Graduation is an unforgettable, incredibly special moment in someone’s journey, marking the completion of hard work and commitment to learning. For the 2nd BOSS Social Justice Collective (SJC) Fellowship cohort, graduation marked the close of a chapter of learning and growth, and the opening of new doors – to becoming empowered activists, storytellers, and leaders.

On Friday June 12th in the late afternoon, about fifty people – SJC Fellowship graduates, faculty and staff from partnering agencies, and community supporters – gathered online to celebrate ten men and women who had just completed the 15-week Fellowship series, with topics that included:

  • Restorative Justice
  • Limiting Beliefs
  • Public Speaking
  • Community Corrections Programs and Services
  • Cultural Organizing Strategies and Hands-On Artmaking
  • Mass Incarceration
  • Oakland History Post-WWII
  • Fair Chance Housing

Graduates had participated in weekly classes and restorative justice circles, learning about the history of social justice movements, organizing and public education techniques, and how to effectively share their own stories, ideas and solutions to influence policy and decision making.

The SJC Fellowship is a collaboration between BOSS, Just Cities, and Eastside Arts Alliance. Funded by Alameda County Innovations In Reentry, the Fellowship is designed to reduce recidivism and build new leaders from the community. The Fellowship is conducted in cohorts of 10 individuals at a time: this is the 2nd cohort to complete the Fellowship.

The Graduation opened with a welcome from Yoana Tchoukleva, Restorative Justice Circle Keeper, followed by an introduction of all graduates by BOSS Director of Reentry Strategic Partnerships Tim Smith, who shared something special about each one and what they had contributed to the group, as each graduate received cheers and accolades from everyone in attendance.

Graduates shared their thoughts on the experience, and expressed gratitude for the group and the instructors. SJC faculty spoke, including John Jones III (Just Cities), Elena Serrano (Eastside Arts Alliance), and Troy Smith and Yoana Tchouleva (Restorative Justice Circle Keepers). BOSS Executive Director Donald Frazier described how BOSS came to create the SJC Fellowship, and why it is important to make sure justice involved individuals are leading the fight for more just systems and policies. Yoana then asked Graduates to grab their graduation caps, and led the group in a virtual hat toss as official graduates! Tim shared some final words of gratitude as everyone then cheered and said goodbyes.

While Zoom bombers briefly attempted to distract us from purpose and unity, they failed, as we stayed focused on the achievement of our Fellows and the difference they will make in the world. John Jones III, Berkeley City Council Member Cheryl Davila, and Cheryl Sudduth each spoke movingly about the strength and resilience of this group, this movement, and this moment, despite distractors and detractors like (and far worse than) these. We are excited to follow both this group and the previous cohort, to see how they use their incredible spirits to improve their lives, neighborhoods, and communities! CONGRATULATIONS Graduates!!!

Donate HERE to support the SJC Fellowship and supporting leaders with lived experience!
For more information or to get involved: contact Tim Smith at or 510.649.1930 x 3008.