Bookmark and Share

Crenshaw youth shine bright in the classroom thanks to beneficial after school programs

The Importance of the MLK Jr. Recreation Center to the Community
To some it's just a building they drive by on the way to work. To others it is a second home.
Earlez Grille: LA's best hot dogs for over 25 years relocates
After over 20 years of serving the Crenshaw area, the popular hot dog joint, Earlez Grille, will be relocating due to the start of construction on the Crenshaw/LAX Expo line.
The house that changed a community
How the South Seas House transformed from a vandalized afterthought to a pristine community center in the West Adams District.
Renovating parks, renovating Crenshaw
Members of the Crenshaw community are hoping to restore the Leslie N. Shaw Park, and residents talk about their hopes for the park.

By Joshua Carroll

The Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center has been a staple of South Los Angeles since 2000. The facility has served people 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 programs offered in hopes of improving the quality of life for all participants.

Fully aware of the communal economy, the MLK Jr. recreation center offers scholarships to kids in hopes of making it so a student is never turned away due to financial issues. However, considering the decrease in the amount of money given to parks, community centers, and recreational facilities in California, generous motions like this have become a lesser occurrence.

“The budget for parks in Los Angeles has definitely decreased over the past couple of years. We’ve had to cut a lot of programs because of lack of funds. Staffing has been tough and we can’t do as much for the kids as we’d like,” said the Director of Facilities, Cassandra Reyes.

Reyes has served as Director of MLK since 2006 and admits that she has seen some tough times financially. Within the past three years, many changes were involuntarily made due to lack of money.

“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 forceful change resulted in a reemergence of the recreation center by strengthening the role throughout the entire 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 one of the most seasoned Recreational Program Managers, Christina Lovett.

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 Recreational Assistant, Theresa Summerville.

Budget cuts haven’t resulted in the loss of daily enjoyment for the kids 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 hall 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 counselor Jeniffer Harran.

Proposition K is a $25 million ballot passed in 1996 for the purpose of funding parks and recreation centers. Last year, 18 new ones were built in the South Los Angeles area and 50 more are expected to be funded in 2014. However, as the city grows and the project expands, so does the distance the money must go.

“We understand that many people don’t realize 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.

The budget cuts keep coming, but Reyes says they will continue to adjust.

“I couldn’t see budget cuts shutting us down completely, but it does put a huge dent into what we can do here every now and then,” says Reyes. “Maybe if some people come in and see how important places like this to the community really are, more money will come our way.”

A look inside Tom Bradley Elementary school

After school program focuses in on completing homework

View Tom Bradley Environmental Science and Humanities Charter Magnet School in a larger map
Avalon Academy takes place at Tom Bradley Elementary located at 3875 Dublin Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90008.