L.A. Clippers and City Year invest $3 million in Watts’ elementary schools

Mayor Eric Garcetti leading the City Year Corps pledge with its Los Angeles members behind him.

Mayor Eric Garcetti leads the City Year Corps pledge. | Photo by Malina Brown

The City Year Los Angeles Corps, whose members spend 11 months teaching in schools within high-poverty communities, marked the beginning of service for its new members by lining up the usual roster: fresh-faced young Corps members, their families and city officials.

But the additional players who also attended may help launch the teacher service group into an entirely new league.

Doc Rivers, the Los Angeles Clippers head coach and president of basketball operations, announced that the team’s Foundation has partnered with City Year to pour $3 million into South Los Angeles schools over three years.

“The fact that you guys are committing not just a day or a couple days, but a year, is absolutely amazing,” Rivers said. “You’re not just saving a person you’re saving thousands of lives and I guarantee you one of those people will be a pro athlete, one of those people will be a mayor one of those people will be a doctor and you’ll be responsible for that.”

When Mayor Eric Garcetti asked how City Year members were feeling, the Corps, clad in red and yellow jackets despite the blistering heat, responded in unison “fired up.”

The gift will support the work of City Year corps members in five targeted schools; with its 309 members this year, is the largest City Year group in the nation.

Garcetti called City Year a valuable part of the education system in Los Angeles and said corps members will help upwards of 20,000 students this school year.

“This city will help support you as you support [the students],” Garcetti told the crowd of more than 500. “I know when I see someone in one of those red or yellow jackets it’s saying they’ve got our back on this block, on this street we’re covered.”

City Year — an AmeriCorps program — places members in classrooms as teachers in schools with high numbers of at-risk students to provide mentorship and help improve attendance, behavior and core performance. It has spread to 27 cities nationwide since its founding 26 years ago.

Rivers said he’s thankful for the City Year Corps’ dedication. He reminded the young adults heading into the classroom that their South LA students are not all that different from the famous NBA players paying it forward.

“When you talk to NBA players and you ask them how they made it and you think about some of the areas that you’re working in,” Rivers said. “A lot of those areas are where a lot of NBA players have come from.”

When asked if they were ready to begin their year of service the corps members responded: “City Year is always ready.”

The Corps members later led the crowd in a “spirit break” chanting, “Start strong L.A”.

L.A. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers and L.A. Clippers President of Business Operations stands with  City Year AmeriCorps members.

L.A. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers spoke at City Year AmeriCorps opening ceremony in Los Angeles |Photo by Malina Brown

City Year Corps member Arwa Aldakka served at 122nd Elementary last year. This year she is serving as a team leader at Compton Avenue Elementary, where she’ll oversee the experience of other corps members.

Many of the schools in the area, including 122nd Elementary, did not have a sponsor last year.

“It’s nice to know that other schools in Watts are going to be receiving that same support, “ Aldakka said. “It’s going to push us forward with the ideas we are trying to cultivate with our students and it’s great knowing we have that extra support.”

When they heard the Clippers were planning to make an educational investment in Los Angeles, City Year Los Angeles director Mary Jane Stevenson said the organization made a proposal to Clippers owner Steve Ballmer about a possible investment opportunity. The two entities then work with elementary schools in Watts.

“Just to see Los Angeles leaders stand up and put their investments into our work in schools is really exciting to me,” Stevenson said. “I want to see other leaders across the city do the same.”

Though she was thankful for the investment, Stevenson said City Year Los Angeles has a long way to go. She hopes the program will continue to grow.

“We need support from the private sector and the public sector,” Stevenson said. “We need AmeriCorps to grow. That’s going to take action on the federal level. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”


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