In 1997, racial tensions erupt in violence in East Oakland—a problem compounded by decades of disinvestment and intergenerational poverty. Local youth make a plea for help. The county of Alameda and City of Oakland make an unprecedented investment in East Oakland youth by providing support for the planning of a one-stop health and human services center designed by and for youth. Youth, residents, public officials, and other stakeholders review national best practices, design the space, plan initial programming, and raise capital support from public and private sources.



In 2003, YU breaks ground on building a 25,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility.  In May 2005, the doors opened with a staff of 8 , after years of planning, advocacy, design and construction  Programming focus on direct service, community relations, and data collection begins with a unique public/private partnership between YU, government, foundation, and other local youth service agencies. Membership swells from 600 in 2005 to over 1,900 in 2006.



YU continues to evolve and expand comprehensive services for high-risk youth seeking a pathway to safety, college, and career. Arts & Expression, Health & Wellness, Career and Education, and Civic Engagement are established as core program areas, as membership grows to 4,000. YU launches diverse public and private partnerships with Oakland Unified School Districts, government agencies, and foundations. 



YU cultivates internal frameworks to enhance the work of community transformation while expanding efforts focused on public safety and policy and systems change. YU establishes the region’s first street-based conflict mediation program. A 5-year evaluation plan is developed and a Theory of Change is crafted. YU builds a skate park and basketball court to serve the now over 5,000 members. Public policy and systems change efforts launch as staff grows to 50.



YU continues identifying new partners and advancing efforts to address the social, educational and health needs of Castlemont Community youth. YU deepens partnerships with government agencies to improve public safety and share best practices for community transformation. Both an early childhood development center and the neighborhood’s only playground are established. Castlemont Community Transformation Schools Primary (TK-5 grade) and Junior (6-8 grade) Academy are launched. YU engages and promote local businesses through the monthly Castlemont Community Marketplace.



YU continues moving beyond direct service work by building out public policy and systems change efforts focusing on public safety, health, housing, education, economic development, and civic engagement. Today, YU is a vibrant neighborhood hub that holds a world of hope and possibility for over 13,000 youth members. Our staff of 50 serves around 300 youth each day who, together, continue to transform the community and influence local policies that impact youth.