BERKELEY, CA – It was a beautiful late Spring evening on May 31, 2019, and the Warriors had the night off (!), so the evening was free for the community to come together at Hotel Shattuck Plaza in downtown Berkeley and celebrate a very special group of young people – the 2019 Class of Rising Stars!

Berkeley High Jazz ensemble

As multi-color balloons beckoned guests inside, they were welcomed by BOSS staff and Board Members (thank you, Joe Dung and Andrea Spillman!) as live jazz was played by a talented ensemble from the Berkeley High Jazz program. Guests took time checking out the amazing offerings at the Silent Auction table (with donated items from Bay Grape, CCI Computers, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, the Oakland A’s, the Golden State Warriors and many others!), got some delicious dinner from the buffet table (catered by Hotel Shattuck Plaza’s Zino Restaurant), then found seats.

Our host since the event began in 2014, our own Leslie Stovall of KCSM and California Music Channel, took the star-spangled stage and gave a heart-felt welcome before turning the mic over to Reverend Michael Burch for an invocation. After Reverend Burch was one of the three performances of the evening (following BHS jazz), Emerald – a local talent and triple threat singer, songwriter, and screenwriter! Emerald’s vocals were amazing and her stirring lyrics set the tone for unity and truth.

Berkeley Council Member Cheryl Davila

Leslie then introduced Berkeley City Council Member Cheryl Davila, who shared thoughts about the youth’s inspiring stories and the support of the City. Then our special Youth Keynote speaker was introduced – Tiffany Carson, 2018 Rising Star Awardee! Tiffany experienced homelessness and lost her mom while in High School, but she worked hard and persevered through her grief, entering Berkeley City College last Fall, where she just completed her first year, with a major in sociology! Tiffany encouraged the new Rising Stars to never lose hope, and to stay focused on their goals.

2019 Rising Stars Kentrell Harris, in happy shock

Sharee Joseph from STEM Future Foundation then took the stage, as our Keynote Speaker, and shared her admiration for the youth and what they have achieved – and will continue to achieve. She described her work at the Foundation and her commitment to providing these youth, and all youth, with equitable opportunities to learn and study in the STEM fields. [Side note, BOSS is currently working with STEM Future Foundation on creating a new space for BOSS’s Children’s Learning Center to replace the old trailer that has been there for years. To invest or get involved, contact Donald Frazier at!]

Shody Tha Artist

Shody Tha Artist then shared the final performance of the evening – sharing his energetic music, words, talent, and voice with a receptive audience. Then Donald Frazier, BOSS Executive Director, made a special surprise award presentation to Leslie Stovall, our MC, for her many years of service to the event in style! Leslie’s humble and pleased reaction was followed by the presentation of a special Parents Award – an award created by State Senator Nancy Skinner, who was unable to join us this year but she sent her Policy Director Robert Gammon to make the presentation. Stacy Kimmins, mom of 2019 Rising Star Awardee Amarrea Morton, was recognized for her extra-mile efforts supporting Amarrea and participating in parent meetings at Berkeley Technology Academy, with a $500 gift!

L-R: 2019 Rising Star Aiden Blair and Tasha Henneman

At last it was time for the highlight of the evening – the presentation of our 2019 Class of Rising Stars! Tasha Henneman was there to present the awards. Currently adjunct faculty with Mills College and formerly staff of State Senator Skinner and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, Tasha shared some from her own personal story, raising her niece when her sister could not do it anymore, and why the Rising Stars event resonates so deeply with her.  She read the name and a little of each youth’s story, and presented each one with a gift bag that contained a plaque (donated by Berkeley Stamp & Engraving!), BOSS water bottle & keychain, BOSS power bank/flashlight, BHS water bottle & pen, Mechanics Bank notebook & pen, lapel pin & fanny pack from Hollister Mystery Meet, Whole Foods chocolate bar, Safeway gift card, Fandango or Starbucks gift card, and an RCA 7” electronic tablet. Youth also received Certificates of commendation from State Senator Nancy Skinner and State Assembly Member Buffy Wicks, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, and US Congresswoman Barbara Lee!

BHS’s Sophina Jones, feeling the love for her students!

Then Donald Frazier took the stage once more to present $1,000 scholarship checks to four deserving Rising Stars – one of the youth shared his plans to work in the tech industry and his goal to attend MIT! Leslie closed the evening by reminding people to check the Silent Auction tables to see if theirs was the winning bid, and to donate if possible on their way out, to support next year’s Rising Stars!

Whatever the future has in store for these youth, we know they will carry this celebration in their hearts forever – thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and donors, the love and support of the community and their friends and families, and the encouragement and confidence instilled by the Rising Stars recognition!

See more event photos here. Stay tuned for video!

Donate here to support BOSS programs for youth and others in need. To get involved in next year’s Rising Stars event, contact Sonja or Gwen ( or

Thank you to our 2019 Rising Stars SPONSORS!

Kaiser Permanente
Mechanics Bank
Donald Frazier
Berkeley MLK Breakfast Committee
Stephen & Susan Shortell
Dan Scarola
UC Berkeley Local Government & Community Relations
Rames Consulting Group
US Congresswoman Barbara Lee
CCI Computers

Berkeley Times
Berkeley Community Media
East Bay Express

Communications Team
PDQ Print Copy Mail
Berkeley Stamp & Engraving Co.
Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan
Albany Bowl
AOIR Records/Distribution
Aurora Theater
Bay Grape Oakland
CCI Computers
Bill’s Trading Post/The Gem Gallery
California Academy of Sciences
Dandelion Hair Salon
Essence of Tibet
Golden State Warriors
Koraa Co.
Oakland A’s
Oakland Zoo
Pier 39
Shotgun Players