Community Within the Community

For the past three years Iridescent has provided hands-on science courses at ~ 30 schools in the downtown Los Angeles area. However, in order to provide the community families with a workspace for long-term projects, we are now looking for a physical space that can be used for teaching and preparation work.
In order to get a sense of the Los Angeles community and gain insight on ways that Iridescent could become a thriving and functional partner in the neighborhood, I took a look at various successful non-profit organizations in the area: The Center for Life Long Learning (CLLL), The Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), The Salvation Army Youth Center, and Challengers Boys and Girls Club (CBGC). Although very different from each other, these organizations also had striking similarities. There’s a beautiful sense of hope that lies deep among their staff and members. Sure the community is filled with thousands of families trying to provide their children with the basics; but alongside these people and their aspirations are hundreds of non-profits trying to do the same thing, struggle to survive. So how do they do it? There were a few words that never failed to come up during an interview, “respect”, “growth”, and “commitment”. These words not only applied to the children involved in the community programs but also the volunteers, workers, and parents.

  • RESPECT: In order to earn the respect of the community families, each organization reaches out, they provide a comforting atmosphere and a haven for its members. The CLLL painted their gates and walls with spirited colors. HOLA has begun to clean up the Lafayette Park for community use. The Salvation Army painted a large mural on their wall. The CBGC created schools and day care programs within the area. Once the people of the community gained a sense of trust for the organization, they were able to become involved and follow the high standards that the organization placed for its members.
  • COMMUNITY GROWTH: Each organization makes it their responsibility to rear the children towards being successful and moral members of society. The volunteers and teachers pinpoint where a child’s talent lies then build off it. They help the children to excel in their best abilities while also offering other resources. The growth of the parents is also always a goal. In this time of economic instability many families have great intangible demands; whether mental, emotional, or supportive, the families need a safe place to connect and work with each other. The organizations often build strong bonds between parent and child. As the members grow, so does their desire to give back to the community, thus the organization can grow.
  • COMMITMENT: There must be a commitment to the cause. The organizations’ volunteers and workers must be selfless and the child members must be self-fulfilling. The commitment of the community provides a full proof plan for learning and change.

Giving goes both ways. No organization can function without the shared resources of another. The organizations provide activity, health care, and education for those that need it, and in return the community wants to give back. The WANT to give back is how the communities function within the community. Mortimer Jones executive director of the Salvation Army Youth Center said, “In order to succeed, this can’t be a job it has to be a passion.”


Center for Life Long Learning

Heart of Los Angeles

Salvations Army

Challengers Boys and Girls Club


· Small

· 6 years in its location

· Transient Families

· 7-18 year old members

· 5 directors

· Over 1,000 kids

· 20 years in its location

· Application process

· 6-19 year old members

· Serves over 4,000 youth and their parents

· 7 years in its location

· No age limit on members

· 3,500 children

· 40 years in its location

· 6-17 year old members

· Application process


· College students

· Local professionals

· Retired teachers

· Elderly Services

· College students

· Local professionals

· SAT prep tutors

· College students

· Corporate and Local professionals

· Center for student Missions.

· Archdiocese Youth Employment.

· College students

· Local professionals

· Parents

· Teachers

· Junior Members


· Grant writing

· Individual donations

· Grant writing

· Individual donation

· Golf/Bowling competitions

· Summer camp drive

· Hosting major events

· Grant writing

· Individual Donation

· Grant writing

· Individual donations

· Golf Tournament

· Pancake Breakfast

· Citibank Gala

Effective programs

· After-school Tutoring and homework help

· Computer Lab

· Free Snack Bar

· After-school Tutoring and homework help

· One-on-one focus

· Soccer and sports activities

· 12 week courses of the child’s choice.

· Art, Cooking, LGBT, Sex Ed, college prep…

· Offers Mental Health Care for families

· After-school Tutoring and homework help

· Family services

· Licensed day care

· Dance, fitness, kitchen, library, arts, game rooms, food, skate park

· Computer Lab

· After-school Tutoring and homework help

· Transportation

· Character and Leadership development

· Health and life skills

· Radio Broadcasting, film editing, arts, music, dance, fitness, sports, cooking

· Field trips


· Teachers without boarders

· City scholars foundation

· LA food bank

· Dole Foods

· Salvation Army

· Bresee

· Boys and Girls Club

· LA Lakers

· Archdiocese

· Youth Admissions

· LA Clippers


· LA food bank

· Center for student missions

· Disney

· United Way

· McDonalds Teaching Healthy Habits

· Hola

· Q Fraternity


· Background checks Gate

· Police cooperation

· Surveillance camera

· Background checks

· Gate

· Police Cooperation

· Constant Chaperon

· Alarm

· Background checks

· Gate

· Police Cooperation

· Constant Chaperon

· Alarm

· Windows in every room

· Surveillance cameras

· Everyone is searched

· Background checks

· Gate

· Police Cooperation

· Front Desk check

· Alarm

· Strict non gang related dress code for civility of children within the grounds


· Gain the trust of the community

· Have a good PR plan

· Competitive staff

· Know your demography

· Asset Based: Build of the individual child’s talents

· Equality and respect

· High moral values

· Confidence

· Gain the trust and respect of the community

· Passion for the cause

· Build confidence within the child

· Involve the parents

· Build of the talents of the child

· Parental volunteers

· Shuttle transportation


· Tagging

· Homeless wanderers

· Awareness

· Family Attendance

· Parents with limited education

· Inconsistency with student volunteers during the summer

· Parental want for child to work or be domesticated instead of continue school.

· Cultural misunderstandings.

· Values clashing.

· Parents with limited education

· Transient culture

· On the Gang Separation line

· Not enough volunteers

· Transportation

· Parents with limited education

· Awareness for the youth centers services: Breaking the stereotype that the Salvation Army is one big thrift store.

· Discipline

· Parent disputes over fees and attendance

· Optional tutoring: The children aren’t forced to attend homework help and often pick an activity over learning.