Monday, December 17, 2007

Mario Danelo Unveiled On Monday

Mario Danelo's Parents Are Greatly Honored By the Unveiling of Artist Mike Sullivan 's Mural and Hope Students Will Be Inspired to Punt Their Way to Their Dream
By Diana L. Chapman

Had USC kicker Mario Danelo dropped by at the large ceremony in his honor on Monday where the unveiling of his mural took place, his friends and relatives agree, he would have been clueless about all the fanfare.

It wasn't his style, explained his longtime friend, Kathleen Budar, who described Mario as a friendly, "goofy" guy who enjoyed humor and friendship more than anything else -- and didn't take much to praise.

So perhaps he was there in spirit when his parents, Joe and Emily, pulled the rope to unveil the mural -- and absolutely nothing happened. There was a slight pause. The cardinal-colored drape covering it, Mario's #19, refused to budge bringing a lot of laughter to the audience in attendance. Shawn Talbott, a certified sports official, joked it was time to move to "plan B" and had a piece of machinery that toddled USC Football Coach Pete Carroll and Mario's parents up to the towering 8 X 12 mural. This time, they pulled off the drape successfully.

Now that was much more Mario's style. He would have liked that the microphone kept going in-and-out and that the drape refused to come down -- and that nothing after all was perfect -- especially when it' s about him.

Those who knew him said Mario's interest would have been piqued more by what could be done for other San Pedro High students at his former school where he played linebacker. In his later and short but powerful career, he only made it to USC after working diligently with his father, a former NFL kicker, as "a walk-on," where he became one of the colleges a record-breaking placekicker.
Instead of interest in himself, Mario would probably have been more pleased by the scholarship that will be provided in his name to a "walk on" athlete who will receive this award in his honor -- and will be voted on by the very teammates that played with him.
As this community approaches the one year January anniversary of Mario's death where he slipped and fell about 120 feet down the cliffs of San Pedro at Point Fermin Park -- in an area he grew up and treaded from the time he was a youngster -- the survivors wanted to do something special to honor him. But the two prominent figures who brought this all together was the artist, Mike, and Shawn Talbott, who engineered the plan with Los Angles Unified School District.
His parents both said they were deeply touched and honored by what was done for their son.
"Mario was so driven," his mother, Emily, told me at the event. "He wasn't offered a scholarship, but he never gave up. Mario is pretty simple. He'd just be so overwhelmed by all of this. He was just living his dream. When he said this, he meant it."
Said his father, Joe, "For Mike and Shawn to do this, it's just very personal. It means a lot to our family. But for Mario, he just could careless about fanfare. He was a real low key kid. He just wanted to go out and play."
At the behest of USC officials, Mike Sullivan painted a remarkable mural of Mario kicking in rich colors of burgundy and cobalt blue -- and he did it all for free in the hopes that students at San Pedro High would be inspired by Mario's attitude of "livin' the dream." But the real irony was when the artist accidentally met Shawn Talbott, the two of them were able to hatch the plan to bring the entire event to a reality -- working with the bureaucratic Los Angeles Unified School District.
The mural was installed Saturday near San Pedro High School's flagpole -- a beautiful specimen of Mario kicking from the artist's point of view -- a view the artist witnessed in person when he went to watch the kicker at practices as well as games. The artist has gained prominence in sports circles with his unusual ability and flare to capture images of athletes and has done many murals, including one of football player Pat Tillman.
Among those attending Monday's event were former USC running back Anthony Davis, USC Football Coach Pete Carroll, Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn, former USC quarterback Paul McDonald, now a gamecaster, and many of Mario's teammates.
About 100 plus folks attended an event that was forged in tragedy, but gained hope in the spirit that Mario's hard work -- and diligence -- would inspire but also teach them all that taking care of each other -- whether in or out of the Trojan family -- was not just important, but a must in life.
Speaking to the audience, USC's football coach suggested that the loss of Mario united his team so intensely that when they head to the Rose Bowl, Mario will probably be the biggest reason the team will win -- because Mario's spirit will be there kicking for them.
"It reminds us to cherish our lives so much...and Mario taught us all that," the coach said. "All of us are so lucky and fortunate to be here. We are taking Mario with us to the Rose Bowl...and he'll be kicking through someone."
Besides the USC scholarship, both the artist and Shawn --a former USC center and long snapper who had a special interest in Mario's underdog career -- agreed to launch a scholarship for San Pedro High, in which a football player will receive a scholarship for all their college books for the entire four years -- and a new student will be selected each year.
Perhaps this story is best wrapped up by one of his friend's and USC teammates, who grew close to the player in the four years they were together.
The sentiment that his teammate Will Collins stated to those attending the event, was simple. Mario, he said, was "living his dream" which was a comment the kicker made routinely. His teammates are now taking this seriously and "have taken it to heart."
That same statement has been plastered all over the locker rooms, the player said, and imparts them with what Mario would probably want them to do the most.
"I love you guys," the player said -- without a drop of embarrassment . That's probably what an understated Mario would have wanted to hear the most.

