LA84: Serving Youth Through Sport

The LA84 Foundation headquarters is located in Jefferson Park and has funded youth sports programs in Southern California since the profitable 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles. For over two decades this organization has given money to schools and after school programs in order to ensure an enhanced experience for the countless young participants throughout the years. It is one of the oldest foundations to date that focuses on the youth in urban Los Angeles.

This foundation was founded with the intention of funding youth sports programs in Southern California for the foreseeable future and has done just that. Since its founding, LA84 has given $200 million in grants to roughly 1,200 non-profit organizations.

LA84’s mission is to “serve youth through sport and to increase the knowledge of sports and its impact on people’s lives.” They consistently award beneficial grants to youth sports organizations. However, the organization seeking funding through the “grant making” process must be located in one of the eight Southern California countries to be eligible to apply.

“We want all kids to have the opportunity to play sports, but it starts right here in Los Angeles,” says Gabby Tovar, manager of grants and programs.

The organization must also serve youth ages 6-17 and have “open, non-restrictive membership,” meaning it does not discriminate based on race, creed, sexual orientation, religious believes, or nationality; this according to LA84’s grant guidelines.

“We just try to create a comfortable environment no matter the age or how they look. We just want them to be able to come around be true to themselves,” says LA84 Board Member Rafer Johnson.

Most of the programs that apply are non-profit organizations run by volunteers, like Little League, A.Y.S.O., and other sports leagues. They are not structured to raise a lot of money, so many of their grant requests are usually to get equipment, rent facilities, pay for uniforms and officials, or even pay for scholarships to support kids who cannot afford the fees. These types of organizations are extremely important to the community. Studies show that sports exist as an outlet for countless children. As a result, The LA84 Foundation says in recent years, it has received more requests from social service agencies that include sports in their programs.

“Our partnership with LA84 has been a long and beneficial one,” says Richard Witt, a Mount Sac middle school representative. “There have been more and more organizations surfacing to focus in on our youth, but nobody has done it better or longer than LA84.”

LA84 believes that there is no reason a child should not be able to participate in an after school program because of money issues. Therefore, LA84 prioritizes organizations in the L.A. that fund low-income or high-risk, under-served youth.

“[This organization] gives us the opportunity to provide a place of play for youngsters in our community; [it] provides opportunity for healthy activity and becomes space where we can develop future leaders,” said Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation Executive Director Nichol Whiteman after recently partnering with LA84 to open up two new “dreamfields” in Los Angeles.

The foundation has analyzed data, noticing a correlation between a drop in the number of middle school students participating in sports and the number of students dropping out of school.

“Kids begin to consider dropping out of school while they are in middle school according to the statistics,” says Tovar.

At the beginning of the partnership, there were sports programs at 89 middle schools, now they fund programs at all 98 middle schools.

Aside from funding youth sports programs, the foundation also runs their own own. They have two different ones: Run4Fun and Summer Aquatics.

Run4Fun teaches students about long distance running and helps them train, whether it is for fitness or fun, while the Summer Aquatics program allows youth to develop their skills in swimming and diving.

“The programs we have began to run our own have become very successful, and what I enjoy most about them is being able to interact with a variety of different organizations on a day-to-day basis to create something special,” says Tovar.

LA84 also focuses on coaching education. They have clinics and online resources so coaches can give kids a positive sports experience, and possibly make an impact on their lives.

President of the LA84 foundation, Anita DeFrantz, says, “It’s always been our focus to make the community the big winner here. Every kid deserves to be able to go play on a basketball court without cracks and the fact that our parks are being used everyday makes it all worth it.”

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Middle School Principal Protects Her Friend’s History and the Children’s Future

Located roughly three miles from USC, Tom Bradley Environmental Science and Humanities Charter Magnet School is preparing students for future success.

This institute, with a rich history of its own, was previously named Dublin Avenue Elementary. However, it was renamed for Tom Bradley in 1999 after 10,000 signatures were collected throughout the City of Los Angeles.

When Bradley was elected in 1973, he became the 38th mayor of Los Angeles. More importantly, he became the first African-American mayor of a major city with a predominantly Caucasian majority population. To this day, Bradley’s 20 years in office mark the longest tenure of any mayor in the city’s history. Term limits passed by California did not come into effect until 1990.

Bradley lived close to the school now named for him, but the demographics were much different when he bought his first house in the practically all-white section of LA’s Crenshaw district in 1941.

Bradley played a valuable role in the construction of Tom Bradley Global Awareness Magnet School. Before his death in 1998, Bradley formed a lasting friendship with current Tom Bradley principal, Dr. Genevieve Shepherd. Dr. Shepherd took the reigns of the school in 1985 and became the 10th principal in school history.

