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Guest blogger: Theresa Gartland

This past week I had a long over due catch up with my friend Theresa Gartland of Operation Progress. Theresa who is originally from the Washington DC area came to Los Angeles, more specifically Watts, right out of college. Watts is still considered one of the most dangerous places in Los Angeles, but Theresa fell in love with the children and families in Watts. In the past decade plus, she has worked for a few different organizations, all with the same mission of making Watts a place for children and families to thrive.

Today, I am handing the handing Charity Matters over to Theresa to share her remarkable story of service…she is a true inspiration to us all.

As I am embarking on my 15th year of working in Watts and serving the youth of the community, I cannot help but reflect on what keeps me energized and going, of course two words…the kids! Everyday, I’m so grateful that I get to fulfill my life purpose by provide the most incredible, life-changing opportunity for some of the most deserving youth.

Attending Holy Child High School in Potomac, Md, I was taught the values of giving back through action not words. This rang true for me during my high school service trips to an afterschool program in Southeast DC. During my service, I would play with the children, help them with their homework, and spend time getting to know they. I quickly learned that they only difference between them and me was our neighborhood, and they were just as deserving as all the opportunities I was given. It was my actions that were making an impact. Through service and volunteering I had found my voice, it sparked my passion but I no idea it would ignite my career.

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned through my work is that each child deserves to feel safe, validated and know that someone is proud of them. This has become my mission, to make sure every student feels apart of something bigger than themselves, to feel validated, nurtured, and empowered.

My biggest success thus far, has been watching two girls that I have known since they were in 2nd grade, now sophomores at an all girls catholic high school, flourishing and succeeding. To be apart of their journey and see how OP has literally changed their life trajectory has been of the biggest rewards of my career.

It’s truly been a joy, honor and privilege to work at amazing schools and organizations in the Watts community that are so committed to inspiring, fostering and developing the youth. Being able to be there for a children, to motivate, challenge, and encourage them is no short of a miracle.

Thank you Theresa for reminding us what it means to serve, you are an amazing example to all.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

Commitment Day

Verb commitment dayWhat is commitment day? It is one of the most important days in Watts all year. Commitment day is the day that the boys from Verbum Dei High School stand in front of their community and tell everyone where they will be attending college in the fall.

This might not seem like a big deal to many, but for these boys of South Central Los Angeles, this is a game changer. A moment that will alter their life course forever. These young men live in one of the most dangerous, poor and crime ridden neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Yet, 100% will be leaving because they are going to college, against all odds.

What makes their journey more unique than any other high school student? The obstacles that these young men must overcome are simply staggering. First, they must apply (if their parents allow them to or understand) to this amazing boy’s school and be accepted. Often times they are behind academically and students must catch up quickly.  While other boys in these neighborhoods are joining gangs, the boys of Verbum Dei are putting on dress shirts and ties.

In addition to overcoming poverty, family issues, grades and gang pressures these young men are trained to work in corporate America. One day a week they board a van to their job where they work to help subsidize their education and more importantly see who they can become.  After four years of studying, working, doing sports and becoming “Men for Others” these young men are proud to tell their family and friends that they are heading to a place most have never been, college.

Today is Commitment Day at Verbum Dei. These men will announce to their families, peers and school that they are on their way to schools such as Georgetown, USC and a host of others, all sharing bright future ahead.

The teachers, staff, parents and corporate sponsors have made commitments to these young men and now these young men are committing to the world that they are leaving the life they know and heading to incredible futures full of promise. This is Commitment day.

 

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2015 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Charity Matters Quotes: Evolution

“WHEN WE ARE NO LONGER ABLE TO CHANGE A SITUATION, WE ARE CHALLENGED TO CHANGE OURSELVES.”

 VIKTOR E FRANKL

 

CM quotes-evolution

 

The beauty of writing is each week, is that I try to pour my life experiences into a theme, something I’m not sure I would do without you here. As the week began with the movie Wild and the theme of loss, grief and taking on your fears, I realized that evolution was definitely this week’s theme.

The young men from Watts stood in my living room, this past weekend telling their stories of going from the streets of gang ridden Los Angeles into corporate America and then onto 4 year colleges, I realized their struggles originated from the same place….a place where they had no control of their situation. A similar theme from the movie Wild, which dealt with the loss of a parent. Neither had control, however, both had a choice.

It is only when the challenge becomes internal rather than external that the growth, change and evolution occurs. As Victor Frankl so beautifully said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

 

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2015 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

The Verb

Verb commitment day

Last friday was Commitment Day at Verbum Dei High School in Watts. It is one of the most magical days of the year in South Central Los Angeles. It is a day of pride, accomplishment , celebration and pure joy. These young men, from one of the roughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, beat the odds of most in their environment. They will not be going into gangs or to prison but rather 100% of these students will be going to college in the fall.

These young men come from poverty, they are often a behind national averages in school when they arrive at The Verb.  In addition to overcoming poverty, family issues, grades and gang pressures these students are trained to work in corporate America. One day a week they board a van to their job, where they work to help subsidize their education and more importantly see who they can become. After four years of studying, working, doing sports and becoming “Men for Others” these students are proud to tell their family and friends that they are heading to a place most have never been, college.

 

Last friday as I watched the boy’s pride in themselves and in each other, as they announced where they would be going to college, tears streamed down my face with joy . Verbum Dei Class of 2014 students will be attending schools such as Stanford, Georgetown, UC Berkeley, USC, UCLA, and Cal States to name a few.

The Commitment and the day was theirs but the joy and pride belonged to all.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2014 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Urban Compass

With over 1.8 million non-profits in the United States alone, I thought where do you begin? For me Urban Compass is a place close to my heart and a place that gives children a beginning, a hope and pays everything forward.

Located in Watts, an economically depressed area known for its high drop out rates, poverty, crime and gang violence…which triples in the hours following school. The local elementary and middle schools are recruiting grounds for new gang members with some children joining as early as eight years old.

Urban Compass was formed in partnership with Verbum Dei High School and 112th Street Elementary School to combat poverty and violence and make a difference in the lives of children in Watts. This incredible after school program captures children at a very volatile age and offers an alternative model for them: an environment that challenges them to dream of a rewarding future where they can accomplish anything and escape poverty.

Urban Compass is featured in Daughtry’s video “What About Now” (at aprox 2min) you will see that Urban Compass is the path to now.

Copyright © 2011 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.