Youth Programs

In 2008 the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants (CERI) established its youth services program: Reviving Our Youths’ Aspirations (ROYA), named in memory of Roya Forouzesh, who was a close supporter of the clinic and a counselor who passionately worked with at-risk youth and their families.

The purpose of the ROYA program is to promote resiliency, help youth develop their full potentials, and train the future leaders. The ROYA program helps these youth build their self-esteem and confidence, develop more effective communication and coping skills, and repair family relationships. Participating youth also learn to set goals and get the individualized support they need to stay in school, finish high school or get a GED, enroll in college, and, ultimately, become productive citizens and community leaders.

Our prevention and early intervention program focuses on reducing involvement in crimes, gangs, drug and alcohol abuse, school drop out, teen pregnancy and sexual exploitation. ROYA provides at-risk children and youth with individual and group counseling, case management, mentoring, tutoring, job readiness, housing, and other support services, in conjunction with family counseling and parent education.



The ROYA Children’s Program was started in 2011 as an outgrowth of CERI’s work with Cambodian teens.

Children’s Program clients meet once a week. Their time together starts off with a healthy snack and some play time. They then do homework together and participate in a discussion group. Discussion topics focus on the importance of staying in school and getting an education, identity development, gang prevention, and how to create a meaningful life. They may also talk about their family life, particularly the choices made by their older siblings who are, at times, involved with gangs and crime. The children also go on field trips to the CERI community garden at Laney College and to nearby parks, supervised by ROYA staff. CERI also provides Individual counseling, case management, coordination with parents and school.


Young Women

The ROYA Young Women’s Group, started in 2011, aims to prevent women from being drawn into a life of sexual exploitation, drugs, and crime. The group currently serves 12 young women (10 Cambodian, 2 Burmese) from refugee families. All of the young women are between the age of 14 and 21, with the exception of one 24-year old. Three of the students are still in high school, three are in community college, and one is working and pursuing a GED. The others are currently not in school.

The young Women’s Group meets once a month for a sleepover at CERI, arriving at 5 pm on a Friday night and leaving around 9 pm the following day. The event starts with a circle check-in led by a CERI educator. The group discusses life management issues, personal and educational goals, communication and conflict resolution issues, and how to avoid high-risk behaviors and situations. The young women cook together and eat together. In between the monthly group meetings, these clients see a CERI counselor or educator, have home visits, and go on field trips or outings with CERI staff.


Youth Leadership

CERI’s Youth Leadership Program offers a safe space for young folks to develop community organizing skills, explore mental health issues, and promote personal wellness and self-esteem. CERI believes the youth are part of the solution and with the partnership of adult allies will create positive social change.

This program serves High School and Transitional Age Youth (14-24) living in low-income neighborhoods who are at-risk for gang involvement, substance abuse, and sex trafficking. Many of whom identify as children of Khmer genocide survivors, refugees and immigrants. All workshops aim to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma by providing services that are client-centered, trauma-informed, and through a lens of racial, social and LGBTQQIA justice.

Participants will meet on Thursdays from 4-6pm for 1 hour of leadership workshops and 1 hour of academic tutoring and/or professional development. All participants will have access to one-on-one case management, mental health services, meals, snacks, academic support and stipends. Activities will include: Team Building with Elders, Interpersonal Communication, Public Speaking Skills, Influencing Policy Change, Coalition Building , Art for Social Justice, Mental Health Awareness, Racial Justice and Colorism, Gender and Sexuality  , Healthy Decision Making, Harm Reduction, Mindfulness, Wellness Activities, Career Development, College Preparedness , Community Service Projects


Young Men

Started in 2011, the ROYA Young Men’s groups serves young men who are at risk for gang involvement. Most are sons or grandsons of CERI clients; others are classmates who are also from refugee families (Burmese, Vietnamese, Guatemalan, Salvadoran, and Mexican). All of the clients are form high-poverty, high-crime neighborhoods in Oakland where violence and gangs are a daily reality.

The Young Men’s Group currently has an enrollment of 12, with eight clients who attend regularly. The group is held once a week on Wednesday, from 2 to 6 pm (4 hours). Activities consist of a healthy snack, talking about what has happened over the last week, discussing guns, gangs, violence, and peer pressure, homework/tutoring, job readiness, weekly outings, and eating dinner together.


Young Mothers

Young Mother program addresses the complex needs of young parents (age 16-24) from highly traumatized and isolated refugee and immigrant families and includes:

  • Full time case management

  • Weekly individual therapy sessions  

  • Weekly mother and child bonding program

  • Weekly mother’s support group and children play dates

  • Regular nature and outdoor program

  • Regular educational workshops (i.e family planning, nutrition, pregnancy, breast feeding, food safety, positive communication, …)

All services are offered free of charge and interpreters are provided.

Our goal is to provide needed resources, mentoring, and support to end the cycle of trauma which causes violence, sexual exploitation and alcohol and drug abuse among underprivileged youth from refugee and immigrant families in East and West Oakland.


Therapy Program for LGBTQ+ Southeast Asians

CERI is proud to be expanding services to LGBTQ refugees and immigrants of color, with a focus on the Southeast Asian population. The lack of recognition for the very lives, experiences, and needs of this subset has alarming implications.

CERI is now offering counseling and social services—at no cost—to the LGBTQQIA Southeast Asian (SEA) community.* This space honors the complexities of our needs, identities, and experiences. That includes personal & intergenerational trauma, historical & daily oppression, as well as all that blocks us from who we truly deserve to be and become in this world.

Support for: Money stress, grief, being "out," immigration anxiety, gender dysphoria, conscious uncoupling, open/polyamory dynamics, passive aggression, kink, interracial conflicts, discrimination, and more!

*LGBTQQIA: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual

*SEA: Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, East Timor, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia