alum stories

Nia House alum, Otto Harris, Goes Solo Shopping

otto shopping.jpg

Thank you, David and Tara for sharing this milestone in Otto's life!

He was always interested in shopping, and paid attention to what aisles things were in at Berkeley Bowl and Trader Joe's. A few years back we started having him go off to get items, then meet us back at the cart. We've always had an agreement that when he helped with grocery shopping he could pick out one thing for himself, which he loves doing.

Otto began asking how old he'd need to be to go grocery shopping on his own. We said we'd need to think about it. One day Tara and he stopped at the Berkeley Bowl info desk to ask if they had any limits to how young unaccompanied shoppers could be, and they said no. We talked about it and decided that when Otto turned ten, we'd give it a try.

So a few days after Otto's birthday we all walked over, and Tara and I got some coffee and relaxed in the cafe while Otto took the grocery list and got a cart. We gave him one of our phones so he could call when he was done. It worked out fine. I went in to pay when I got his call and took a couple pictures to commemorate the event. Otto has done the shopping a few times since, and continues helping out when we go together.

Otto's advice: Know the store like the back of your hand! The bulk couscous comes out fast.

Nia House community, if you also shop at Berkeley Bowl- you can help fundraise for Nia House. We participate in Berkeley Bowl Scrip. For every $100 you spend, Nia House gets $4. For more information on how to participate click below.

Viv & Rae Return!

Viv & Rae have been volunteering at Nia House this summer. It has been such a great treat and help to have them here. They demonstrate an intuitive understanding of what needs to get done to make the school day flow. From setting out beds, moving boxes, to quietly sitting with a small group of children- they have enthusiastically done it all.

 Enjoy this interview of Viv and Rae’s memories of their years at Nia House.

Memories of Nia House Learning Center

  • Collecting clumps of sand in the sand box
  • Playing in the teepee
  • Piñatas and sesame honey treats
  • Tita’s mango sticky rice
  • Eating ants too!
  • Cinnamon catching a bee in her pant legs!

 Do still maintain Nia House friendships?

Of course- Michael and Jesse, Anjali, Ella and Oscar, Anika and Tia.

How is it to be back at NH?

  •  It’s fun to be back at Nia House and to help!
  • Everything seems tiny!
  • I remember learning to cross the monkey bars.
  • I remember a sign up to have lunch with the toddlers- fun!! Lunch with Jeanie…
  • I remember having to sit and finish lunch while others were playing.

Most important things learned…

Viv: When it comes to school work and learning, having your own speed is ok!

Rae: To respect other people and who they are, and to respect other people’s way of learning.

 How are things different, or the same?

 DifferentLunch is in the quiet area, not at the picnic tables.

The same- toddlers are cute. 

Some things never change- look at this picture of Viv and Rae! Toddlers are, indeed, cute.

Thank you, Viv and Rae, for all your help! You are wonderful role models for the Nia House children.

“My path has been my own because of Nia House.”

I instantly admired the work of Nia House.
Having my son, Atticus, attend Nia House further deepened my sense of the value of this school and community.
Following a conversation with Milani Pelley, Nia House alumna (’89-’95), my love of Nia House is abounding and affirms again that Nia House is where children belong.

Milani, now twenty-seven years old, is a mother, 1st grade after school instructor, artist, and spoken word performer. She went down memory lane a little with me, recounting her days at Nia House- “I can’t imagine having started any other place.”

What she remembers of Nia House? Sour grass, Phea taking out splinters, the playhouse, eating lunch with Jessica and Denise, colorful plastic building blocks, Jeanie, Tita, and the “great presence” of Lee.; Milani remembers feeling free, free to explore and entrusted with helping out in the toddler room. This, she says, built her confidence, made her unafraid to lead.

“Nia House teaches young people how to be free.”

I wondered about the connections she made while at Nia House. Do these friendships last? They do.  It is a “Good feeling to go all the way back and still be on the same path.” Milani still encounters Ka’ra Kersey and Armando Davila, friends and fellow artists from the Nia House days. “All the folks from Nia House that I run into are on a path- they are creative and great people- Impacted by the diversity of the school. There is a creativity and spirituality coming from everyone.”
Milani shared a bit of her creative and spiritual side, describing a passion for writing and performing poetry as a spoken word artist. She recently performed at the 30th Annual Empowering Women of Color Conference at U.C. Berkeley. Milani also designs and creates jewelry with a spiritual focus, her craft inspired by numerology and precious stones.

“Seriously, I love Nia House.”

My love for Nia House grew after this informal interview, for Milani, now twenty years since her Nia House days, still captures the freedom, leadership, spirit, and love that feels present today. As a mother and teacher, the values she named are ones we pray are imparted in these creative childhood years.

Thank you, Milani, for your grace and artistry.