Organizations Resources

Alternatives in Action Fosters Leadership Among Bay Area Youth

Alternatives in Action
IMG: via AIA

Alternatives in Action (AIA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping youth in the Bay Area realize their leadership potential. Founded in 1994 with the vision of bettering the quality of life for children and teens in the greater Bay Area, AIA has spent the last two decades empowering young people through educational and community-based programs.

“We envision generations of young adults inspired and prepared to take meaningful action that positively transforms their lives and their communities,” explains AIA in regards to the original vision of the organization’s founders. AIA’s mission is to inspire Bay Area youth to realize their leadership potential, while simultaneously preparing them for college, future careers, and continual community involvement. AIA provides skill-building and other educational programs designed around real-world scenarios. Essentially, the organization aims to foster empowered young adults and provide them with the tools to improve their own communities.

AIA provides educational programs for high school students at the Alternatives in Action High School, the first youth-initiated charter high school in the country, at its Home Sweet Home Preschool, as well as in other community programs that partner with school staff, youth, and parents to create even more learning opportunities. AIA’s high school offers small class sizes, college and career counseling, and many leadership opportunities for teens. Its preschool, Home Sweet Home, supports working families of all kinds, offering enriching educational programs for young children, as well as affordable day care.

AIA has found immense success by fostering leadership in youth from a very early age, and by including families and educators in the process. The organization’s community programs, in accordance with its academic efforts, are what make it such a wide-reaching and empowering program. One of AIA’s youth members, Amanda, explains, “my peers and I were able to accomplish things I never imagined could be possible,” of the way she was empowered by AIA. Hers and other stories are compelling examples of the effectiveness of community-based programs, hands-on education, and the dedication of mentors and families.

Read other stories and learn more about Alternatives in Action by visiting the organization’s website.

Organizations Profiles

United Water and KKR Give Little League a Chance

Little league
IMG: via United Water

Who can forget the devastating images of Hurricane Sandy?  Homes and businesses were torn apart and the emotional toll was even higher than monetary value.   It can be difficult to rebuild and get a fresh start with damages in the millions.

However, United Water and its financial partner Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) recently donated $50,000 to Bayonne Little League to help restore facilities that were damaged during the storm. The money was presented at Little League Family Day which was sponsored by both companies at the Little League complex.

Part of the reason they chose to donate to this particular cause was that it was for the kids.  They wanted to give the children hope for their team.  The playing fields, office, concession stand and bathrooms were all inundated and damaged by tidal waters during the storm.

United Water often provides assistance to community organizations that are in need.  According to Chris Riat, senior director of NJ contract operations for United Water, “We chose the Bayonne Little League because of the outstanding impact it has had on the city’s youth over the years and the countless hours spent by the volunteers who run the organization. We are proud to be of assistance.”

“With United Water and KKR’s assistance, we are able to restore the Little League facilities and continue to provide an enriching experience for the children in Bayonne,” said Joe Spengler, commissioner of the Bayonne Little League. “We are grateful for their contribution and support.”

KKR is a global investment firm that works with companies and investment partners around the world “to deliver flexible capital solutions.” Henry Kravis is the co-founder and co-CEO of KKR.  According to the website, KKR is “a global investor with a long-term horizon.  KKR makes…decisions that can have an enormous impact: millions of individuals depend upon [us for]…quality of life.”

Profiles Resources

Life Without Parole

Xavier McElrath-Bey
IMG: Peter Hoffman/The New York Times

Xavier McElrath-Bey has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science and a Master of Arts in Counseling and Human Services from Roosevelt University. He has dedicated his life to working with at-risk youth who have been or will be incarcerated. But he has a secret. A reason why he feels like he can relate to troubled youth. He was one of them, once.

He grew up in a foster home in Chicago and was abused. He eventually felt like he would be safer on the streets as a gang member. He was incarcerated seven times as a youth. In 1989, at the age of thirteen, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to thirteen years in prison. He’s now 36 and has been out for 10 years, working hard to change his life—and others’.

“I feel like no matter how much I give back, I can never make up for the–the things that I’ve done, so for me, I feel like it’s a life mission. I know that my goal of reaching out and helping these kids is never going to end,” he says.

And he says it’s all because of his victim. “I often think about him… what his life could have been like, what his life was like… how much him and I, you know, had in common.”

“The sacrifices of what he went through, of his life, that’s what became my passion,” McElrath-Bey says. “He became my driving force. He’s the one that helped change my life. I kind of feel like I owe it to him and his family.”

Xavier McElrath-Bey is completely different than he used to be. He was told he would never change, but he did. He reflected on his life and made positive changes. He may have had a thirteen-year sentence, but he also had the hope of being free one day to help him change.

Now he’s part of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, which is working to keep youth from being sentenced to life imprisonment without a chance of parole. He wants troubled kids to have a chance to change, as he did.

“There are kids in there serving life sentences without the possibility of parole, and unfortunately they themselves have no light, they have no concept of future freedom. They have no hope.

“Give them something to strive towards. Give them an opportunity for something better. Give them a hope, so they could become something better. We all have a capacity to change; we just need a chance.”