Oakland Voices, a program that teaches East Bay residents to tell the stories of their neighborhoods, held its second graduation at the 81st Avenue Public Library in Oakland on Saturday.
The program is a partnership between the Oakland Tribune and the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and has funding from the California Endowment, a private health foundation that grants funds to community-based organizations.
"The Oakland Voices program consists of members of the community that care about where they come from and want to see improvement," said director Christopher Johnson. "The program is not about giving voices; our correspondents already have that. It's about giving them skills and an outlet to let their voice be heard."
Once accepted through the application process, the project asks community members for a nine-month commitment in which they will learn and develop journalistic skills such as reporting, photography, blogging, and multimedia story telling. At the end of the process, each graduate will have a blog and at least one printed story in the Community section of the Oakland Tribune.
This year's graduates are: Deborah Gordon, Edward Cervantes, Howard Dyckoff, Jian Liang, Katherine Brown, Katrina Davis, Michael Holland, Ronald Owens, Sabirah Mustafa and Sheila Blandon.
Oakland Voices accepts members of all ages and demographic groups in order to fairly and accurately represent Oakland's diverse community. Correspondents as young as 17 have been accepted.
Blandon, 19, is the youngest member of the second class and has high aspirations upon completing the project.
"I learned to mature through the program and felt the youth perspective was important to portray," Blandon said. "I am interested in going into politics and maybe running for mayor and eventually make it to the White House."
Correspondents for Oakland Voices cover a wide range of issues, from gun control to education.
The program is important as it teaches Oakland residents to be storytellers, said Dori J. Maynard, program partner and president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
"They are telling the stories that would go untold and in the minds of others would leave an incomplete picture of what Oakland is and could be," said Maynard.
Liang, a 21-year-old Oakland Voices graduate and Chinese immigrant who has only been in the United States for two years, said the project was a great opportunity to share the opinions and issues of different community members.
"If we have different backgrounds, we can all learn something from each other; we can learn to cooperate," Liang said.
The positive impact Oakland Voices has on the community and its correspondents is something that will not go unnoticed, Johnson said.
"We want to change the story of our city," said the program director. "We are committed to Oakland."