Category Archives: News

Beacon of Light

April 3, 2018

Hi Friends,

Welcome to Beacon of Light, our new book project created to celebrate our 20 years of impact in the community.  It is my pleasure to share bits of our journey by featuring the real issues and people touched in this book, as we act on our mission to improve the social and economic status of individuals departing from poverty.

Launching this blog on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination is divine to me.  I was 4 years old when I first met my hero while watching his funeral.  Backwards right?  You normally meet your hero first, and then they die. But, as a child born in the civil rights 60’s, MLK’s death was a paramount event that opened my eyes, touched my heart and sparked my sense of justice.  Today, I am well aware that I do this work in a larger context, as a part of bringing about love and justice to individuals in need.

Beacon of Light, the name my good friend Kristi gave to uu when describing our work in the community – is a collaboration between myself and Amir Saadiq, photographer. On March 22, 2018,  Amir, walked into our social enterprise, one rainy morning, offering to  “capture our work.” I thought to myself, how did he know I wanted to do this?  How did he know I’ve always wanted to highlight our story?  Bring light to the beautiful women I’ve served over the years?  Rewrite their narratives?  That’s how life works right, think about that think long enough and it comes to pass.

It is my hope that through Amir’s photos and my words, you will not only learn about our story but you will “feel,” our story.   Beacon of Light will be partially unveiled at our Mother’s Celebration  on May 6th, 2018 and briefly shared on our social media, as we bring it to life. It is our hope that you enjoy and appreciate our story.

With love, Tracey, founder urban university




Oakland’s Thrift Stores Are More Than Fashionable

Urban Boutique Oakland


Spring’s around the corner, and that “out with the old, in the with new” itch is creeping up! Besides providing us with inexpensive-but-still-quality alternatives to mainstream consumerism, thrift stores often work to progress their community through social advocacy and funding public services.

Oakland’s got a solid handful of thrift stores that double as community organizations. If you’re like me — too broke to consistently support locally made goods and too cynical to buy into corporate mass production — thrift stores hit that sweet spot where social consciousness meets affordability.


-Article by Simone Larson & Photography by Anna Vignet, March 10, 2015


Read the full Oakland Local article here

body-positive styling with a humanitarian twist

Found at Urban Boutique

As a lady who has always proudly worn her heart on her proverbial sleeve, I am even more thrilled to now wear my voice boldly upon my entire ensemble! Being surrounded by the vibrant scene of Oakland, I am inspired constantly to assert and express myself through the fashion choices that I make, which have evolved over the years. What started with dressing for others and wearing what I thought I should, is both ending and continuing on with wearing whatever…I want/like/feel good dressed in (which to me is the ultimate body positive statement).

-Rachel Otis, January 21, 2015


Read about Urban Boutique in the full Wear Your Voice Article here

A Framework for State-Level Promise Zones


Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced the launch of the Promise Zones initiative, an effort to strengthen the federal government’s relationship with local leaders and to increase access to the resources and expertise necessary to improve mobility and economic opportunity for high-poverty communities. The Promise Zones model supports innovative localities as they implement comprehensive, evidence-based strategies to revitalize high-poverty communities. But there is no need for the model to be restricted to the federal level, particularly since many states are pursuing strategies to address these same goals. Rather than waiting for a federal Promise Zones designation, state leaders can take the initiative to adopt this model to increase opportunity for their residents who live in high-poverty areas. Action of this type would be an unprecedented step by state officials to join local and federal leaders to drive cross-sector, evidence-based solutions to fight poverty.


-Tracey Ross & Melissa Boteach, December 11, 2014


Read the full Center for American Progress Article Here

Article: Deep racial divide in Oakland schools’ attendance rates

Racial divide

The first detailed look at attendance in Oakland schools shows a deep racial divide between students in class and habitual no-shows, a pattern reflected in grades, test scores and graduation rates.

That big difference between who’s in class and who isn’t helps explain much of the achievement gap between white and Asian students and their African American peers.

Nearly 1 of 5 African American students in Oakland is chronically absent from school, missing at least 10 percent of the 180-day school year. Just 1 in 20 white and Asian students miss that much school.


-Jill Tucker, September 27, 2014


Read the full SF Gate article here

Article: California community colleges may soon offer bachelor’s degrees

Up to 15 community colleges could start offering a bachelor’s degree next year under a bill working its way through the state Assembly.

Senate Bill 850, introduced by state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, would authorize California Community Colleges, in consultation with the California State University and University of California systems, to launch the baccalaureate degree pilot program Jan. 1.

“What we’re seeing nationwide is there is a huge skills gap, and so we know the community colleges have not just the ability to fill that gap but are uniquely placed to do it,” said Kevin Powers, a legislative consultant for Block.

Read the full Daily Breeze article here.

Article: Asset Limits Are a Barrier to Economic Security and Mobility


“Our nation’s public assistance programs do a lot to mitigate hardship and support employment. Without the safety net, the U.S. poverty rate would be nearly twice as high as it is today.

However, many of these work and income supports come with restrictive asset limits—eligibility requirements that penalize savings and ownership and are counterproductive to the goal of helping families achieve economic security. Asset limits can make it difficult—if not impossible—for families to get the help they need when they fall on hard times.”

– Rebecca Vallas and Joe Valenti, September 10, 2014

Read the full article from Center for American Progress here.

urban university Launches New Website!

urban university is proud to announce our brand new website,  With this new website, we hope to better serve our community, program participants, partners, and urban furniture and urban boutique customers. The website will showcase our Single Moms at Work program, upcoming events, and news and updates about our work in the community.

Please visit our store pages, urban furniture and urban boutique, to see what new items we have in the stores and visit our events calendar to learn about upcoming sales, workshops, and community events.

If you’re interested in learning more about donating goods or volunteer opportunities, come visit us at the stores or drop us a line!

We proudly built this website in partnership with Catchafire thanks to a generous donation from CJ Vohs. The website was built by the multi-talented (and patient!) Andy Karolin.

Article: 3 Reasons Subsidized Jobs Should Be Part of an Economic Mobility Agenda

American Progress 2

“Under subsidized jobs programs, the government reimburses employers for some or all of an employee’s wages, subject to specific conditions. Unlike direct public-sector employment initiatives, subsidized jobs programs engage the private and nonprofit sectors. These programs represent an important tool for ensuring that all who seek employment have the opportunity to participate in the labor market. In recessions, when unemployment is widespread, subsidized jobs programs typically have the objective of providing immediate work opportunities to struggling families, stimulating the local economy, and temporarily assisting hard-hit businesses.”

– Rachel West, July 30, 2014

Read the full post on the Center for American Progress website here.