--To order lithographs of the mural to support the scholarship, call 213-740-4155 or send checks to the Mario Danelo Scholarship Fund, Attention Don Winston, USC, 3501 Watt Way, Los Angles, CA 90089-0602. Make checks available to the Mario Danelo Scholarship Fund.
--Visit the artist's other works at
--To purchase T-shirts done in honor of Mario, visit BOCA Activewear on Sixth Street in downtown San Pedro or call Shawn Talbott for orders at (310) 683-3723.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Artist Mike Sullivan, left, and Shawn Talbott, who helped pull together the ceremony to remind San Pedro High students that they too have a chance to make it -- but even more so, to take care of each other. Below (left): The mural is being installed on a Saturday afternoon and right, the USC shirts worn by alumni and teammates to honor Mario.

"Livin' the Dream” – Mario Danelo’s Short and Powerful Life Continues on in a Mural with Hopes to Influence Students to Work Toward Success and Watch Out for Each Other

By Diana L. Chapman

Mario Danelo beat the odds in the world of football drama.
Considered too small to play first division in college football, Mario, and his dad, Joe, a former NFL kicker worked intensely while he attended El Camino College to perfect the art of kicking so the former San Pedro High School linebacker could have a shot as a USC “walk-on.”
It was there, Mario met with success – and became USC's best kicker – a prominent player who befriended hundreds and “would light up a room” when he walked in.
But that was until tragedy struck – and on a cool January evening this year where the 21-year-old slipped off the local cliffs perched over the sea at Point Fermin. This was an area he was born and raised in and probably believed he knew how to navigate as well as punting a football. His death rippled throughout our town – and perhaps all of Los Angeles, because for so many, he was “livin’ the dream," as he liked to say, and his loss was—and still is-- excruciatingly painful.
And now there’s a message that those who loved, admired and worked with him want to leave behind at San Pedro High School – so that Mario’s death will not be in vain. On Monday at 10 a.m. near the high school’s flag pole, the unveiling of 8 X 12 foot mosaic mural – of #19 kicking his way to his dreams – will be shown to the public for the first time; his parents, Joe and Emily, will be honored with its unwrapping. The public is invited.
USC football Coach Pete Carroll and most of the USC team is expected to attend. Prints of the mural will be sold for $250 to pay for a full USC scholarship awarded to a player that the team itself will select as the best “walk-on” athlete since Mario.
The hope by those involved in the event is that students will always remember that despite the odds, hard work can lead to extreme success – but more than that, they want students to remember to watch out and take care of each other and to remember that they are not invincible.
"The whole idea is something tragic happened and the whole lesson for kids is this...," said Shawn Talbott, a former USC center and long snapper and now a certified NCAA and CIF sports official. "If we are out with friends and we want to enjoy ourselves that we take a step back and take stock of the situation. And that we watch out for each other."

Artist Mike Sullivan, who volunteered materials and his time to make the painting, also sees it as a way to paint a bright future for students. His dream is that when they see Mario's towering mural, they will see their own potential for future success. Mike, a well-known artist in sports circles, has painted many murals of athletes, including Pat Tillman, who gave up a professional football career and later his life to fight for his country after the terrorist attacks.

“I want kids who don’t know what they want to be, to see this,” explained Mike, a former high school football player, as he watched workers hammering in individual tiles for the mural on Saturday -- another donation in this ceremony from Doug West, who owns the D.W.C.C. , a tile and stone company in Gardena. “It’s a good thing to see someone at your school, with the same teachers and the same facilities, in life has made it.”
The beautiful ruby, golden, cobalt-blue mural – took Mike days to paint. He undertook the endeavor at the behest of USC's requests from Don Winston, associate athletic director, and Mike Garrett, the college's athletic director.

But the entire dream to build the mural at the high school fell into the exact place when the artist accidentally bumped into Shawn at a sports restaurant, Phil Tranis, in Long Beach.
That accidental meeting brought this entire event to fruition, when Shawn – a CIF and NCCA coach, told the artist he could help clear the bureaucratic path and work with the many contacts he had to make the event a reality.

