By now, all of the schools in the LAUSD are in full swing and once again, Heart of Los Angeles’ halls are filled to the brim with kids of all ages. Ensuring that the quality of our programming is high is always a primary goal, but right now, the fact that we can provide a safe haven for our kids in a gang riddled neighborhood has taken on new importance. In a neighborhood effort, we seek ways to both engage and coexist with a growing number of gang members and wannabes in our neighborhood. The gangs are looking to recruit young kids, and young kids who are disconnected from their parental structures are seeking ways to become accepted as worthy new members. It’s a community effort to try to meet their needs, without also taking away essential resources and services from their neighbors who are trying to stay safe and willing to choose better life paths. It does not seem possible to work with both groups together at the same time and under the same programs. However, working together with the LAPD, the Mayor’s GRYD Program, local schools and council offices, there is hope that alternative pathways can be found for those kids in our neighborhood who have yet to find their sense of connectedness in a community that has fallen prey to daily tagging and a resurgence of criminal behavior.
I spent some time this week speaking with our students, asking them how they would describe HOLA in just a few words. I was taken aback by how many kids responded with just one or two words: “home,” “second home” or “safe.” My dream for these kids is to see them graduate from college, but right now, I want all of the kids in the neighborhood to have hope for a brighter future. Heart of Los Angeles won’t be able to do this alone, but I think that we can be a small and important part of a collective effort to keep every child that grows up here moving forward towards a successful life.