When was the last time you failed?

The instructor asked the incoming high schoolers this question during our morning gathering at College Track, a non-profit organization that guides high school students and their families toward graduating college. I sat in the classroom to participate in the discussion and asked myself this question, “When was the last time I failed?”

I was stuck.

Yes, I made some mistakes last year on staff at USF. I fell short of what it means to be a friend or roommate on multiple occasions. But did I fail? I probably wouldn’t use stronger words like that. Before I start going down the road of my successes (or what seems like a lack of failure), I considered a different path. Perhaps my lack of failure isn’t about my successfulness, but the absence of risk-taking.


I was scared to be around them. These 14 year olds intimidated me. I remember assisting one of the first seminars and feeling like I had no authority in the classroom. Though I was nearly 10 years older, I had to fake confidence to hide my insecurity. They experienced life so different than me. Majority of the freshmen class at College Track saw violence, human trafficking, and the effects of poverty in their everyday lives. I feared not being able to connect. I feared making an ignorant comment or question. I feared hurting them.

In other words, I had a fear for failure (no wonder I had avoided it so well). I did not want to be another teacher who failed them, when so many other people and systems have failed these students already. Whether the failure came from absent parents, a faulty education system, or biased laws–failure was something I could not bare to add to their burden.

During the first week at College Track one of the students came back after class and made sure she had her homework correct. It was a simple gesture I appreciated (my fake confidence seemed to be working for students to want to finish their homework). Throughout the summer she took initiative to learn, and to go above and beyond what was expected of her.

I learned later that this particular student’s brother was a victim of gun violence, that she also requested financial assistance during the summer for her lunches. Her simple gestures throughout the summer, common signs of what a teacher would call a “good student,”became something more than an example of good work ethic. She became an example of resiliency.

These students had something to teach me about failure. The term that the BayUP team and College Track used repeatedly throughout the summer was:

Resilience: the ability to recover and and overcome in the midst of adversity and failure.

As I got to know individual students such as the one in the story, each was a living testimony of this resilience. They were people who have recovered and pressed on toward opportunities like college. They ran against statistics which say they are unlikely to succeed. Although failure tastes familiar in their environment, they practiced resiliency that came out in simple ways in their personal poems, their curiosity to learn, or in their improvements on math problems.

In reflection of this summer at College Track, I am learning not to fear failure through this idea of resiliency that these students have modeled for me so well. They welcomed my inevitable failure, and taught me about resilience not only by example, but because of their hospitality. Though I may not look like them, they offered trust, vulnerability, and openness to let me into their lives. Though I may never understand the places where these students come from, it is because of their mercy that allows me to be in their classrooms. How they have welcomed me this summer is stronger than any way that I could have fail them. What resilient and merciful people I was around!

Ultimately, these students invited me into vulnerability that comes with resilience, to risk sitting in my potential to fail as a posture to serve.



Why Am I Here?

At the beginning of BayUP, I asked myself this question, “Why am I here?” Now that BayUP is over, I think I’ve found an answer. Although it’s not a clear-cut reason, I feel that there have been many things that God has opened my eyes to over the summer.

For the first few weeks I felt a lot of tension with this question. It wasn’t until we started to share our stories and be vulnerable with one another that I began to feel a sense of purpose and belonging. With each program day, I learned more about the people around me. They gave faces to the issues we were diving into: food justice, criminal justice, immigration, education, and human trafficking. Between my house and worksite, I learned to be more open about my thoughts and feelings, whether it was about things we learned or things that were simply on my mind.

Through the friends I’ve made this summer, God has shown me the importance of community and relationships. That until I myself take the risk to be vulnerable, how can I ask the same of others. I didn’t expect to learn about community and myself this summer. I thought I’d be moved only by the content of the program. But God chose to show me more than that, in addition to learning how to live differently in relation to how He sees justice; God has shown me how to live for Him in community with others.

I am sad that BayUP has ended, but what I learned is still with me, through my experiences and the people I got to know. I pray that God constantly reminds us all of the journeys we’ve had this summer, and how He is moving even when we can’t see it.

