This year BOSS made the painful but essential decision to cancel our annual Rising Stars Youth Leadership Gala planned for June 6th, since we could not safely gather—as we have for the past six years—to honor young people who are fighting hard to succeed in school, care for themselves and their families, and to overcome homelessness, poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, justice system involvement, and other challenges.

The in-person event is cancelled, but our commitment to the well-being of these young people will not  be cancelled.

Their hopes and dreams will not be cancelled.

The challenges they are fighting their way through will not be cancelled.

This year’s Rising Stars nominees included young people facing tremendous challenges, and against the odds they are healthy, safe, and working hard towards their goals – Meet our 2020 Class of Rising Stars:

Alijah, full-time college student working six days a week: Outside the classroom and work, Alijah also volunteers at 3 local organizations. His parents split when he was 12 and he tried to navigate his own life as his parents fought over custody of himself and his siblings. Alijah loves basketball, wants to travel, and is working towards a 4.0 GPA so he can transfer from Laney College to a historical black college.

Jermaine, a Berkeley City College student raised by a struggling single mom: Always a bright student, he struggled due to household dynamics and being bulled at school for his sexuality. Three weeks into his first semester at BCC, Jermaine became homeless and moved in with his sister in Pittsburgh, which impacted his schoolwork and social life. He is working hard to maintain a GPA above 3.5, complete a degree in Fashion, and transfer to North Carolina A&T.

Jaheim, a survivor of the foster care system since age two: He taught himself how to live independently, is working to become a male model (including having a photo posted on the Champion label website!), and is fighting the court system to reunify with siblings.

Kalief, high school student and survivor of foster care now living with an ailing grandmother: Despite his challenges, Kalief stays positive by reaching out to service providers for support and guidance. His goal is to graduate, get a job, and make sure his grandmother s taken care of.

Amir, high school student, resident of transitional housing in Vallejo: Amir traveled from Vallejo on a daily basis to attend Berkeley Technology Academy, where he excelled as part of the Berkeley High Football team. His goal is to attend college (applying to HBCU) and continue to play football.

Zylayah, high school student, survivor of family loss due to violence: Zylayah’s father was murdered when she was just 13 and her family was separated. With support from school staff, she stayed focused on her goals. She plans to graduate and move to Atlanta to pursue modeling.

Elizabeth, high school student working 20 hours a week: Elizabeth attends school meetings and is part of the school governance council. She travels daily from Vallejo or Oakland to get to school on-time. Since transferring to Berkeley Technology Academy she has maintained a steady 3.0 GPA while working 20 hours per week at Sweet Greens Restaurant. Her goal is to pursue a medic career in the Army Reserve and to foster youth past the ‘ideal adoption age’.

These young people are inspiring – facing challenges that would overwhelm the strongest among us with determination, positive spirits, and grace. They deserve all the recognition, accolades, and love we can give them, including support for their continuing educational goals!

Donate today to help provide scholarships to these and future Rising Stars!

Read about last year’s amazing Rising Stars celebration here!

To sponsor the 2021 Rising Stars gala or support BOSS youth in other ways, contact Sonja Fitz, BOSS Director of Development and Communication at sfitz@self-sufficiency.org or 510.649.1930 x 1008.