Evolving with the times

Working to overcome stereotypes

by Judith Kahn


The Community Youth Center of San Francisco (CYC) was founded in 1970 at a

time when there was an increasing awareness of social issues and activism in the

Asian community. The aim of CYC was to address the problems of juvenile delinquency

and gang violence in the Asian community raging during that time.


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Students from Thurgood Marshall Academic, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Mission high schools and the Galileo Academy of Science and Technology celebrate three students’ birthdays at an after-school program located at the Community Youth Center. Photo by Philip Liborio Gangi.


The CYC was established to provide youths with alternatives and access to legitimate

means of achieving their aspirations and independence as well as reaching their

highest potential as individuals with a positive self and cultural identity. Its goal is to

create a physically and emotionally safe environment for its staff and youth community.

It serves 5,000 youths and families.


The CYC has six components to its program: behavioral health, workforce development,

leadership development, early and intensive intervention, education (elementary,

middle and high schools) and community outreach.


Although the six components of its programs and services and the goals of CYC have not

changed, some of the problems within these components have altered. For example, the

type of educational needs of students, the health issues youth now face and the type of

drugs now used by youths have changed.


The CYC’s mission is to empower and strengthen a diverse population of high-need

youth and their families by providing comprehensive youth development through

education, employment training, advice and other support services.


The mental health issues students now face are more problematic and intervention

programs between parents and students have increased. The youth center conducts

citywide parent counseling and empowerment training programs for Chinese

migrant parents on a weekly basis.


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Katherine Cheang, with arms raised, plays charades with students
during an after-school session at the Community Youth Center. Photo by Philip Liborio Gangi.


The workshops and support groups enable parents to understand their children’s needs,

know their parental rights, share individual experiences, improve family relationships,

discuss strategies and solutions, and utilize community resources.


The CYC has also published bilingual parenting guides for families and hosted multiple

parent summits for families in Chinatown.


The services that CYC provide are many. Each program offers various skills to succeed in

a given area. In its educational program, CYC provides academic resources and

counseling to aid youth in their high school completion and college preparation.


There are several after-school tutorial programs connected to various school-based

projects, where youth receive help with homework. The agency also provides

school-based dropout prevention workshops. Counselors are located within middle and

high schools to work directly with students to provide academic support and

enrichment activities.


In the employment program, counselors assist youth with after-school and summer

employment placements. Job development, readiness training and placements are the

primary objective of the employment programs.


The youth center also provides workshops that focus on interviewing

skills, resume writing and job application procedures, as well as computer skills.


A variety of youth development activities include leadership training and development

workshops to enhance the youth’s knowledge and awareness of community issues.

Most of the services provided by CYC are geared to help Asian youth, but it will also help

non-Asian groups, too.


The CYC has four centers in San Francisco, with its main office located at 1038 Post St.

There are also branch offices in the Bayview, at 4438 Third St., and two in the Richmond,

at 319 Sixth Ave., Suite 201, and a new office at 950 Clement St. Each of the centers works

with schools or other institutions in the area.


For instance, the Richmond centers interact with George Washington

High School and Presidio Middle School. The Bayview branch works closely with the

Bayview-Hunters Point Mobilization for Adolescent Growth in our Communities and the

Third Street Youth Center and Clinic.


The CYC also provides a variety of activities, including year-round team sport activities,

in order to promote healthy lifestyles, sportsmanship and teamwork.


Ten percent of CYC’s funding comes from private donations and 70 percent comes from

the SF Department of Children, Youth and Their Families.


According to Sara Ching Ting Wan, executive director of CYC, funding is always difficult

but there is another challenge that needs to be addressed – the model minority myth. She

states that the myth “postulates that Asians or Asian Americans are succeeding

and doing well as a population.”


“This myth prevents people from seeing the realities of challenges faced by Asian and

Asian-American communities,” Wan said.


For example, she points out that here in the Bay Area there are many Asian tech

workers, which contributes to the idea that Asians and Asian Americans are

educated and have the resources to succeed. But, in reality, there

are many immigrant families living in Chinatown and the Sunset

and Richmond districts who still need support services.


Wan, who has been executive director at the CYC for 15 years,

said she is happy to see that over the years many of the youth that

once received help from CYC have come back to work at the

center because they feel it was an important part of their lives.

Now, they have returned to be a part of the support system for others.


To learn more about the CYC, visit the website at

or call (415) 775-2636.

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