-Yaya Campbell

Coming out of BayUP

Hi friends,

It’s been an amazing summer in so many ways, but also a very busy one! Thanks for your patience as we continue to share our thoughts and experiences on this blog even in the coming days and weeks as BayUP ends on Thursday and we have more time to reflect and write afterwards.

In the meanwhile, we wanted to share the following letter written by our awesome BayUP director Yu-Shuan in order to help our friends and family care for us and love us well as we leave BayUP and return to home or school. Hope you find it helpful, and feel free to let me (ecooledge@gmail.com) or any of us know if you have any questions or thoughts about it. Chances are, if you’re someone who’s taking the time to read this blog (and especially this long-ish letter), at least one person on our team loves you deeply and can’t wait to catch up with you soon :)!



ps. Sorry for the weird wordpress formatting :/.


Dear Friend/Family of a BayUPer,

Thanks so much for partnering with your friend as they participated in BayUP this summer.

I wanted to offer some suggestions to you to help your friend transition back to their lives at

home and school. You may be surprised to know that the transition home is often harder than

the transition to the new culture of the city. This is because students often come back and

have trouble communicating what they learned and experienced. Sometimes they have a hard

time finding people to listen to their stories. Sometimes they are overwhelmed by the relative

material wealth they return to their lives compared to the poverty that they saw in the middle of


As their friend, it is good for you to be aware that the transition home can at times be difficult.

This can help you set appropriate expectations for your friendship in the first few months after

they have returned home. And there are some ways that you can help your friend make the

transition back home:

1. Talk to your friend before they return. What would they like their first week to be like

when they get home (they may not know for sure, but talking about it doesn’t hurt!).

2. If you are picking them up from the project, remember that they are coming off of an

intense summer emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. THEY ARE TIRED.

They may not be up for an immediate welcome home party, or all the relatives to

descend on the house, or dinner out. Most likely they will want a shower and some

sleep. Ask them what they would prefer. They will appreciate your warm welcome.

3. If you are not meeting them at the airport or picking them up, a card waiting for them at

home or a phone call the day after their return is a great way to let them know you are

glad they are home.

4. The thing your friend will need most from you is your listening ear! They want

to tell the story of their summer, but often find it hard to know where to begin. The

question “How was your summer?” can be hard to answer because it is such a broad

question. Asking LOTS of specific questions is the best way to find out what the

summer was like. Here are some examples:

o What was a typical day like?

o What was your favorite thing about your summer experience?

o What was the hardest thing about your summer experience?

o What was the thing that was most interesting to you about the culture you were


o What is different about how people relate to each other here compared to the

culture you were in this summer?

o What was the funniest or most embarrassing thing that happened to you?

o What was the food like? What did you enjoy? Dislike?

o What was your team like? Who were the people you were closest too?

o How were your expectations about your summer met or not met?

o What did you learn about yourself? About others? About God?

o What are some ways you want to apply what you learned now that you are


o How does it feel to be home? What did you most miss about home?

o What do you miss about your summer culture now that you are home?

5. You don’t have to ask all these questions at once! Consider having a couple of

extended times (at least) with your friend where you ask questions about the summer.

Maybe once shortly after their return, then again when the pictures are developed (if

they are not already on a digital camera!)

6. Periodically ask how they are thinking and feeling about their summer and how they are

applying what they have learned throughout the fall semester.

7. Some other fun things you could consider:

• If your friend learned to prepare any traditional food from their summer culture,

have a night where they make dinner (or at least one dish!) for you.

• Look through whatever souvenirs your friend returned with and ask questions

about them: were they given as a gift? by whom? what was that relationship

like? If it wasn’t’ a gift, what prompted them to buy this particular souvenir?

• Invite other friends of yours and your BAyUP friend to hear about the summer.

Consider hosting a little dessert and let your friend tell his or her story and show

some pictures to a group of people.

