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YMCA Teen Task Force


8/30/10: Saying Goodbye

After ten months with the Teen Task Force, Zoe Tamaki is retiring to start the next phase of her life at UC Berkeley. Here is her farewell letter to her peers, the Teen Center, and you.

It’s been almost a year since I joined the Teen Task Force.

The past year has probably been one of the most fulfilling and exciting ones of my life. (There are 18 to choose from so that’s pretty good!) Working at the Y, I’ve learned everything from the dangers of asbestos to the importance of professionalism. I’ve seen that colds and enthusiasm are equally contagious. I now know what a lien on a building is and how to file invoices. If I ever need to input a hundred surveys into an excel document again, I know I can do it in two hours. I’ve gained confidence talking to people about who I am and what I believe in.

The most important thing I’ve learned while being on the Teen Task Force has been the importance of having passion for what you do. Prior to working on the Teen Task Force, I wanted to be a Biology major who was pre-med. I then saw myself going into medical school, following the path of Sandra Oh (from Grey’s Anatomy), and finally becoming a doctor. But after working at the Y and seeing how excited everyone was when talking about the Teen Center, I realized that learning about X and Y chromosomes did not give me the same euphoric feeling that they had. I’m not saying that I don’t want to be a doctor anymore, but now I’m also considering a career working with teens.

I love the Y. The past year has been an incredible experience and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with a group of such amazing people.

Zoe was a founding member of the Teen Task Force whose enthusiasm and dedication distinguished her as a leader among her peers. She will be missed at the Teen Center, but we wish her the best as she enters the next phase of her life as a Cal Bear.

Encourage Berkeley teens you know to make a difference, like Zoe. The Teen Center is currently accepting applications to the Teen Task Force! Interested applicants should contact Tairinda Rushing, Leadership Manager of the Teen Center, at for more information.


05/28/10: Ready for my Closeup

Being in the photo shoot for the Teen Center was so much fun. It was just like being an America’s Next Top Model Finalist! It was also cool being there for the first time since the roof was taken off because we were finally able to see the sunlight inside the Teen Center. We had to take so many pictures in different poses - all of us felt like models. At one point, the photographer had all of us walk across a small plank bridge, and it felt like we were walking down a runaway. We also had to go under parts that looked so dangerous that we were like, “are you sure you want us down there?” Seeing the photographer hang from one of the CAT machines looked so unsafe, but it was funny trying to watch him balance and take pictures as well. Overall, this was a good experience that I will never forget, even though I didn’t get my hair and make-up done!


05/26/10: LEEDing by Example

Laura, our LEED consultant, has been incredibly helpful and wonderful throughout the whole Green Education project that Jose, Alex and I are working on. At our last meeting some weeks ago, we went through many ideas about how we could best educate teens in the Teen Center on being green. We brainstormed ideas such as interesting looking recycle bins, fun eco-facts displayed in places throughout the building, a huge television screen to show just how much energy the Teen Center is saving (my personal favorite), and finally a projection onto the wall to show nature at its finest next to the effects of global warming.

It was after discussing all these awesome ideas that I realized it's not fair for Jose, Alex, Laura and I to have all this imaginative power to ourselves. We need to share these ideas with the world and open the discussion so other teens can contribute their ideas. Therefore, if you have any ideas or suggestions on how we can teach each others how to be green, realistic or not, we would love to hear them. We want to make this Teen Center innovative and a collaborative if you have any ideas let us know!

Find out more about Laura Billings, our LEED consultant, and Sage Green Development by clicking here.