“To this day, there has not been a more exciting time in my life than when I became principal of this fine establishment,” Shepherd said.

Dr. Shepherd was inspired by Bradley and revealed that she gained personal knowledge of his struggles and triumphs.

“I was able to just soak in a lot of information from him. In my opinion, there is not a better person to look up to,” she said.

Although Dr. Shepherd is a well-established prominent figure among the Los Angeles public education system, this has not always been the case. As a young woman, she was forced to overcome many obstacles of her own.

“Growing up in a family of 8, I knew I was going to be a teacher since the age of 3 and my parents were sure to always tell me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

However, not everyone believed in Genevieve Shepherd.

“When I told my counselor that I wanted to be a teacher, she looked at my black skin and told me I’ll become a plumber,” Shepherd said. “Well, when I told my older brother, who had already become a professor at this point, he told me not to worry and that she had same the exact same thing to him.”

Dr. Shepherd says she first began teaching at the age of 5 when her friends played school and she would walk in and proclaim, “I’m the teacher and if you don’t let me teach I’m going home.” She went on to obtain an Associate of Arts degree from Los Angeles City College, a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State College, Los Angeles, a Master of Science from Pepperdine University and a Doctorate of Philosophy from Golden State University.

With the extensive amount of education underneath her belt and a captivating personality to compliment it, Dr. Shepard did exactly as she predicted and went on to be a great teacher for the city of Los Angeles. She won the Educator of the Year Award given by Interchange for Community Action in 1983 and also wrote a children’s book titled, “How to Make a Friend.” All of this before she became good friends with the late Tom Bradley.

When Dr. Shepard’s dear friend Tom Bradley passed away she vowed to make sure that he was remembered for the great things he did for the city.

She said, “I was so inspired by his efforts to unite people of different backgrounds and cultures, as he proved by bringing the Summer Olympics to Los Angeles in 1984. So, his efforts to globalize our city motivated me to start a campaign to rename the school in his honor. He helped mold me into the person I am today.”

Presently, one cannot take many steps in the school’s hallways without seeing a portrait of or quote from the former mayor. The school now has ties to multiple Southern California universities including UCLA and USC thanks in large part to Dr. Shepard’s proactivity.

Rebecca Peebles, one of the school’s program coordinators, said: “This school would not be what it is today without Dr. Shepard. She is one of the most amazing woman I have ever met and we are lucky to have her here at Tom Bradley.”

Dr. Shepherd responded with, “I can’t take all the credit. God has surrounded me without all the right people for my entire life and here at Tom Bradley we work together to ensure that these kids will have a productive adult life. That’s what I want and that’s what I know Tom Bradley would want.”

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Volunteers More Important Than Ever to the MLK Recreation Center Due to Budget Cuts

The Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center has been a staple of South Los Angeles since 2000. The facility has served as home to participants of all ages throughout the years, yet keys in on empowering the youth to develop healthy habits through fitness and exercise, nutrition, and life long learning. The center does so by hosting numerous after school programs, providing the capacity for many different youth sports leagues, and inviting the community to take advantage of the countless programs offered in hopes of improving the quality of life for the participants.

Fully aware of the communal economy, the MLK Recreation Center offers scholarships to kids in hopes of making it a rarity that a student is not able to participate in a program due to financial issues. However, generous motions like this have become a lesser occurrence.

“I don’t have an exact number right now, but what I do know is that the budget for parks in Los Angeles has definitely decreased over the past couple of years and we’ve had to cut a lot of programs because of lack of funds, said the Director of Facilities, Cassandra Reyes. “Staffing has been tough and we can’t do as much for the kids as we’d like,”

Reyes has been director of MLK since 2006 and admits the recreation has seen some tough times. Just three years ago things were very different than they are today.

“This used to serve as a therapeutic center for disabled children, but we had to cut that program out and open it up to the public in order to stay up and running due to budget cuts,” said Reyes.

However, the forced changed resulted in a reemergence of the recreation center, while strengthening the role it played in the community.

“It was tough, it was really tough when we were forced to change things up at the drop of a dime, but I can honestly say I think it has been for the better. Opening up our facilities to the community has been an amazing experience,” said Christina Lovett, the Recreational Program Manager.

Some of the issues that Reyes and her staff have been forced to deal with are not apparent to the common eye.

“It’s crazy all the little things you realize. Just having staff to maintain a clean bathroom. Parents don’t want their kids in a dirty one, but we’ve got to be able to pay someone to keep it clean and that’s easier said than done,” said Lovett.