8. It is ok to remind your friend that you had a summer too! Life in your world did not stop

just because they were on a summer project. Tell them about your summer . . .

9. Your friend may seem weird or respond to situations differently than they did before

they left. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the changes you notice. Let them

know you want to care for them while at the same time giving them the freedom to

change and grow.

1. Help them to re-engage with their friends on campus and their responsibilities in classes

and with InterVarsity by helping them brainstorm ways to integrate their summer

experience into what they are doing now.

10.Most of all, continue to pray for and with your friend. Encourage them to take time for

reflection and to be with Jesus.

The most important thing is just to be patient and ask a lot of questions. Returning home is

often as much a part of the growth process as the summer at BAyUP. I believe the Lord is

using all of these experiences to make your friend more like Him. Thanks again for blessing

your BAyUP friend with your prayers, support and encouragement. May you also be blessed.


Yu-Shuan Tarango-Sho

BayUP Director

Random poem/prayer thing

I wanted to share a poem/prayer thing that I wrote a couple of days back – very unpolished, but just something to help me process all the thoughts and feelings swirling around. I share with the hope that in the midst of the randomness and unclear-ness of it you might connect with something or sense God speaking to you in some way. Also, I’m not trying to be too artsy with the formatting or spacing of lines, this is just how WordPress rolls, lol. So, without further explanation or apology :p…


What does it mean to be made in the living, breathing, creating, redeeming image

     of the Living, Breathing, Creating, Redeeming God?

Minuscule fractions of infinite joy miraculously made finite as precious crystals growing in the mixed, mixed-up soil of a broken heart

Or tiny slivers of finite yet unfathomable pain that still feel enough to break the back of the long-suffering, heavy-laden soul who carries them?

How many times have I seen Your image in anguish and judged him as selfish and not worth being heard

Or heard Your image cry out the pangs of oppression like childbirth

       and turned away as though her problems were somehow separable from my own – 

       wanting nothing more than to celebrate the birth of Justice without also bearing the labor pains that bring it to life.


This is my confession, as You open my eyes but not always in the ways I hoped for,

      as You open my heart but not without great cost:

That where there is incredible beauty, I am slow to see You;

That the sin I am quick to condemn in fellow image-bearers has deep roots in me;

That sometimes I am afraid to see and seek truth;

That I have often chosen what is easy over what is right

      and have lived by the lie that I can have my own Shalom while my brothers and sisters are denied it,

      the lie that because I don’t always know how to speak comfort, wisdom, truth, or hope, I might as well not try,

      the lie that my silence doesn’t speak as loudly as my words, and my failure to act louder than my actions.


And yet – this is my hope, as You restore my weary soul but not always as instantaneously as I would like, 

     as You redeem my fragile faith but not always without letting it be shaken to its very core:

That the best gifts You do not withhold from anyone who asks;

That You are quick to come in mercy the second we know we need it;

That when I walk in faith, the demons scatter and flee when my feet hit the ground;

That it doesn’t matter whether or not I have any power at all in this world as long as I use every power I do have for good;

That if I do not stand firm in my faith, I will not stand at all [Isaiah 7];

That what I know and have seen is only the tip of a large iceberg that God is faithful to reveal in His time;

That justice will be served in one hand with mercy in the other;

That I am living, breathing, created, and redeemed with intention and purpose;

That Jesus is the one hope of a fallen world.


Lord, have mercy on me, and help me to see this

     and to sing this

     in everything.


-Liz Cooledge

KTVU CH2 Report: “OAKLAND: Foster children proving to be targets for identity theft”

KTVU CH2 Report: “OAKLAND: Foster children proving to be targets for identity theft”

“Foster children are falling victim to identity thieves and it’s proving to be a widespread problem that has lawmakers and child advocates searching for a solution.”

First Place for Youth, the non-profit agency that Yaya and Jimmy are interning at this summer, was filmed as part of a story by KTVU Channel 2 News. Click on the link above to check out the story to see what a day at First Place is like (while being informed of an interesting issue).

