Local Communities: Inner City Youth Initiatives

Roy W. Roberts, II Watts/Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club

The Boys & Girls Club helps young people, especially those most in need, to reach their full potential as productive, responsible citizens.

  • Issues
    • Since 1957, The Roy W. Roberts, II Watts/Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club (WWBGC) has been the only Boys & Girls Club serving the South Los Angeles communities of Watts, Willowbrook and Compton. These areas face a litany of urban problems, including poverty, drug abuse, high school dropout and unemployment rates, chronic disease tied to poor nutrition and gang violence. Its incidence of homicide has been among the nationís highest. In addition, about 40 percent of children in the Club live in foster care.
    • Amidst this landscape WWBGC has been a safe haven and stable force in the lives of thousands of disadvantaged young people. Through its mentoring and tutoring programs, WWBGC has helped them achieve academically; the organizationís 27,500 square foot facility includes two computer labs. WWBGC also offers a steady stream of workshops, classes and activities that cover such issues as health, nutrition, sports skills, civic involvement, conflict resolution, college and career preparation and self esteem. WWBGC's motto is "to inspire and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens."
  • The Solution
    • For years, WWBGC has run a popular soccer program at a local park. The program drew much of its participation from a sizeable Latino community that traditionally embraces soccer. But the organization saw the potential to serve more children and teens both from this segment of the population — about 55% of WWBGC membership is Latino — and the surrounding African American community, which has developed more interest in the sport.
    • Through its partnership with the LAFC Foundation, WWBGC will be able to enlarge the program for current membership and to help attract new boys and girls ages 7-18. Both WWBGC and The Foundation believe strongly that once they've captured children's attention, it is easier to immerse them in a positive environment. WWBGC also believes that a stronger soccer program can help solve a more pressing problem: tension between the Latino and African-American communities. "This is a way for children to play together," says Les Jones, the executive director of the WWBGC.
  • LAFC's Partnership
    • The LAFC Foundation will acquire land in the Watts area and construct a three-field soccer complex. The Foundation will also provide uniforms, equipment — including cleats — and trained coaches. With these new resources, WWBGC will be able to help more than 500 at-risk youth per day. "This is an opportunity for the LAFC Foundation to play a central role in improving life in a community near the Foundationís home base," says Don Sheppard, LAFC president. "We see enormous potential for this growing program."