Berkeley Youth Institute

Brought to you by the YMCA of the Central Bay Area.


The Berkeley Youth Institute is a digital media and art youth development program that uses a hands on, experiential approach to foster a safe, healing, and transformative space for our young people. Through a technology lens we encourages our participants to cultivate imagination and curiosity, act in cooperation, and harness a passion for learning. Equipping ourselves with the tools of resilience, reflection, relationship building, and community advocacy we conclude our time by leaving behind a legacy and moving into opportunity.

Our Program is comprised of two components: the Summer Institute and the school-year Internship. The 8-week Summer Institute is the introduction to our program (open to incoming 9th and 10th graders only), which cultivates leadership and team-building through filmmaking and graphic design. The school-year Internship focuses on skill building, and provides workforce development through a social enterprise-like model.

Applications for the Summer Institute are available at the beginning of February. You can find the application here or at the Teen Center. Applications can be submitted to Brandyn Johnson in person or by email.

Additional Programming:

We are for hire from September-April for any digital media projects ranging from video-production to graphic to web design. Contact us for more information about our paid projects.

Digital Literacy Peer Education sessions available to organizations and schools. YI will travel to your institution equipped with all the technology and lead youth driven sessions.


Brandyn Johnson
Youth Institute Program Manager
510 486 8415

Hey all! Brandyn here! I'm originally from Brooklyn, NY; however, Oakland is now where my heart is. I graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a B.A. in Documentary Studies. Although I love Documentaries, my favorite type of films are actually romantic comedies (the good ones though). What can I say? I'm a sucker for love... After graduating, I spent the next five years teaching and facilitating programs for The Harlem Children's Zone and the Fresh Air Fund. During my time with these organizations I had the opportunity to work under brilliant, progressive educators who worked passionately to create transformative experiences for youth. I'm very excited to bring those experiences to Berkeley, and into the next phase of my life. What I love about the YMCA is that it provides our communities with the resources to grow as citizens of the modern world. The Youth Institute, in particular, not only values art and creativity, but it understands the importance of youth empowerment through collaboration, communication and self-reflection. I'm excited to be apart of this space which challenges our young leaders to take ownership of their talents, and use them to shape a positive future for themselves.   



Dustin Garcia
Youth Institute Project Manager

I'm Dustin Garcia -- a cartoonist, poet, activist, and educator. Hailing from a little town in LA called Downey (don't worry-- a lot of people haven't heard of it), I found myself spiritually stagnate, and ready to call on a big change in my post-college life. I graduated from Otis College of Art & Design in 2011, majoring in Animation & Illustration. I realized after that my work was far too personal to pursue animation entirely as a career. After some ups and downs, I left home and soon found myself at the YI. I have to say, this has been one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given. The YI has given me an opportunity to step away from myself, and enable me to utilize my craft and spirit of art and activism to empower youth. I wouldn't trade this opportunity for the world!

You can find my artwork here.



Kassie Pham
Youth Institute Program Assistant

So I don’t really think of myself as an artist… in pretty much any kind of capacity. I’m also probably the last person you should ask about the in’s and out’s of any of the programs we work with at the Youth Institute. Technology is scary. Seriously though… it really is! It’s easy to just brush it off and then sit there staring at the editing program like it’s some kind of fifty-sided puzzle. But that’s kind of the point of the YI, isn’t it? Our program will always be open to you as a community and family for love and support, but also to take you outside of your comfort zone and into the unknown. That's definitely one of the big reasons I do this work!