Both Shawn and Mike had been impressed with Mario's career, the artist even going out of his way to watch him at practices and Shawn's interest and pride in the kicker was so intense that when his wife called him with the tragic news, she first instructed him to pull over the car.
“My wife called me and told me to pull over to the side of the road,” recalled Shawn, who lives in Torrance. “I cried. It was horrible. That kid could light up a room. He was a kid that all of San Pedro could be proud of.’
On Monday, that pride should be apparent as scores of dignitaries and players are expected to show up for the event. San Pedro High School was a “100 percent,” behind the effort, Shawn said, and the family seems to be pleased with the final painting. They, however, have yet to see the mural that was being installed on Saturday.

But since this partnering, not just the USC scholarship was established. Another scholarship grew out of the partnership sparked by that coincidental combination of the artist and Shawn meeting. A San Pedro High School assistant principal had asked Shawn if they couldn’t do something for the high school students too.
That’s when both Shawn and Mike agreed to establish a “book” scholarship in which one football player each year that goes off to college will be selected to have their college books purchased for all four years of their education.
And that scholarship, like the mural that towers at San Pedro High School, will live on year after year after year – another echo of Mario’s short and powerful life.

To purchase the litho print, contact USC at 213-740-4155 or 213-740-1306 or mail a check to: the Mario Danelo Scholarship Fund, Attention Donn Winston, USC, 3501 Watt Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0602. Make checks payable to the Mario Danelo Scholarship Fund.
To see more work by Artist Mike Sullivan, go to

Monday, December 10, 2007

Carol Knight, left, and Marie Dukesherer, right spread" "tacky" cheer with unique head decor during the holidays. "The tackier the better," Carol said.


Diana L. Chapman

In a world of stress, from complaining parents to employees failing to receive their paychecks on time, two gals who work for the Los Angeles Unified School District lighten the load by spreading a butterball of cheer that might even make the Grinch laugh.

Wearing zany fashions from Christmas trees topping their heads to giant to baubles, Carol Knight, a purchasing/text book secretary, and Marie Dukesherer, an administrative assistant, try to brighten the days in the Main Office at Dana Middle School during the busy holiday season.

They begin to adorn their heads starting Dec. 1 to Dec. 14 – the ten days left until winter break – with gaudy ornaments just to see if they can make people even in the worst of moods – that often come from holiday stress – happy.

“We just do it to promote laughter and good will in the main office,” explained Marie, who said the two employees have been doing that – and other holidays for the past eight years. “Everybody loves it and thinks it’s a lot of fun.”

Said Carol: “Why do I do it? Because we’re goofy. It just makes people happy when they walk in and see how stupid we look. It’s like: “It’s those goofballs in the office again.”

For myself, I absolutely love it. Around the holidays, people are so crazed, students are ready to get out of school, teachers are ready to rest – and the blaring trumpets of buying gifts and preparing for visitors – often makes people testy. When I first saw their headbands, I couldn't quit laughing -- especially knowing how irritable I can get myself during the holiday season.

Just how testy do folks get? These women know, because sitting behind any Main Office at most schools is one of the most demanding, multi-tasking jobs in existence. Phones ring off the hook. Questions pepper the employees daily – often the same question. The women even say, they forget to look up while emerged in work when someone asks how they are doing, not because they are being rude, but because they’ve been asked that about 200 times already that day.
Along with: What time does school get out? Who are those flowers on the counter top for? Where is the principal? Can you help me find my lost back pack? What room do I find this teacher in? Where is the nurses office? The attendance office?

The problem with these jobs is there is rarely a break. So you have to laugh, Carol and Marie explain. That’s why the two hobbled together some odds-and-ends of holiday decor using a hot glue gun and all sorts of ridiculous things such as giant bows, stars and ribbons.

For the most part, it cheers most people coming through the office. But not always.
It always surprises them when those they never seen before don’t say a word.
“A lot of people just come up and don’t say anything,” Marie said. “And that’s when we have the most outlandish costumes on.”

They’ve never received a complaint about what they do. But Carol does have one complaint herself. She says they often put “tacky" plastic mistletoe on their bands, but: “Nobody ever kisses us!”