Trayvon. Zimmerman. Racism. Guns. Justice.

Ever since Saturday’s verdict of “not guilty”, there have been countless discussions surrounding the Trayvon court case in our household, at the church I am attending, during Monday’s program day, and even at my work sites at First Place for Youth and Project Re-Connect here in Oakland. Issues of racism and racial profiling, gun control and 2nd amendment rights, and the criminal justice system as a whole continue to be brought up and discussed. Our household has a wide range of different opinions in regards to these topics, but nevertheless we have been and are able to have good, peaceful, and constructive dialogues.

As you may be well aware of, thanks to the media presence here in Oakland, there has been a whole slew of demonstrations and protests throughout the city. Across the nation, thousands of people have gathered over the past four days to express their dissatisfaction with the outcome of the Zimmerman case. A majority have joined the marches and assemblies in peaceful solidarity to remind the nation of the social injustices that still exist in our nation today.

On the other hand, there are a select few who would rather express their disappointment and outrage by destroying a menswear retailer…

… a mobile phone retailer…

… a bank branch…

… and even the non-profit youth media outlet, Youth Radio.

Click here to watch the CBS5/KPIX report on Youth Radio.

©2013 CBS Local Media

It angers me that some people would see a peaceful demonstration through the downtown streets of Oakland as an opportunity to damage, steal, and incite violence. Hearing stories of a waiter being brutally attacked by a hammer-wielding maniac while trying to protect the restaurant and bar at which she works makes me sick. Watching a video of a CBS2/KCAL9 reporter and cameraman from L.A. being attacked by two thugs who are seen scampering away infuriates me, especially as a filmmaker and an avid photojournalist.

These individuals need to realize that when they do things like this, it only hurts the cause that everyone is fighting for. The media gets distracted from the main issue because people fighting, lighting things on fire, and destroying property is more interesting than an old court case. The police end up intervening, causing even more criminal injustices. And through it all, they end up losing support for the greater cause because who would want to join the side that seems to have caused thousands of dollars of damage and injured countless people (when in reality it is the actions of few).

These people need to learn from our damn history. The greatest changes in our nation’s history (in terms of fixing social injustices) did not occur through the destruction of buildings or through violence inflicted upon others; it was achieved through nonviolent organizations of passionate individuals who spoke up about the injustices to our leaders and to the nation.

— Jimmy Tran

Visitor’s Day Update

With Visitor’s Day coming up in three days, we want to make sure that everyone is clear on what is happening throughout the day. To read more about it, please visit our Visitor’s Day Info tab or our Facebook event.

Hope to see you all Saturday!

“Blessed Are Those Who Mourn.”

When injustices are brought out of hiding into my viewing, I am repulsed. The knowledge, the sight of it, either makes me turn away or perhaps I stare at it longer and I feel immobile about the complexity of systems that keep injustices in place. When it comes out of hiding, I am at once reminded that often, I am in a position where I can choose not to see it or experience it. Then comes guilt, a feeling that I have not done enough, was not aware enough, that I must do something to change the world! Or perhaps is it to rid myself of the same darkness I see out there, in me?

“I am from sirens, gunshots, and tears.” -9th grader describing his neighborhood in Oakland.

During the last few weeks I have been working at College Track, an organization that guides high school students to college and to graduate from college. I had an opportunity to lead a workshop where students wrote poems describing different experiences of where they came from. The quote above was one of many students who wrote about gun violence as a regular part of their lives. When a 14 year-old boy writes about the same issues I read in articles, hear about from speakers, and watch in documentaries at BayUP–injustices come out of hiding and push me into a whirlwind of repulsiveness and sadness. When I see that it is consistently my Black and Latino students voicing these concerns I am overcome with grief and immobility. I am then quick to ask, “What’s the next action item? How can I be a part of seeing change for these students? What is my role?”

And yes, many things need to change.

But–along with others in the BayUP community, I am learning about a key process that is often missing in the process of doing any justice work: Lament: to mourn a loss, to express sorrow.