05/24/10: Nate Dahl - Man with a Green Plan

One of the most crucial, fascinating and progressive aspects of the Teen Center project has to be our commitment to sustainability and eco-friendliness. From day one we knew that being "green" would be an essential part in creating our perfect Teen Center. That is why we hired consultant Laura Billings to advise us on how to be environmentally friendly and obtain the famed LEED Gold Certification for our building. We have been planning the implementation of solar panels, recycled/able materials, low energy systems and many other physical parts of our building. Yet a huge part of going green has also been our plan to have a green education program and set our building up as a green model for other Teen Centers and new projects. This is where Nate Dahl comes in. While Nate's involvement with our project began through his position in the city planning offices, where he aided us in the permit process, he came to us this Monday as a speaker and visionary for the "green" teen center movement. As a project for his graduate studies in sustainability Nate chose to research our Teen Center project and discuss greening teen centers throughout the nation.
After he told us to imagine ourselves as members of the board of YMCA of the USA, Nate proceeded to give a very professional and creative presentation on starting up "green" teen centers. The presentation brought up ideas of: what buildings to turn into teen centers, what cities are good starting points for the movement, and how to gain funding and the public's good favor. The primary message was that green teen centers function as portals towards a brighter future. Not only can they help retain our planet's natural beauty and resources and maintain strong economies, but they teach our future leaders, the teens, values of sustainability and good citizenship. In turn, this can produce a cycle of a growing commitment to the good of society and our world.
Truly, Nate is the man. I look forward to seeing Nate and these ideas on the big stage where national change may become a reality.


05/21/10: Meet our Contractor

When I first met our contractors, I thought that their job was pretty simple. But now that I have attended several job-walks with Alex, our general contractor from Pankow, I’ve realized just how complicated his job really is. At the job walks Alex took us around the building and talked about what he does. Renovating a building, looking at floor plans, and making sure that everything goes the according to plan is complicated. It’s clear that Alex is passionate about working on our Teen Center, and I'm glad that the building construction is in good hands. I love seeing people who enjoy their job and who are honest too. It’s important that the firm that we work with cares about the project as much as we do and shows real progress. Alex shared with us that if you like what you are doing in your job or career, then it makes your job easy. I hope that in my future I will end up working in a place where I feel comfortable, enjoy my time, and always want to do my best. We’re sure that our Teen Center is being built by the right people.

Find out more about Charles Pankow Builders and Pankow Special Projects by clicking here


03/03/10: Spreading the Word

Recently the Task Force was separated into pairs and sent to take turns at the Downtown Berkeley YMCA to promote the Teen Center Project. Our goal was to get people to go online and vote for the Teen Center Project – one of 189 projects up for a $250,000 grant from Pepsi as part of their Refresh Campaign for the month of February.

In addition to handing out flyers we tried different methods to spread the word. A couple of ways included giving out flyers at other YMCA branches, putting them up at the cafes in Downtown Berkeley, emailing people that we know, putting links up on Facebook and by other people blogging about us on the internet.

This project has also given us an opportunity to meet more people and to give them information about what’s going to be available in the future for their kids at the Center. The whole Teen Task Force is excited about winning and very happy to see that we are working hard together to make our dreams come true.

I enjoy telling people about the project while at the YMCA, even though we were ignored once in a while. Every time someone stopped to talk to us, they seemed interested in our work and were willing to help us win money for the future Teen Center. It’s great to hear people saying “yeah we are voting”, “I received your emails”, and “I will vote”.

Click here to see the Teen Center Project proposal on the Pepsi Refresh Project site.


03/01/10: High Goals

20/20 vision in optometry means that you have perfect vision.

The City of Berkeley is striving to improve their "vision" for youth. The 2020 Vision Project is an effort to address Berkeley's equity gap and create a healthier generation by the year 2020. Not only does Berkeley hope to have a vivid future for their youth but they hope to do so within the next 10 years. It's an ambitious goal.

I went to my first 2020 Vision meeting a few weeks ago. A diverse group of teens, a handful of adults, and the project leaders were eager to start the education and lifestyle revolution that Berkeley needs. Initially, I was overwhelmed by the amount that they wanted to accomplish. It seemed like so much to do in so little time. We began by translating the goals of the 2020 Vision Project into "teen friendly language." This was something my group struggled with because it dealt with changing some of the ways education in Berkeley worked and there were lots of big words.

After reflecting on my 2020 Vision experience, I think the goals are realistic. I’ve learned there is a difference between a vision and a goal. A vision is something you hope for. It’s not necessarily something you'll get the first time, the second time, or even the 100th time, but rather it's something that you strive for. It's almost like striving for perfection, which is sometimes regarded as a bad thing in sports, but working on the 2020 Vision Project made me realize that when it comes to potentially enriching the lives of others and making truly everlasting change you might as well set the goal high so everyone reaps the benefits. It reminds me of how Kanye West says, "You might as well reach for the stars so that you fall on the clouds."

Click here for more information on Berkeley’s 2020 Vision for Children and Youth.