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Oakland Non-Profit Mentors Young Entrepreneurs

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) Oakland native Gino Pastori-Ng has never forgotten the childhood friends he saw stall out of the educational system, drop out of school, and drift into adulthood, mainly because they lacked mentors and encouragement to pursue their dreams. Pastori-Ng decided to make its his life's work to change that outcome for future young, low-income people of color in his community.

After earning a degree in psychology from UC Santa Cruz, Pastori-Ng traveled the world, eventually settling in China to teach English. But his heart was always in Oakland, so he returned to his hometown and established the non-profit Youth Impact Hub Oakland. The organization is an incubator where young people aged 18-24 find mentors, small business training, and seed funding to launch businesses that solve a community problem.

From its headquarters at the Roots United non-profit in the heart of Oakland, young community leaders like Destiny Iwuoma teach free classes on financial planning and money management. It's practical, life skill stuff Pastori-Ng says is not often available to the community.

"This place exists to connect young people to opportunities to actually make money doing things they love to do," explained Pastori-Ng.

But the young people who come here say the success of Youth Impact Hub Oakland lies not in business opportunity, but in the compassionate heart of its leader.

Iwuoma, who leads classes in money management, also helped create Blk Mgk, a collective that provides healing through art. She says Pastori-Ng's leadership is an inspiration.

"Recently, he was telling me what 'facilitator' really means - 'to make easy.' So I think that's how Gino navigates his life and inspires me," explained Iwuoma.

It's a sentiment Blk Mgk rapper A-B Banks shares.

"{Pastori-Ng} holds it with calm, gentle energy that kind like affirms you," said Banks. "Whatever journey you're trying to take."

Youth Impact Hub Oakland has reached more than 500 underserved young people since Pastori-Ng co-founded it in 2013. A highlight of the innovative program is a yearlong fellowship that is funded through grants and donations. Fifteen fellows are accepted every year and about 100 other young people help out with the business projects they create. Pastori-Ng would like to bring Impact Hubs to other cities across the United States, furthering the organization's strong commitment to positive social change.

For Pastori-Ng, it's simple: "I feel like this work is my life's calling."


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