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From Biddy to College Bound

From Mike Lansing’s recent article in the San Pedro Magazine …..

As I mentioned in this column last month, this year we are celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor. Now in our 8th decade of serving our community’s most at-risk youth, this organization has evolved with the changing needs of our community and the boys and girls who live here. This has not always been such an easy transformation as the needs of today’s children are much broader and require much more resources than the turbulent days of the 1960’s when I attended the Club.

Sports dominated the Club in that decade that also featured the dichotomy of the Civil Rights movement, Coach John Wooden, the Beatles, the Vietnam War, Vin Scully and Sandy Koufax, JFK, Woodstock, Laugh-In and Neil Armstrong’s “one small step”. We longed for and played sports at the Club all year round. There was Midtown and Hilltop Little Leagues in the late spring and early summer, a perennial league championship football program in the fall and probably my favorite of all – “Biddy” Basketball in the winter. We had some great Biddy Basketball leagues in that decade and the competition was the best in town. Our All-Star teams were constantly in the running for the Biddy National Championships and included outstanding players such as a skinny kid named Bobby Gross who went on to star at Fermin Lasuen High School, Long Beach State and was an eventual starter for the Portland Trailblazers NBA Championship team. My friend and fellow alumnus Mike Crum reminded me recently that he was back at the Biddy All-Star Championships in Augusta Georgia when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. He remembered the peaceful marches that occurred all that week in Augusta as we lost our third prominent leader of the decade to an assassin’s bullet – living our country’s history while representing San Pedro in Biddy Basketball.

Fast forward to the late 90’s when our Board of Directors made the commitment to build the only full time Teen Center in San Pedro and then fund a high school graduation and college pathway program called “College Bound”. College Bound was born when I noticed quite a few of our teens walking by my window one day in 2001 in the late morning hours. I asked Hilda Chacon my Teen Center director to find out how many of our active seniors were going to graduate on time that June – she came back with a sad look on her face the next week explaining that less than 50% were graduating that year. We immediately started building a structured case-management support system which eventually grew our high school graduation rate for participants to “98%” last year! College Bound is a program that started with 30 participants and 1 member going to college in 2003 and growing to “1114” enrolled last year and 234 attending college this past fall. Additionally, we assisted our graduating seniors in securing $3.2 MILLION in financial aid and scholarships this past year – assuring not only college acceptance, but also the resources needed to fully support a successful college career.

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