Three ways Berkeley connects with the community

The crowd at the Bancroft Hotel listens to Ruben Lizardo, UC Berkeley's director of local government and community relations. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

The crowd at the Bancroft Hotel listens to Ruben Lizardo, UC Berkeley’s director of local government and community relations. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

Chancellor Carol Christ on Friday thanked city leaders in Berkeley for their help during the tumult of “Free Speech Week,” and went on to highlight three Bay Area programs that are connecting UC Berkeley with the people and students of Oakland, Richmond and Berkeley.

“These have been a really challenging two and a half weeks, with Ben Shapiro and then the abortive festival of free speech,” she told an audience of East Bay community leaders, acknowledging the days of protest, police overtime and circling helicopters.

“I have been so pleased to get to this Friday with no injuries and no property damage,” she added to applause from the audience. “We got through it, and there was extraordinary cooperation and collaboration between the city and the campus.”

But Christ, who started as UC Berkeley’s chancellor in July, said at the 8th Annual Chancellor’s Community Leaders Breakfast that she was really there to acknowledge the role the campus plays in a region that “values and invests in innovation and entrepreneurship in all facets of society.”

“I take great pride in the knowledge that so many Berkeley students, faculty and staff are partnering with all of you to improve the quality of life in our local communities,” she told the group. “This event gives me an opportunity to highlight a few of the exceptional public service efforts that we’re working on.”

Here are the three programs Christ gave special recognition this year:

A college plan for Richmond residents

Crystal Carter, a sophomore at UC Berkeley, speaks to the crowd about Richmond Promise. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

Crystal Carter, a sophomore at UC Berkeley, speaks to the crowd about Richmond Promise. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

Richmond Promise, a scholarship and intensive mentoring program for residents of Richmond, has so far sent 28 students to UC Berkeley.

“The Richmond Promise scholarship has helped me strive at UC Berkeley by helping me focus on my studies and not have to worry about financial aid,” said Crystal Carter, a Berkeley sophomore majoring in sociology and African American Studies. “But the Richmond Promise is more than a scholarship committee writing a check, they are constantly checking and giving opportunities to students, which I am very grateful for.”

In high school, Carter attended Saturday tutoring sessions at UC Berkeley to help her prepare for life on a university campus. “At first I was nervous about being at the number one public school in the world,” she told the crowd. “But then soon after I realized that I belong here.”

Training for young black men

Chancellor Carol Christ poses with group of YPLAN students, professors and mentors. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

Chancellor Carol Christ poses with group of YPLAN students, professors and mentors. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

Deborah McKoy, head of UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities and Schools, developed an initiative to help young people plan and think about their futures called Y-PLAN, which stands for Youth – Plan, Learn, Act, Now.

“We call YPLAN the heartbeat of our work to unite and look at the intersection of cities and schools, because it keeps us very humble and keeps us very focused on the lives and realities of our young people, and how city policies have to change to structure success,” McKoy told the crowd.

In Oakland, where YPLAN has partnered with the school district’s African American Male Achievement Initiative, the effort helped Makale Bradley, a senior at Skyline High School, get an internship with BART.

“It really taught me how to hold myself in a business setting,” Bradley said.

A partnership for People’s Park

Devin Woolridge, a facilities manager for People's Park, talks about his more than 20 years working at the park. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

Devin Woolridge, a facilities manager for People’s Park, talks about his more than 20 years working at the park. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

Devin Woolridge is UC Berkeley’s facilities manager for People’s Park, where he’s worked for more than 20 years. Eve Ahmed has been a clinical social worker for the city of Berkeley for 24 years.

Almost every work day, the pair has gotten to know and helped the sometimes difficult, down-on-their luck residents of People’s Park.

“Devin Woolridge and Eve Ahmed are two people whose work demonstrates the best, the absolute best, of the university and the city,” said Emily Marthinsen, the assistant vice chancellor who oversees the park. “Both work with deep compassion with our most vulnerable, often very problematic citizens. Their work, day in and day out, has led park-users to comprehensive services.”

The pair, who hugged on stage at the end of the ceremony, has spent years together in the park helping its residents find housing, drug treatment and other help.

“On any given day (Woolridge) understands what each park user needs: one day, handcuffs; the next day, coffee,” Marthinsen said. “I would say that no one knows more about People’s Park than Devin,” Marthinsen said.

Contact Will Kane at willkane@berkeley.edu