Berkeley Youth Alternatives, known by locals as BYA,  is one of the most important centers serving children and youth from low-income families in Berkeley, California. For over 40 years, BYA has provided a place for youth through an after school center, career development center, counseling center, youth and family opportunity hub, sports and fitness programs, a vibrant urban garden and community orchard, and an environmental training program for youth called the Green Pathways Program.

Roots of Success is an integral part of BYA’s Green Pathways Program. The Roots of Success course deepens student’s understanding of issues related to water, waste, energy, health, and food, helps them understand the importance of the work they are doing on BYA’s 1/2 acre farm and 1/6 acre orchard, and introduces them to over 100 jobs and career pathways that they can pursue after graduating from the program

In addition to going through all 10 modules of the Roots of Success course, youth work in the garden and orchard where they learn about how to manage a small working farm, save seeds, grow food for their community, and create food products, like jams, that they can bring to market. BYA instructors greatly appreciate and benefit from the Financial Literacy and Social Entrepreneurship module, which supports BYA in their goal to help youth learn about business development by selling herbs and healthy foods they grow in the garden and orchard to the community. This is a win-win model for youth and their local community by providing better access to affordable healthy foods straight from BYA’s local garden. 

According to Sequence Young, Project Director, Roots of Success has been key in helping BYA’s Environmental Training Center achieve its goals to support low income, Black, Latino, and minority youth in Berkeley by providing them with comprehensible green jobs training and connecting them to family supporting jobs after they graduate from the program. “Together,” says Young, “we can set these young people up to be successful in meaningful careers and give them the foundation they need in life.”