But why waste time in sadness, why sit in the discomfort of other people’s suffering?

To my surprise, the tears shed during times of lament have brought clearer vision for me in a few things:

Lament leading to confession

As the BayUP community and I have learned about different systems such as the criminal justice and immigration systems, we can’t help but bring our own junk into the conversation about injustices. The racism and discrimination I see out there is in me, and has potential to be expressed in the same way as the perpetrators. If the same evil is not overtly expressed, I am still prone toward apathy and blindness to my neighbors who have been directly affected. Staying in the sorrow has been allowing me to own the sin I also see in society. I stand on no pedestal, even if I say I am against injustice. I am in need of God’s mercy, just as much as those who have abused their power over others.

Lament leading to empathy

Through lament, Jesus is inviting me to join in with mourning of those who have directly felt effects of injustices. Even if guilt is part of my processing, lamenting moves sorrow over myself to sorrow and empathy for others. My neighbors’ experiences become connected to me–their losses, my losses, and their joys, my joys.

Lament leading to hope

To be frank, lamenting isn’t fun. I am no fan of mourning, the pain can feel too overwhelming to sit with. So why does Jesus in his sermon say, “Blessed are those who mourn?” What’s so blessed about this posture? During the past weeks at BayUP, when lamenting has been at it’s peak for me, I am floored to the point of hopelessness. But, it’s an interesting kind of hopelessness. It’s a hopelessness in everything else, but God himself. There’s nothing, nothing that can change anything unless God moves. I suck, the Church sucks, non-profits suck, society sucks. But God–He renews me, renews the Church, renews the non-profits, and renews society to bring change. His steadfast love never ceases, therefore I can only hope in Him.

In the grand scheme of lamenting, Jesus has been asking me to put away my superwoman outfit to change the world, and to put on sackcloths to join with others in mourning. He finished his phrase, “Blessed are those who mourn,” with, “for they will be comforted.” Indeed I cannot recognize this kind of comfort unless I understand the deepness of the wound in me and in others. Maybe, only then, does Jesus walk with me in sackcloths to go see changes in my communities.

-Sarah Lee

The Labor of Love

BayUP Team Photo

BayUP team at Jack London’s Square DANCE PARTAY

The day after I arrived in Oakland, I found myself scrubbing the caked layers of “who knows what” off of a toilet wondering, “What on earth did I get myself into?”. My knees were sore and my back ached, but I couldn’t get my mind off of one thing. Although I had spent an entire work day as a House Keeper, cleaning and washing the grime off of a Bachelor Pad, I couldn’t shake the reality that this wasn’t me and that the next day I wouldn’t have to clean another house in order to support myself because, as a college student, I am privileged. 

As I began to vacuum the floors of the master bedroom, I had a sudden epiphany that took me down Memory Lane.

Now, before I give you a glimpse of what I saw down Memory Lane I think it’d be helpful to provide you with some background information as to why I was scrubbing someones toilet in the first place. After all, I am supposed to be on an urban mission’s project….right? WELL, let’s just say that as part of BayUP’s orientation week, we were asked to step into the shoes of someone who is part of our country’s working poor. That said, for a full 8-hour work day I, Samantha Santamaria, was a house keeper. 

Surprisingly, the hardest part of the day that I encountered was not the fact that my eyes were burning slightly from the amount of bleach that I slathered on the bathroom counters. It wasn’t even the fact that there was something green and fuzzy growing inside the refrigerator. It was the fact that I am where I am today, a very privileged college student, because of the same type of domestic labor. Now, let’s go back to the place called Memory Lane that I was talking about. 

Growing up in the Central Valley, I would sometimes join my mom on the weekends when she cleaned the local laundromat. I can remember very clearly how much I actually enjoyed going with her. There was something cool and interesting about picking the lint from the fifteen or so dryer vents and I oh so loved the smell of Pinesol. So much so, that I anticipated the end of our time cleaning, not because it meant that we would soon be going home, but because by the end of our time cleaning, when my mom finally wheeled out the big yellow bucket from the cleaning closet and she began to fill it with Pinesol and water, I couldn’t help but want to stick my nose in the bucket and take a HUGE whiff. Pinesol is simply the greatest. 