Budget cuts don’t stop the children from daily enjoyment at the recreation center, although they have seen some of their favorite counselors come and go. Reyes says volunteer have become a necessity to keep things up and running.

“Without volunteers it would be extremely difficult to do what we do for the kids. We do everything in our power to ensure that they have a good time and we take them to cool places, but it wouldn’t be possible without the help of good people from the community taking time out of their day to better the youth,” said Reyes.

Community centers like this are often times helpless when it comes to increasing the money that flows through their establishment. Most times the only option they have is to hope and wait.

“There are town halls meeting taking place where people from the community speak on how important they believe parks and recreation centers like this are, but at the end of the day our budget is controlled by the Mayor and there’s not much we can do about it,” said Reyes.

Proposition K, passed in 1996, was a $25 million project that vowed to build 50 new parks within in the next year in South Los Angeles. However, as the city grows, so does the distance the money must go.

“We understand that many people don’t understand how important these parks are for the community. It’s hard to understand unless you’re in it. But for however long we have any money to our name, we will continue to try and provide a fun and safe place for these children to come and enjoy themselves,” said Lovett.


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A Visual Landscape Study of the Historic Core

The Historic Core is one of Downtown LA’s most vibrant and dynamic neighborhoods. This project explores visually what this neighborhood developed from, what it looks like now and what it could be like in the future. It’s rich history and rapid growth provide an urban backdrop unlike anywhere else in Los Angeles. (If you’re unfamiliar with the area, check out this walking guide I designed for the Historic Core Business Improvement District for quick and beautiful context).

I’d like to start with present Historic Core. The gif below is called Ruin and it shows what you can find in a walk around the neighborhood.

Walk the Historic Core with me -- Main St. from 6th to Winston St., Winston St. between Main St. and Los Angeles St., 4th St. between Main St. and Spring St., and Spring St. from 4th St. to 6th.

Walk the Historic Core with me — Main St. from 6th to Winston St., Winston St. between Main St. and Los Angeles St., 4th St. between Main St. and Spring St., and Spring St. from 4th St. to 6th.

“For most of its existence, Los Angeles has been a place driven by new — a city so eager for constant reinvention that it’s often turned its back on what came before it. Downtown LA’s Historic Core changes that narrative. As Los Angeles’ urban birthplace, the Historic Core allows us to become part of our city’s past, understand its unique story, and use it to shape our future”

  • Ari Simon, omniscient Downtowner wunderkind and Director of Planning and Communication at the Historic Core Business Improvement District (BID) (this is an organization paid for by property owners in the neighborhood to provide services the city can’t like extra safety and maintenance, marketing and branding, beautification, etc.)

To see just how much of the Historic Core’s past has been preserved and how its buildings’ facades have faded, I re-shot photographs of the neighborhood I dug up in the Los Angeles Public Library’s photo archives.


1963 - 2014 Inside the Spring Arcade, which is located just north of 6th street and can be entered from both Broadway and Spring St. Original photo taken by William Reagh

1963 – 2014
Inside the Spring Arcade, which is located just north of 6th street and can be entered from both Broadway and Spring St.
Original photo taken by William Reagh

1963 - 2014 Grand Central Market, Hill St. side Original photo taken by William Reagh

1963 – 2014
Grand Central Market, Hill St. side
Original photo taken by William Reagh

1966 - 2014 6th and Broadway Original photo taken by William Reagh

1966 – 2014
6th and Broadway
Original photo taken by William Reagh

1972 - 2014 Globe Theater between 7th and 8th on Broadway Original photo from the Security Pacific National Bank Collection

1972 – 2014
Globe Theater between 7th and 8th on Broadway
Original photo from the Security Pacific National Bank Collection

1973 - 2014 6th and Spring facing west Original photo taken by Victor Plukas

1973 – 2014
6th and Spring facing west
Original photo taken by Victor Plukas

1983 - 2014 Arcade Theater between 6th and 7th on Broadway Original photo taken by William Reagh

1983 – 2014
Arcade Theater between 5th and 6th on Broadway
Original photo taken by William Reagh

1983 - 1988 - 2014 The Los Angeles Theater Center on Spring St. between 5th and 6th Original photos taken by Dean Musgrove (1983) and from the Herald Examiner Collection (1988)

1983 – 1988 – 2014
The Los Angeles Theater Center on Spring St. between 5th and 6th
Original photos taken by Dean Musgrove (1983) and from the Herald Examiner Collection (1988)

1988 - 2014 Dearden's department store at 7th and Main Original photo taken by Javier Mendoza

1988 – 2014
Dearden’s department store at 7th and Main
Original photo taken by Javier Mendoza

1999 - 2014 Cameo Theater between 7th and 8th on Broadway Original photo taken by Gary Leonard

1999 – 2014
Cameo Theater between 5th and 6th on Broadway
Original photo taken by Gary Leonard

Lastly, we’ll move into the future, examining proposals for new buildings and transit infrastructure slated to be built in the Historic Core.

