As the Yu Ming community gathered in the courtyard to celebrate the opening of a new school campus in West Oakland under the hot early September sun, among those at the ribbon-cutting ceremony was Samantha, a 2022 Yu Ming graduate now in high school.
“It was a unique opportunity for our kids to be bilingual,” said Samantha’s mom, Doris. Samantha powered through early struggles learning Mandarin (at Yu Ming, students “learn life lessons, like perseverance,” Doris said). Now she’s excelling in AP Mandarin at Alameda High.
Samantha said she attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony to show her support for the Yu Ming community and to “meet new people, meet new parents,” she said. “They ask me about my experience and it’s nice to share that with them.”
She said she’s excited the students have a permanent building after years searching. According to Yu Ming CEO emeritus Sue Park, school leadership looked at over 150 properties over eight years before purchasing the current site on Chestnut Street.
“I’m relieved kids have a safe space where they can learn,” Samantha said.
The new school building houses what is currently a K-3 school that will expand to K-4.
“This school is not just a building, it is a haven of knowledge, a hub of creativity, and a nurturing environment that values curiousity, critical thinking and compassion,” said Stacey Wang, Yu Ming’s CEO.
Wang, who took over as Yu Ming CEO this July, said in an interview that the ribbon-cutting ceremony was “a celebration of the long-term permanence of Yu Ming in the community,” adding that “until you have roots somewhere, it’s hard to feel fully home.”
Greg Callaham, the principal at the school, said he was happy to be on a school campus “that was built to be a school.” The previous campus on Alcatraz and San Pablo in North Oakland was a converted church where the basement would flood. “People are happier and brighter in this space,” he said.
Alameda County Board of Education trustees Janevette Cole (Area 5) and Ken Berrick (Area 3) were among those to speak at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“Yu Ming has a special place in my heart,” Cole said in her speech. “I’m so excited for this new campus. It is absolutely beautiful. The fact that you can purchase it and have a permanent home is wonderful. I’m thankful that our Board has been a part of that, in making this a permanent home for you.”
Even with the new school site, Yu Ming’s building needs remain complex and challenging. As a three-site charter, the Chestnut campus solves the building issue for just one site. Two remain: a site off MLK Way in Oakland that serves grades 4-8 (and will serve grades 5-8 next year when fourth graders move to the Chestnut site) and another site in San Leandro that serves grades K-2 but will eventually grow to a K-8, Wang said.
“We are trying to settle all three campuses, hopefully this year,” Wang said. “But real estate is never in our control.”
Wang said the goal is for all Yu Ming families to be as happy about their facility as the families present at the Chestnut ribbon-cutting were.
“Our parent community has been with us every step of the way, they are really partners in everything that we do,” she said. “So as much as this is a win for Yu Ming, it’s definitely a win for our parents as well.”