My father has worked picking oranges and olives in la Pizca, as many Spanish-speakers call it. I could always tell how hard his work was when I saw him at the end of each day sitting on our worn couch, his bare feet placed up on a chair, with his shirt open and a bowl of beans on his lap. I used to sit next to my dad and as the sound of a commentator’s voice for a soccer game filled the room, I looked at my dad’s hands, my eyes following the dirt-caked creases. I’d examine the tears in his shirt and the tracks of sweat left on his face. Hard work indeed.

Before my parents is a long-line of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins who have worked in a wide range of domestic labor: Hotel house keepers, bank cleaners, cooks, construction workers, day laborers, baby-sitters & nannies, landscape cleaners, and field workers, As I stepped into the shoes of many of my own family members, a foreign sense of guilt weigh down on me. I am privileged and this privilege is due in large part to the hard labor that my family has endured generation after generation. The guilt in realizing that as a  first generation college student I will probably not endure the same hard labor as my parents and extended family, the same hard labor that they have done routinely year after year and day after day. And then I began to think, “Why me?”. Why is it that after so many generations I get to be the one to reap the benefits of my parent’s hard work? Why is it that so many people in my family, even with all of their hard work, have struggled to get by and I will probably have it easier because I’ll earn a piece of paper in 2 years that will deem me more valuable in the eyes of many employers? 

As these questions went running through my mind, I became very angry, but as the day went on (and I got some sleep and food in me) I began to think more about what keeps my parents going through the hard work that they do. Why and how my mom gets out of bed every morning to face the hard work of being a daycare provider. I have since began to reflect in the idea of “the labor of love”. I believe it is the reason behind why parents many times work very hard and often settle for less in the name of this labor of love. I have come to believe that the love and security that I get by way of my parent’s hard labor is a gift that my parents give me and not merely a privilege handed to me. It is a gift that must be cherished and used to help me be the best that I can be. If I choose to believe in or thrive on the guilt that comes with the reality that I will never really understand how it is to walk in the shoes of my mother and father or my grandmother and grandfather, I am dishonoring this labor of love, their gift to me. 

Sam Santamaria

Welcome to our blog!

Hello friend!

Welcome to our BayUP ’13 blog! We are so excited that you’re checking out this awesome site (or what will soon become an awesome site as BayUP begins and we begin to post here) and presumably have some sort of interest in hearing how the summer goes, what God’s doing in and around and through us, and how you can be praying for us!

As a general introduction, we are 8 people participating in a 6-week summer program (June 19th-Aug 1st) called BayUP – short for Bay Area Urban Project. Jimmy, Sam, Sarah Rojas, and Zach are students at UC Santa Cruz; Lauren and Yaya are students at Stanford; Liz is finishing up her intern year with InterVarsity at Stanford; and Sarah Lee is on staff with InterVarsity at USF. We will be living together in a house in East Oakland and hopefully getting to know some of our neighbors in the community there and learning from them and their experiences, as well as learning from each other and having fun together in our house!

During the week days we’ll be volunteering 25 hrs/wk at different sites around Oakland – BayUP partners with a bunch of really cool organizations pursuing social justice in various ways. You’ll hear more about the sites from each of us as time goes on! We also have one full day per week of learning about, engaging with, and praying for different relevant issues such as human trafficking, race and ethnicity, criminal justice, and education.

Big-picture-wise, what we are hoping and praying for this summer is “mutual transformation” – that we would get to see and be a part of God’s transforming work in places that are often under-served or seem forgotten, and that God would use this summer to powerfully transform us as well, to make us more like Christ and form us into people who love more deeply and live our lives more justly. Please join us in praying more generally for this mutual transformation now, and keep tuned in throughout the summer for all the details of how it plays out!

Thanks for reading, and have a great day :)!