At only 19, Caridad is taking steps toward realizing her dream of someday owning a restaurant.
By participating first in GROW and now ELEVATE, Caridad has had access to culinary experience she says would not have been possible without B:E.
“I’ve been able to do certain things and meet people that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise,” Caridad says. “B:E has been really helpful.”
She currently holds down two jobs in downtown Oakland: one at the bustling Xolo restaurant and the other at the brand new Mamacita’s Café, where Caridad got to help run the grand opening. In addition, she has enjoyed catering events with GROW.
Through the b2b program, Caridad studied culinary arts and business at Laney College. Shanina Shumate, b2b Program Coordinator, helped her choose classes, organize her schedule, and apply for financial aid.
“I’m super independent,” Caridad says, “and can do things myself but this being my first time going to college, and not knowing how to do it…Shanina was like my education godsend.”
While her studies are currently on hold, she intends to go back as soon as possible, and appreciates that Beyond Emancipation will be there for her.
“With her work experience and professional development,” Shumate says, “Cari’s returning to college will be a star shooting through the sky.”
The steady support she receives from B:E has helped Caridad as she heals from exploitation she experienced when she was 14, which resulted in her getting caught up in the juvenile justice system.
As a youth advisor for the Alameda County Probation Department, she drew upon her experience in the system to help design the county’s new Positive Youth Justice Initiative (PYJI). PYJI provides a new approach to serving “crossover youth,” youth who are in the juvenile justice system and also have a history in the child welfare system.
“Youth are youth,” Caridad says, “regardless if they’re on probation or in foster care. Before, the system set us up for failure. Now, PYJI says: ‘How can we give resources to these kids, keep track of them, make them important and not just be another statistic?’”
Caridad was recently honored by the department for her role in the development of this important initiative.