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Revitalizing the River: A Photo Essay

By Karla Robinson

The Los Angeles River is notorious for its movie appearances. It is vilified for its cement encasing. It is hailed as a water source, and criticized for pollution. The L.A. River disliked by many, enjoyed by few and fully understood by almost no one.

In the late 80s, efforts were made to change all that. To reframe the River in the minds of Angelenos and the nation. To restore some of the natural riparian habitat. To build a community around the River and promote education opportunities.

Nearly 30 years later, the River looks very much the same. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars funneled into revitalization efforts, people around the city still ask “L.A. has a river?”

Here’s a look at how far the revitalization movement has come, and how far it has yet to go:

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Los Angeles Foster Youth Struggle to Find a Place in their Hometown

Thousands of foster youth call Los Angeles their home, but as the number of foster families decline, many foster youth are left without a place to stay.

The shortage could come as a surprise to people who have seen the number of foster youth in LA decline over the past decade. However, as the number of foster youth declines, the number of foster families declines even faster.

At first glance, the numbers seems promising. In 2002, there were over 27,000 foster youth living in out-of-home placement. Ten years later, in 2012, there were about 16,000 foster youth in these placements—a 40% decrease.

However, the number of foster youth hasn’t declined as rapidly or dramatically as the amount of foster families with whom they could stay. The amount of available beds for foster youth has declined over 75% in the same 10-year period. In 2012, there were only 540 available beds.

Last summer, the problem reached its peak when DCFS couldn’t find places for children fast enough. Some foster youth were stuck in holding facilities for longer than the legal 24-hour limit.

When foster youth finally leave the holding facility, there’s no promise that their new situation will be better. With the decrease in foster homes, more youth have to stay in group homes. While these homes often employ a dedicated staff, many foster youth advocates say it’s still not an equal substitute for living with a foster family.

“The outcomes for kids who have been in group home placements are not as good—and more often in the juvenile justice system. They just have a harder time of it, in many ways,” said Dr. Wendy Smith, professor and associate dean at the USC School of Social Work.

The aim of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is always to give foster youth a family. If possible, they work to create an environment where they can reunite foster youth with their parents.

The goal of LA DCFS is summarized in their vision statement, “Children thrive in safe families and supportive communities.”

Sometimes this means reunification with their parents, but when that’s not possible or safe, this vision means finding a safe home for a foster child.

“There are parental figures who relate to you as parental figures, as opposed to staff members. And there may be very good staff members in a group setting,” said Smith. “But that’s a different kind of relationship, in general, than it is with someone who has stepped up to the idea of acting as your parent. It’s a different kind of commitment.”

While most advocates for foster youth agree that a family setting is ideal for students, it’s becoming less realistic as fewer families apply to take in foster children.

Smith attributes this to the lack of support for families who would potentially take in these children—especially relatives.

“There are many more extended family members who might consider it if the support was there,” said Smith.

(Watch to hear the story of one relative caregiver’s struggle in Los Angeles)

Foster youth also need even more substantial support than children who didn’t grow up in foster care. Not only are foster youth learning to cope with changing environments and moving around in the system, but they also have to learn to reconcile the situations that placed them in the Child Welfare system in the first place.

“Most of these kids, or many of them, have been traumatized by, if not the death or incarceration of family members, by abuse and neglect,” said Smith. “A lot of times foster families haven’t been given enough help in understanding those problems or how to deal with them.”

Smith says in addition to providing more support to current families, DCFS can work to rebrand how foster care is presented to potential families.

While the task is arduous and parenting a child can be expensive, Smith argues that the difference foster parents can make in a child’s life are profound and reason enough to consider fostering a child.

“We know that positive experiences in relationship to caring adults make a profound difference to development, to brain development, to identity development, to functioning in school and to later success,” says Smith. “People can play such an important role in the life of a child who can’t be with its own parents.”

(Click this graph for an interactive visualization of this data)

(Click this graph for an interactive visualization of this data)*


*All data was taken from the calendar year fact sheets on LA County’s Department of Children and Family Services website


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Transitional Kindergarten offers students chance to grow

By Alexis Driggs

When Matilde Lopez’s class returns from recess on an unusually hot April morning, they enter ready to get back to work. Mrs. Lopez leads them to their pre-designated spots on the rug where they all sit quietly, ready to hear the end of the book If the Dinosaurs Came Back.

