Q: What were youth in your neighborhood doing during afterschool?
I grew up in a really tough neighborhood. If kids weren’t in LA’s BEST, it was easy for them to get wrapped up in gang activity. Gun violence was rampant; I had many friends whose lives were taken too soon. These are examples of kids who didn’t have access to LA’s BEST and who were looking for community, brotherhood, and validation in the wrong places. Still today, we need enriching programs like LA’s BEST to divert kids away from those dangerous lifestyles.
Q: How did being in LA’s BEST help you and your family?
None of my younger brothers who went through LA’s BEST were involved in gangs. I come from first-generation parents whose education was limited so helping us with our homework was difficult. That’s again where LA’s BEST stepped in. The coaches would help and encourage us with our schoolwork. The program was a safe haven. My time there was sentimental, I can’t express how important it was for me to have a place where I felt safe.
Q: What was the most significant impact of LA’s BEST on your life?
Being exposed to LA’s BEST gave me a voice of reason and introduced me to my first positive adult male role models. It provided me a space to just feel like a kid and not have to worry about everything else going on in my life. It helped reassure me and emboldened me to get more involved and speak louder. In retrospect, LA’s BEST empowered me to empower others.
Q: What do you think is the greatest impact of LA’s BEST on our community?
LA’s BEST is an asset to our community and we need to protect it. When you talk to alumni – 15, 20, 30 years later – you realize the ripple effect of LA’s BEST on students and the people around them – especially their families. It’s astronomical! What LA’s BEST produces and what the community gets in return is more than just tangible right away. LA’s BEST is an investment for the future.