New Classroom, New Hope

Rising Stars 2020 Children’s Learning Center Campaign


Help BOSS double the Children’s Learning Center classroom space, add a teacher’s office, and a bathroom with the purchase of a new 24×60 modular classroom and to support distance learning for homeless youth.

For 49 years BOSS has created solutions for the most vulnerable members of our community.  We need your support to help homeless and at-risk young people facing serious barriers to completing high school and entering college – barriers exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. 

BOSS is raising funds to replace the trailer that houses the Children’s Learning Center at our Berkeley emergency shelter. The CLC provides after-school support to our young shelter residents. Your contribution will help us create a vibrant new CLC program!

COVID-19’s Impact on BOSS Children & Youth

COVID 19 is challenging for the men, women, children and youth BOSS serves, who are the hardest hit by health and economic disparities even in good times.  BOSS continues to serve those in need while doing whatever we can to #StopTheSpread: all programs remain open with limited traffic or are moving to virtual service delivery and social distancing dining and sleeping arrangements.

We know that these efforts will not reach all in need as people shelter in place – particularly children and youth who are homeless and struggling in the new reality. Your contribution will help BOSS give our youth who are already facing the challenge of housing insecurity a better chance for brighter futures!

For six years, BOSS gathered the community annually to honor young people who are fighting hard to succeed in school, care for themselves and their families, and overcome homelessness, poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, justice system involvement, and other challenges. This year BOSS had to cancel our seventh annual Rising Stars Youth Leadership Gala since we could not safely gather. 

The in-person event is cancelled, but BOSS’s commitment to the well being of these young people is NOT cancelled.

Their hopes and dreams are NOT cancelled.

The challenges they are fighting their way through are NOT cancelled. 

The challenges they face are in many ways greater than ever – with schools shifting by necessity to ‘distance learning’, low-income children and youth are at greater risk of falling behind. Many lack access to computers and the internet, they don’t have the daily support of special education teachers and aides, and they struggle with underlying traumas from homelessness, domestic or community violence, and family separation. The CLC Rising Stars Campaign will help those youth survive and thrive!

Strength in Adversity: BOSS’s 2020 Rising Stars

This year’s Rising Stars nominees are 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!

But for too many other youth in our communities, the barriers created by homelessness, poverty, family separation, and health crises overwhelm their best efforts, and they continue on a trajectory with lower chances for high school completion and college. The earlier in life we are able to support them, the better their chances for success. Contribute to the Rising Stars 2020 CLC Campaign to help make this possible!

EARLY INTERVENTION IS CRITICAL FOR YOUTH IN CRISIS – please support these youth with your contribution.

For this reason, one of BOSS’s most important programs is the Children’s Learning Center, created in 1990 at our Berkeley shelter, Ursula Sherman Village. The CLC provides daily academic, developmental, health, and emotional support to homeless children who live at the shelter temporarily with their parents. With COVID-19, homeless children lack the resources and technology needed to pursue distance learning—widening the gap even further. 

The CLC is open weekdays from 4 to 7 pm, staffed by a part-time teacher and volunteers. It is located in a used trailer graciously donated by the Alameda County Office of Education in 1990. 

The CLC trailer was already used when it was donated, and 30 years later it has remained in use well beyond its prescribed lifetime – in continual need of repair, cleaning and upgrades, and in urgent need of replacement. The long and narrow physical space quickly becomes crowded and is ill-suited for creating separate activity centers for different age groups. There is no private office/meeting space and no on-site bathroom.  

CLC Rising Stars Campaign: New Classroom, New Hope
– Please Donate Today

With your support, BOSS is proposing the purchase of a new 24×60 ft modular classroom that will double the space of the existing trailer, plus add a teacher’s office and bathroom. We will also purchase new furniture and STEAM learning resources.

This long-overdue upgrade will:

  • Protect the health and safety of children and youth served in the CLC
  • Allow for separate activity centers for different age groups
  • Provide private space for meetings and tutoring
  • Provide basic on-site amenities like a bathroom, sink, and cabinet for healthy snacks

We want all of today’s CLC youth participants to become tomorrow’s successful Rising Stars – your contribution to the CLC Rising Stars Campaign will make this possible! 

This campaign has received an up-front pledge of $20,000 from the Bernard E. and Alba Witkin Charitable Foundation, and needs to raise an additional $50,000 to achieve our goal.  

Please make as generous a gift as you are able to – every single donation adds up to move us towards our goal!


BOSS has a seed grant from Bernard E. & Alba Witkin Charitable Foundation for the new trailer and needs your help to raise the rest!

Help us purchase a new modular classroom and add a teacher’s office and two bathrooms by donating now.

The CLC is supported by the Bernard E. & Alba Witkin Foundation, Morning Glory Family Foundation, William G. Gilmore Foundation, and individual donors.

To donate or volunteer, contact Sonja Fitz, BOSS Director of Development and Communication, at or 510.649.1930 x 1008.

Strength in Adversity

BOSS 2020 Class of Rising Stars


a full-time college student working six days a week

Outside the classrooms and work, Alijah also volunteers at three 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 HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).


a high school student and 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. He is applying to HBCUs and his goal is to attend college and continue to play football.


a 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.”ton


a survivor of the foster care system since age two

Jaheim taught himself how to live independently and is studying hard to finish up his senior year sheltering in place. He is working to become a male model and is building his social media presence. He’s had his photo posted on the Champion apparel brand website and he just signed with a modeling agency. In addition to his educational and career endeavors, he is fighting the court system to reunify with siblings.


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.


a 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 is taken care of.


a high school student and survivor of family loss due to violence

Zylayah’s father was murdered when she was just 13 and her family was separated by circumstances out of her control. She has dealt with these challenges with support from school staff, and staying focused on her goals. She plans to graduate and move to Atlanta to pursue modeling.