, Mills College partnered with the city of Oakland for the first time in a project aimed at assisting and revitalizing various sectors of the community. The project, “Investing in Oakland: Mills Summer Internship Program,” consisted of five different internship projects staffed by about 25 Mills students from various majors.

According to a press release on the Mills College website, the five programs were targeted at various sectors of the City, that included “education, neighborhood safety, economic development, sustainability, and mentoring.”

One project, titled “Dare to Imagine,” was a program aimed at empowering the youth of Oakland to ascertain future career goals. According to “Dare to Imagine’s” Project Manager Michaela Daystar, the five Mills interns were trained in a model of goal setting and achieving those goals. The interns then developed curriculum for children and adolescents focused around this framework.

“(It’s) a very powerful thing to get in the hands of kids right at the start, when they’re starting to think about goal planning…and (what they’re) going to do when they get out of school, particularly for kids who consistently receive messages that they can’t achieve their goals,”  said Daystar. “For that population, doing this work and kind of internalizing that there is a strategy that they can use to intentionally set their goals and achieve them would be very powerful.”

The “Dare to Imagine” project took place at four different sites around  Oakland, including the Boys and Girls Club of Oakland at High Street, East Oakland Youth Development Center, Arroyo Viejo Recreation Center and the Ira Jinkins Recreation Center.

“The general framework of our project was to train our interns in a model around goal setting and envisioning and achieving and to deliver that to middle school kids at four youth service provider sites around Oakland,” Daystar said. “The model, the framework, called ‘Olympian Thinking,’ comes out of the work of Marilyn King, who’s an Olympian.”

According to Daystar, “Dare to Imagine” interns spent two weeks training in the “Olympian Thinking” model —  which emphasizes combining an individual’s passion, vision and action in order to achieve their goals — and creating curriculum to be implemented in a summer day camp setting.
“What we kind of tasked the interns with was to take this methodology, this model, take some core activity components that really needed to be part of it and create a curriculum that was going to be fun and engaging for kids at a summer camp,” Daystar said. “They did a fantastic job.”
Desire Johnson, a Mills Junior, worked on “Dare to Imagine” as well as the “Beyond Emancipation” project – which focused on creating a career advisory network for youth within the foster care system. As part of her involvement in both internship projects, Johnson was tasked with creating a curriculum for foster care youth as well as teaching at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC).
Johnson recounted an activity during her time with the “Dare to Imagine” project, in which the children were asked to write down adjectives describing themselves and roll it up into a what she called an “Olympian Baton Magic Wand.”
According to her, a seven-year-old boy wrote negative  words about himself on his baton.
“I had to stop class and explain that people have emotions, and sometimes we feel that way about ourselves, but that doesn’t mean you’re gonna feel that way the next day. And you have to be able to address it,” Johnson said. “I came back the next week and pulled him aside, and he said ‘I’m doing better than I was last week. I don’t feel that way anymore.'”
At the end of six weeks, children who completed the program were invited to participate in a community event, which featured arts and crafts, games and filming a music video in conjunction with Oakland Youth Uprising — which will be screened on Sept. 9 when participants in the program will report back to the Mills community. Children were able to have their pictures taken with Olympic athletes living in the Bay Area. According to Daystar, although the program reached about 100 or more kids, approximately 63 graduated and turned out for the event.
Though many of the internship programs were focused on reaching out to Oakland youth, some students, like Veronica Beaty, worked on a project called “Complete Streets,” with the City itself.
“We were working with Public Works, specifically with the Infrastructure Plans and Programming divison,” Beaty said. “We were researching how to bring complete streets to oakland which means making streets accessable for all people, including (cyclists) and pedestrians.”
Beaty, who will continue her internship through the Fall semester, felt that the program had a positive effect on the way Mills is viewed through out the community.
“It gave Mills a good reputation,” Beaty said.
Johnson also expressed her belief in the positive effects of the program.
“I definitely would do this project again,”  Johnson said. “I really believe that they should bring the project back for the summer just so that other Mills students get to experience what we did.”