Shaping kids’ futures at EOYDC — including its own CEO’s

By Narasu Rebbapragada, Associate Director, Brand Engagement Content – Marketing

Both The Clorox Company Foundation and East Oakland Youth Development Center have been making a difference in their communities for 45 years. That’s not just by happenstance. Our then-CEO, Robert Shetterly, was the driving force behind the creation of EOYDC in 1978, along with the establishment of its endowment, serving as a national model to help ensure that disenfranchised young people receive the same training and opportunities as those with wealthier backgrounds.

Today, EOYDC’s work developing the social and leadership capabilities of youth and young adults, mirroring the foundation’s longtime financial support for these causes, is a living tribute to Shetterly’s vision for a brighter future. With an approach grounded in the development of the whole person, the organization offers programs not only in education but also in the arts and wellness. It serves over 1,000 children and youth per year with $150,000 in scholarships and $300,000 in work-based learning programs.

The group champions not only career success but also a sense of belonging and joy for local young people of color who are among the most marginalized in their communities.

EOYDC’s approach to mentorship is unique — and has yielded results. It trains young people to work with their peers and younger people in meaningful leadership roles. About 60% of its team are themselves alumni of EOYDC programs, according to its CEO, Selena Wilson.

Wilson speaks from experience. She was 4 years old when she started going to West African dance class at the East Oakland Youth Development Center but stopped at age 12 when experiencing “a funk” she later realized was depression. Still, the middle-schooler had to take her younger sister to dance class, so she ended up hanging around the lobby at EOYDC. One day, the receptionist asked if she would help answer phones and file papers while she was waiting. She agreed and soon was volunteering even when her sister wasn’t taking dance class. By 13, she was a youth leader. Years later, she joined EOYDC as the vice president of organizational effectiveness before taking on her current role as CEO in 2022. 

Someone taking the time to connect with her made all the difference. “As an adult, I now look back on that and realize she didn’t really need my help,” says Wilson, “She realized that I needed her help.”