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Students Give Back to the Oakland Community through O’Dowd ‘Friends Project’

Service learning at O’Dowd calls students to engage with our school’s charism of Finding God in All Things – supporting students to find joy in serving the Bay Area’s diverse community and take part in social justice advocacy.

Each class has a different learning focus. 9th Graders participate in programs that support environmental justice and sustainability. The 10th Grade ‘Friends Project’ supports the homeless and youth. Juniors and Seniors dive deeper into social justice by participating in the ‘Anawim Project,’ studying a complex social justice issue and providing potential solutions that combat systemic injustices to disadvantaged populations.

During the last school year, students were challenged to serve the community through the social restrictions of COVID-19. Still, they persevered. Check out how some of our 10th Graders found innovative ways to serve Oakland’s homeless and youth communities for their ‘Friends Project.’

Tiny Home Construction Creates Big Changes in Community

Dylan Feldman ’23 and Solomon Lezin-Schmidt ’23 helped make tiny homes for the Tiny House Empowerment Village in Oakland. The project was a partnership between The Housing Consortium of the East Bay and Youth Spirit Artworks, an interfaith arts and training program.

Together, their goal is to support young artists facing homelessness in the Bay Area.

Dylan and Solomon supported construction of the village during the Spring semester of 2021. They painted murals, dug trenches, and unpacked wood planks that would be used for construction. The village also has community spaces and a communal kitchen yurt. Each home is painted with a unique mural to represent the diversity of the community.

“No matter how hard it got, whether it was the weather, feeling burnt out, or exhaustion, my friends and I always got back up and started working again. We knew it was for a cause larger than ourselves. These houses will help many other kids, some even the same age as us, find a home and community of their own.” -Dylan Feldman ’23

Service Leadership to Promote the Voice of the Youth

Harper Valentine ’23 is an executive committee member of the Oakland Youth Advisory Commission (OYAC), a youth-led group that advises city leadership on trending issues from the youth perspective, including policy proposals and support for ballot measures. Last spring, Harper participated in a weekend retreat with the commission and had the opportunity to meet with Oakland Mayor Libby Shaaf and Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong.

“I saw O’Dowd’s charism of community in diversity represented in the commission’s members,” said Harper. “It made me proud that we could work together to empower Oakland residents and disable systems of oppression within our city.”

One of the areas Harper provided guidance to city leaders was on budget recommendations. She worked with fellow commissioners to create a Youth-Led Candidates Forum, so young people could learn about Oakland political candidates in a youth-oriented space. “This is what makes OYAC so great.” Harper said. “The commission creates a space in which youth voices are not only heard but also respected and valued.”


Through our robust service learning programs, students at O’Dowd are challenged to grow in their faith, community, and character. Their learning experiences ignite their passions and interests beyond the classroom, to serve and transform our greater world.


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