By Erik Sakamoto, Youth Radio’s Chief Operating Officer. Youth Radio is an award-winning media production company and youth development organization based in Oakland.

Over the past thirteen years since National Mentoring Month was first created, the evidence speaking on the need for mentorship, and the spaces identified in which youth benefit from mentoring, have drastically increased.

Oakland is changing, and consistent with our region, this change is spurred by the boom in growth sectors that are dictating the proficiencies needed for our youth to successfully participate in the local economy. In a time when our young people are increasingly in need of the skills and experience necessary to not only survive in our community, but to contribute in a meaningful way, it’s important to consider if we are providing youth with not only mentorship, but also partnership.

At Youth Radio, mentorship is provided through youth-adult collaboration that teaches young people the skills needed to excel in industries they may not have previously had access to.

Our base their teaching style on a process of collegial pedagogy, in which established professionals in fields across journalism, digital media production, education, youth development, and the arts, collaborate and work alongside the youth participants to produce material (learning together through that process) that neither party could manage to develop alone. This approach to learning stands in contrast to the typical adult-student relationship in many formal learning environments, and has been well described by my colleague, Lissa Soep, and Youth Radio alumna, Vivian Chavez.

Students at Youth Radio receive hands-on education in digital arts such as graphic design and music composition, digital media production, and journalism, which allows them to gain critical skills needed to succeed in today’s creative and technological economies. Youth Radio participants are able to learn and thrive in an environment where their adult mentors can relate to their experiences, share their hands-on knowledge, and guide them down their own education and career pathways.

After learning core curriculum, students are able to specialize in a field of their choice, and have access to hundreds of in-house job opportunities to continue their creative exploration and further hone their craft as media producers.

The career pathways that align with the Youth Radio experience are found across the communications spectrum. Often, these are positions in sectors that low-income young people of color (Youth Radio’s dominant demographic) find themselves largely absent.

Youth Radio provides its students with the mentorship that is needed for them to navigate these spaces in the future, along with the wraparound services to ensure academic and professional success, and overall health and wellness.

Over the years, we’ve made it a point to identify and partner with businesses and institutions that have key individuals able to carry-on the mentorship when a youth is deployed into opportunities as “the only, the other.” We are deliberate in this approach, but have few doubts that we have also been fortunate in this regard.


Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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