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!