She calls up a boy to select one of four dinosaur figurines on a table and explain what kind of dinosaur he thinks it is, carnivore or vegetarian. He picks a purple and green Tyrannosaurus rex and incorrectly identifies it as a vegetarian.

“Look at his teeth,” Mrs. Lopez prompts. Another student responds that its teeth are sharp, prompting a chorus of students declaring it a carnivore. Continue reading

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Freeing the truth by stepping back as reporters

Does what-is-considered-journalism have to fit a format because it’s fact-based? There are a lot of ways to tell the truth. There are a lot of ways to convey the “reality.” I’m tired of the formats of journalism: the article, the video package, the photo essay. 

I’m interested in experimenting with a more sensory approach to reporting, one that relies less on the interpretation and explanation of facts by reporters. There seems to be an accepted definition of what is fact: confirmed numbers, eyewitness reports, times of day. A reporter’s job is to identify what is fact and relay this to the reader. 

Perhaps reporting could be more interesting and expansive if the identification of fact would be up to the reader, the story more open-ended, less defined.

For example: photographs, raw audio, conversation transcripts. Telling the story without prescribing what the story is. One example I love is the New York Times’ interactive feature from last year Finding the Quiet City. The accompanying article relies on traditional facts like numbers, prices, times and eyewitness reports, and I find it formulaic and boring, offering a summary of how New Yorkers lack and crave quiet in the city. The feature, however, documents these sparse quiet places with audio and video and creates a poetic account with much more feeling. Listening to audio of how quiet these places are feels much more true than reading about how many helicopters pass over a neighborhood per day.

This feature takes advantage of the fact that we can take more chances with digital journalism. Internet space is unlimited, free; there is room to make major shifts like this. Also, the Internet supports these more visual and audio-based mediums. And rather than trying to limit the Internet’s power by placing stringent qualifications on what is or isn’t journalism, I think we should shift to thinking about what is or isn’t truth.

Also, we’re in Los Angeles. I’ve been thinking a lot about this city. How it moves, stacks up on top of itself, spreads out. What it looks like from a bike, a bus, a car. The image of Los Angeles tells a story of its own that can’t necessarily be captured by words, reviews, reports, traditional journalism. All we need to do is hold up a frame, focus a lens.  I just finished reading a book called Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles by Alexandra Schwartz. Ruscha has been a prominent distinctly Los Angeles artist since the ‘60s, and he’s a good example of an artist whose work could be interpreted as journalism. He uses a deadpan style to capture his environment and while some of his work is definitely slanted to make his point, a lot of his work seems more true than a lot of journalism does to me.

The book covers a lot of topics related to Ruscha, including Los Angeles urbanism, described as “rely[ing] on vernacular building styles, popular culture, and, perhaps most importantly, experience through physical movement.”

One thing I want to explore through my work in this class is the built environment of Los Angeles, its look, movement, image.

I took the following photos while riding the 204 bus along Vermont northbound to Silver Lake. This type of video made from the photos is a medium I’d like to experiment with more. 


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By Greg Asciutto

For the first time in 12 years, former U.S. Army Master Sergeant Edwood Deaver has a place to call his own. Tucked away on the ninth floor of Downtown Los Angeles’ Weingart Center for the Homeless, his transitional housing apartment only comes with the basics: a bed, roof and privacy. But for the 55-year-old Deaver, it’s all that he needs.

“I’m not sleeping on the ground,” he says with a street-weathered smile. “I’m warm, protected from the elements — but I’m still looking out the window wondering, ‘Hey, what’s going on out there?'”

Six weeks ago, the Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom veteran was sleeping behind a dumpster in a vacant North University Park lot. Four times a day, he pushed a rusty shopping cart along a two-mile recycling route, picking up cans and bottles in hopes of scraping together $12 for lunch and dinner.

Continue reading

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Bye trash, hello gas: The Puente Hills Landfill is still active

Even though the landfill is closed, the facility continues to generate power.

Even though the landfill is closed, the facility continues to generate power.

By Karla Robinson

Driving along the CA 60 just 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, a large grassy hill full of trees comes into view. Most drivers wouldn’t look twice. But what seems to be a pleasant park is actually the collection of roughly 120 million tons of municipal solid waste that has piled up to the height of a 50-story building. This is the Puente Hills landfill.

Once the largest landfill in the United States, Puente Hills closed October 31, 2013 after 56 years in operation. The mass of refuse has since been covered with dirt and vegetation. Walking around the property you might never guess it was a landfill.

Continue reading

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