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 our 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 their GED, enroll in college, and, ultimately, become productive citizens and community leaders.

Our prevention and early intervention program focuses on reducing involvement in crime and gangs, drug and alcohol abuse, student dropouts, 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 formed in 2011 as an outgrowth of CERI’s work with Cambodian teens.

Children’s Program clients meet once a week. During a regular session, their time together begins with a healthy snack and some play time. They then do homework together and participate in a discussion group. Discussion topics often focus on the importance of staying in school and getting an education, identity development, gang prevention, and how to build a meaningful life. Topics often expand to include family life, particularly the choices made by older siblings who are, for many, involved in gangs and criminal activity. Often, the children 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, formed 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 and 2 Burmese) from refugee families. All of these young women are between the ages of 14 and 21, with the exception of one 24-year old. Three young women are students still in high school, three are in community college, and one is working while pursuing her GED. The other five clients are currently not in school.

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

This program serves high school and transitional age youth (ages 14-24) living in low-income neighborhoods who are at-risk for gang involvement, substance abuse, and sex-trafficking. With many of our youth identifying as refugees, immigrants, or the children of Khmer genocide survivors, CERI’s workshops aim to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma by providing services that are client-centered, trauma-informed, and delivered through the lens of racial, social and LGBTQ+ justice.

Participants meet on Thursdays from 4-6pm for one hour of leadership workshops and one 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. Activity themes 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, and Community Service Projects.


Young Men

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

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


Young Mothers

The ROYA Young Mothers Program addresses the complex needs of young parents (ages 16-24) from highly-traumatized and isolated refugee and immigrant families. The program includes:

  • Full time case management.

  • Weekly individual therapy sessions.

  • A weekly mother and child bonding program.

  • A weekly mother’s support group with children playdates.

  • Regular outdoor and nature outings.

  • Regular educational workshops (including family planning, nutrition, pregnancy, breast feeding, food safety and encouraging positive communication).

All services are offered free of charge, with interpreters 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 community. The lack of recognition for the very lives, experiences, and needs of this community subset has alarming implications that have been ignored for too long.

CERI is now offering counseling and social services—at no cost—to the LGBTQ+ Southeast Asian (SEA) community.* This space honors the complexities of our community’s needs, identities, and experiences, with focus on personal and intergenerational trauma, historical and daily oppression, the implications of anything that keeps any of us from being who we truly deserve to be and become in this world.

This program offers support for: grief, money stress, being "out," immigration anxiety, gender dysphoria, conscious uncoupling, open/polyamory dynamics, passive aggression, kink, interracial conflicts, discrimination, and more.

* SEA countries include Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, East Timor, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia.