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Oakland teens reach out to day laborers

free breakfast for day laborers
photo by Laura A. Oda/Tribune staff

If you drove down High or San Leandro streets between 6:45 and 8 this morning, you probably saw a group of teenagers on the high-traffic corner behind a table of pastries and coffee.

This is the second Monday in a row the youth have rolled out of bed an hour or two early to serve breakfast to the day laborers, or jornaleros, in East Oakland. Most of the students go to one of the small high schools at Fremont Federation, but there was at least one middle school student there: an eighth-grader at United For Success Academy at Calvin Simmons.

The group is new; it grew out of a popular after-school Latino history class offered (not for credit) twice a week this year by Cesar Cruz, a YMCA staff member, at the Castlemont and Fremont campuses. It was a student’s idea to serve free breakfasts. The youth and the adult organizers — who said they are doing this on their own time, not as part of a Y program – plan to keep the hot coffee coming every Monday.

Day laborers are generally undocumented, and their legal status – combined with the informal nature of their contract work — makes them vulnerable to exploitation. The students said they were troubled by stories of their abuse and wanted to do something to help.

Maria Fragoso, 14, who goes to Media Academy at Fremont, said she wanted to show the workers that she cared about them. “They’re really thankful, because nobody pays attention to them,” she said.

I plan to write more about this group of students, so stay tuned!

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Oakland Teacher

    Thanks for sharing this story of students who have learned to think about others – bravo! The importance of kindness cannot be overstated.

  • Chauncey

    OH God!!!! Here we go. How about focusing on academics?

    American education at its finest. Day laborers will be more prepared for the future than dropouts from this city (remember the number Over 50%) becuase they are willing to work for crap. How many sagging Fremont students will do that? They’re poor but got JOrdans huh?!

    Liberals….gotta love em!

  • JR

    I wonder if Jesus believes in liberals or conservatives, and if so what are his thoughts about people who believe in “MONEY, above all else”!

    …..or does he believe

    And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

    Matthew 25:40

    One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed.

    Proverbs 19:17

  • Danielle Dixon

    Rock on children – you make me proud!

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    Chauncey: School starts at 8:15. The children are doing this kindness on their own time, before the academics.

    Never been to Fremont High in your life, have you?

    Kids, bless you for making your corner of the world a kinder place. What a nice thing to do for these gentlemen.

  • JR

    When certain people listen to talk radio(the fools tool) they tend to brand thinking human beings as simply liberal or conservative they simply diminish themselves in the process.Everything is so formulaic to them that they cannot think in three dimensional terms. Yes, there is more to life than money and possessions, there are love and compassion. Love and compassion don’t rank in their self aggrandized, selfish world.

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    JR, I’m glad you raised the Liberal/Conservative issue. What do those labels even mean anymore? Be “liberal” with what? “Conserve” what? Doesn’t seem to matter either way, because the underlying reality is about division, not semantics.

    This summer my English classes reviewed The Sneetches, by Dr. Seuss, because the real villain in that story is Sylvester McMonkey McBean. While the Star-bellied Sneetches and the Plain-bellied Sneetches are all fighting with each other over nothing, he’s profiting from their paranoia and absconding with most of their GDP.

    He’s who we need to keep an eye on in America. We haven’t much time to keep indulging any specious obsessions over who’s a conservative crip or a liberal blood, because we’re all in pretty much the same rickety boat.

    In such a jaded world, the students who’ve created this coffee and pastry service are a ray of hope and empathy. I love it, too, that this story’s about Oakland kids! No surprise to those of us who work with Oakland kids, of course.

  • Nextset

    Ms McLaughlin: You are wrong when you teach there is little difference between liberal and conservative – Dead Wrong.

    There is a difference between collectivism (socialism) and freedom and prosperity. No socialist society in history of any significant size has prospered and they are never free. In fact they typically are totalitarian, with related gulags and mass murder. Also, they can’t design and manufacture good consumer goods such as auto, appliances and electronics.

    There is a reason why some people are trying to publish the lie that socialism is acceptable. The reason is that they are Socialists. Along the way they want to take things from people and dominate them. And they like to work in education and the state department, always have.

    As far as the difference between the USA Democratic Party and the Republician Party – I do agree they both stand for centralized government and concentration of power in DC – conditions which make collectivism easy.

  • Union Supporter-But

    In our effort to “build a safety net” and “help students of color” we have created a situation where we stand in judgment – but only when that judgment is negative.

    We judge the effort of the teenagers with pastry and coffee as “good.” But in our liberal agenda we will not call unwed, teenage pregnancy, truancy, failing to work at assignments, dropping trash on the ground around campus, talking back to teachers disrespectfully (this does not include respective disagreement), tardiness, not coming to school prepared or failing to complete assignments on time “bad.” We say, the students don’t have support at home, they are living what they see, or it is the cycle of poverty. And that may very well be the case, but the behavior, the results of the behavior are BAD. They harm the students themselves, society at large and our school system specifically.

    We need to begin to call the behavior what is is, good or bad. When the behavior is good, we are very quick to point it out: the students in this article had good behavior because it was generous, it was on their own time before school, it brought generosity to those who help our community and do not get a fair salary or benefits in return.

    When we have unwed teenage parents we need to call the behavior bad. It is bad to have babies young and out of wedlock because it means there is a HUGE chance the child will live in poverty without insurance. The is a HUGE chance that the students have not taken parenting classes and do not have sufficient education or life experience to know what is developmental behavior and what is not. Girls who are pregnant in middle or high school often do not work, develop a career or even finish a high school education. There is a HUGE chance that the boys who have children as teens out of wedlock do not accept their parental responsibilities, have not taken parenting classes, do not work to support their children and do not help educate their children. In the cases of both the boys and girls there behavior is bad.

    I watch teachers, principals, parents of these students and parents at the school tip-toe around saying I’m disappointed, this is a sad day, what are you going to do; they don’t want to offend the students, the parents of the students, and they want to be politically correct. When we see parents or students dropping trash, anyone should be able to say, you dropped your paper cup on the ground, you need to pick it up. But we don’t; we pick it up ourselves, wait for the custodian or let it sit there – we wouldn’t want to offend.

  • Union Supporter-But

    I meant to say only when that judgment is NOT negative.

  • Harold

    Socialism = public education, fire department, police department, paved roadways, public utilities, armed forces, etc., … yeah ‘Nextset’ we don’t need all of that stuff…

    …in that world, you would have to pull out a debit/credit card to get services when your house is on fire.

    capitalism is dying on the vine (i presume you haven’t noticed)…

  • Chauncey

    No- I have never been to Fremont- might get shanked!
    But I did go to Castlemont. I will bet the bank that behind this act of patraongae there is an idealist loving liberal. Have you seen the scores at Fremont? Their dropout rate is nearly 60%!! Why dont the staff have them intutoring classes instead of out there feeding their future competition

    Let me tell you, I have seen day laborers, become permanent employess, then become homeowners. They are , for the most part, are what is still good about America-immigrants!
    God help this country if we have to depend on lil Ray Ray, Nuk-Nuk, or Trigger from the corner dealing dubs to get Jordans with three kids from three different women. Yup, this is my neighborhood Ms. McGlauhlin.

    Harold- Capitalism is dying? So… is socialism living? If capitalism was dying, quit your job Harold-stop paying your bills. See where that will get you.

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    # Nextset Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Ms McLaughlin: You are wrong when you teach there is little difference between liberal and conservative – Dead Wrong.

    There is a difference between collectivism (socialism) and freedom and prosperity. No socialist society in history of any significant size has prospered and they are never free. In fact they typically are totalitarian, with related gulags and mass murder. Also, they can’t design and manufacture good consumer goods such as auto, appliances and electronics.

    There is a reason why some people are trying to publish the lie that socialism is acceptable. The reason is that they are Socialists. Along the way they want to take things from people and dominate them. And they like to work in education and the state department, always have.

    As far as the difference between the USA Democratic Party and the Republician Party – I do agree they both stand for centralized government and concentration of power in DC – conditions which make collectivism easy.
    ——-

    You’ve lost me. Is one of your objections to students providing hot coffee and pastries for day laborers that you envision it as some kind of a socialist enterprise?

    Here’s an example of what I mean about “liberal” vs. “conservative” values being muddled in our country. In recent months, we’ve seen numerous people who probably call themselves “conservatives” raising hell over a possible public option in our upcoming national health reform scenario. Now, they themselves would not be forced to participate in a government-managed, nonprofit health plan. That plan would be only one option in the new national exchange. But the alleged “conservatives” want the public option eliminated altogether, so that NO Americans can choose to participate. How is that a “conservative” stance? It contradicts any possible conception of free-market economics, it limits the choices available to American consumers, and it forces us to go through the profit-driven insurance industry if we want health coverage at all.

    It’s not just students in Oakland who are challenged by undereducation. There are a lot of “conservatives” running around the country, making a lot of noise, who seem to have no idea what “conservative” really means.