Crossing the Bay

A Student’s Journey from Sunnydale to UC Berkeley

Kionna is a studious 18-year-old freshman at UC Berkeley. Like most college students this fall, she is learning virtually, but unlike most, she was able to move into the dorms at Cal as they allowed a limited number of freshmen to live on campus while learning remotely. Growing up the youngest of five children with cousins and other close family in Sunnydale, Kionna is accustomed to adapting — here, Kionna lives in a modest single room and shares a bathroom with a suitemate. Ten days after moving in, she and other students who live on her floor in the dorm are able to safely interact with people on the same floor as they all have gone through COVID testing protocol according to UC standards and formed a ‘pod.’

KionnaKionna is considering a Political Science major and a Public Policy minor though things are still new, and she is acclimating to a full load of classes which include an Environmental Science class, a Letters & Science seminar,  and an African History and Culture class.

Last year, while at Leadership High School in San Francisco, Kionna was academically motivated and involved in service-oriented and extracurricular activities. For example, she took part in a program that emphasized alcohol prevention, where she spent time interviewing people and doing research. “I liked how we got the community voice as a part of the research, that was the cool part of it, doing that interactive research that highlighted community voice.”

Kionna, who was a steady member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco Sunnydale Clubhouse from ages seven to 18, attended yearly summer camps and won Citywide Youth of the year. Kionna reflects on the importance of the Boys and Girls Club, a key partner, in her development, and specifically Erin Gutierrez, Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco Director of Learning and development, she has always been there for me and supported me in everything I do.”

For two years Kionna was also part of the local SF chapter of My Brother & Sister’s Keeper (MBSK) Initiative, part of a national program President Obama started to uplift young people of color and improve their life outcomes. Kionna reflects, “I was a big observer. It was nice to be with other kids from different Hope SF communities and discuss problems we see and have adult allies guide us towards a solution.”

One of the highlights included a youth-led and organized Candidate forum for the SF Board of Education candidates that Kionna and other youth helped organize and lead, which gave her a close-up look into the political process and reinforced her desire to serve and uplift her community in Sunnydale.

Even though Kionna has moved across the Bay to study, her heart for activism and change remains with Sunnydale.

“For me specifically, I felt that I had to be the spokesperson for Sunnydale because nobody talks about Sunnydale. I had to be that representative. I think about a time that Mayor Breed had come to Sunnydale and Drew (Mercy Housing staff in Sunnydale) wanted me to go to a meeting and raise issues that I thought was a problem. In the meeting, I talked about literally how we had two corner stores. We don’t have healthy food options in Sunnydale, that’s why kids go get hot chips.”

That spurred Kionna and her youth leaders to start the Opportunities for All, Food Security Cohort. She helped raise awareness about where food is going in her community as she, along with other youth leaders, went to different local food banks and asked where food distribution was happening and tried to raise awareness about healthy options.

Kionna takes this activist spirit and desire to make a change for the better in her Sunnydale community with her across the bridge to UC Berkeley. We can’t wait to see what she continues to do in her academic and life journey.

*Featured photo of Kionna courtesy of Boys and Girls Club