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Stand Up San Pedro: Stand UP
By Diana L. Chapman

It was a typical Saturday, maybe even a Sunday, where my son had all his friends over – and they asked – innocently – if they could go down to Pt. Fermin Park – together.
My heart stopped. And it was the middle of the day. I didn’t want them to go.
I looked at them all: black, white, Hispanic and Asian, all around the age of 13.
And the fear grew, beginning to web around me so I felt as if I was being crushed by a metal brace and couldn’t breath. I didn’t want them to go. Not together. I didn’t feel they were safe. I was terrified that a gang member would show up and teach these children a lesson – one that seems to be going around in our town lately: don’t mix races.
Now, I'm hearing allegedly that nooses are being strung up down at the docks at our two harbors and that a rally was scheduled for noon today at the Pacific Maritime Association in Long Beach to discuss "the hostile and discriminatory work environment directed at African American Longshore workers."
While a flier said five nooses have appeared at the docks, I could only confirm one incident.
But now my fear has grown. Within the past year, at least four San Pedro High students have been shot -- at least one who was killed, and two others -- a Latino and African-American friend -- were shot outside the Boys and Girls Club port site. They were allegedly being taught a lesson from gang members that they are not allowed to hang out together.
"What's it going to take for this town to wake up?" Central Neighborhood Council president, Joe Gatlin, asked during a meeting over the issues. He represents a portion of the black community, since his roots date back generations and at least 500 family members still live in town. But now, Joe said, many of his friends and family members are packing their bags and are moving out -- out of fear.
At least four African-American families he knows are leaving the area, especially those feeling threatened since the October killing of a popular San Pedro High School student -- a 6 foot 6" Pirates football and basketball player, shot in the chest protecting his friends during a party.
Students have told me that gang members crashed the celebration, bringing guns and knives, and making racial slurs when a brawl broke out. I knew many of the kids at this party. Good kids. Students preparing for college. Students that are athletes. For God sake's, two of my girlfriend's children were at the party.
"We are in a war zone," Joe said. "I believe people just don't know what's going on or they would help. People are leaving the community. People who have lived here for generations are leaving the community. This has got to stop."
When my son first got accepted to the “gifted” program at Dana Middle School, I admit readily I copped an attitude. I was sure it was an “elitist" group, possibly all white. Over the three years, I discovered I had my own lesson to learn. I found myself steadily traveling all over the community to pick up kids, from the middle of town, to the richest area of town, to poorest areas of town. For once, I realized that the Los Angeles Unified School District had done something really right – they had pulled together children who would never have met each other otherwise. Poor. Rich. Black. White. Hispanic. Asian. Wherever they were from, they were together.
And out of this came a conglomerate of students, one that I was so proud my son spent his days with.
But then La Terian was shot and killed -- a kid who put a face on this tragedy for all of us.
He had turned his life around when he moved away from the violence of other Los Angeles areas and moved here. Coaches spotted him immediately and got him into both football and basketball and he worked hard to bring and keep his grades up.
Younger kids at the Boys and Girls Club looked up to him in awe -- and he took the time to talk and counsel them. He was killed for absolutely no reason – except for what I believe is this: gang members made it so. I believe it was because he was African-American.
We think it stops there, with kids like La Terian. But it doesn’t. Now, I find myself waking up every morning wondering when the next kid is going to be killed. And I selfishly pray that it won't be my kid. Or my friend's kids. And then I pray that it not be anyone's kid.
I was unable to confirm the number of African–American families moving out, but I did talk to a mother who pulled her daughter out of San Pedro High School, because of threats she was receiving on her life they believe stems from her tight friendship with LaTerian, the mother said.
“A lot of people are scared straight,” she said, asking not to be identified due to the violence on the streets. “A group of Latinas were calling my daughter “ nigger,” and were threatening to harm her.
“It’s sad. I love San Pedro. But I can drive down every single block and see where I had friends killed. I have had friends die on every street.”
When I told my friends that I had been afraid to let my son and his friends go to Pt .Fermin – some thought that I was overreacting.
Joe, however, did not. He’s adamant that it’s a matter of time before someone more prominent is killed – and then we all wake up. Gang members, he said, are everywhere across this community – making decisions for us. If they decide that this little group of boys should’t be together, they can very well make it so.
He wonders what it will all take for us to pull all together, to be the community we should be, to protect each other. I think, that’s who La Terian was. Laterian was our wake up call to bring us all together.
I can’t believe I have the guts to say this: Stand up San Pedro. Have the guts to stand up – stand up now before its too late.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

All I Want for Christmas is...

Some Platelets, Red Blood Cells & Bone Marrow

Jillian and mom, Michelle, get the cuff around the ankle to determine her blood pressure. She just wants to kick for exercise, the baby said.

To help this family go to these

What Does Jillian Need For Christmas – platelets, red blood cells and a bone marrow Donor Will Do

By Diana L. Chapman

Peeking quietly into the hospital room, it seemed like any normal family gathering. Two little girls, a beaming, blond 4-year-old named, Anna, and her baby sister, 23-month old Jillian flopped on the floor. Toys were scattered about them-- and a visiting dog named, Huxley, happily snatched treats from their tiny hands – making the girls giggle.
Their parents, Michelle and Matt Litton, smiled proudly like it was Christmas morning. But the gifts the parents need this holiday aren’t the usual suspects such as a litany of toys, books and music.
The San Pedro couple desperately need Santa to bring red blood cells, platelets and a matching bone marrow from a willing donor on his sleigh – in case their sweet, impish tot, Jillian, needs it to survive. It was Oct. 3 when the family doctor called and told Michelle that Jillian had leukemia, not just any leukemia, but a rare form called acute myelogenous leukemia. They needed to meet with her right away.
Racing over to Miller Childrens Hospital in Long Beach, Michelle swept in the room to hear the bad news and the cycles of chemotherapy Jillian would need. At last, the family had learned the answer to the disconcerting bruises that had freckled Jillians’ body accompanied with a fever, and later complaints from the tot that her feet and ears hurt.
As for most parents, the first appearance of symptoms seemed like the flu.
“But there were a few weird things, like I sat her down for lunch,” said her father Matt. “She hadn’t eaten anything, but when I picked her up, her stomach was hard as a rock. It felt as tight as a drum.”
Doctors later told them that Jillian’s spleen and liver had swollen – and she couldn’t fight off an ear infection with the antibiotics because of her underlying illness, plunging the couple into a nightmarish whirlwind in learning about leukemia, platelets and bone marrow swabs -- more than anyone would ever care to know.
Ironically, the couple knew more than most would, having already supported St. Jude’s Research Hospital, which specializes in pediatric cancer. For Michelle, those little faces and stories of life-threatening illnesses haunted her so she and her husband registered as bone marrow donors should a need ever arise for any child. She even blasted out an e-mail asking her friends to do the same.
The couple had agreed among themselves to do all of this before they found out about their own daughter – and unfortunately, they are not a match for Jillian.
Parents typically aren’t a match for their own children (even though its genetically driven) and in this case, Anna, is not a match either, Michelle explained. So the hunt is on for someone who is -- and those who take the time to register would be on the list and could be a match for Jillian and hundreds of other children.
“You’d be more of a match than me,” explained Michelle, who now knows more about bone marrow and registering for it then she had ever planned on. Due to the costs, the family and friends have held fundraisers to try to make registration fees cheaper.
Furthermore, ethnicity plays s a large part of the matching, not just DNA, Michelle explained. About 80 percent of the donors are Caucasian, which makes it horrendous to match marrow for other races -- and "so minorities are in high demand and are not required to pay the fee," Michelle said.
From the moment their friends learned of the family's plight, they jumped aboard to try and help.
In my next life, I’m planning to come back and have the Litton’s friends. As soon as their friends heard what was happening to the family, they mobilized pulling together a giant garage sale – raising $5,000 plus during last weekend.
That will be used to help run the upcoming bone marrow drives, one at Torrance High School Dec. 14 from 3 to 9 p.m. and the other Jan. 5 (Saturday) at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium from 11 to 3 p.m. (For further information, link to the GetSwabbed above).
Their friends helped post fliers every where and anywhere to get people to the bone marrow drives and continued to email me on a consistent basis – that a story should be posted on the Underdog Blog.
Everybody needs friends like that during a life-and-death struggle, but I’m sure it’s not just the parents that they are trying to help. Jillian, herself, is quite a character. I was shocked how much she could speak already – and that she definitely had her own mind-set.
When she wanted to read her Dr. Seus Cat in the Hat book alone – and Anna insisted on helping her – she pushed Anna away saying she wanted to read alone.
On what her parents were calling “a bad day” for Jillian, her spirit seemed tough and her drive constant, despite battling a cough. She watched Wizard of Oz (her favorite movie) in her crib with Anna and when she was asked what her favorite character was, she yelped out: “Toto!”
She jumped around reading books, climbing up on her mom and kissing her, riding her toy pony and then refusing to hug a leaving visitor – that would be me – at the end of the day.
She was tired and the nurses had come in-and-out poking her, checking her blood pressure and her temperature.
Her mom encouraged a hug – but she ignored that and clung onto her buddy friends, Toto, Lion, Dorothy, Tin Man and Scarecrow.
But just as I was leaving, I got blessed, Jillian flung herself on me and gave me a hard, deep hug – one that I never realized a tiny sprout could give.
That was the greatest Christmas gift of my life.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Gang Cops Visit Teens to Discuss Protective Skills and Say: “We are there for You...”
Tips on What to do and How to Avoid Confrontation with Gangs

By Diana L. Chapman

A gentle, 11-year-old boy, who religously comes to art club Thursday’s after school, was asking me what I thought of his art. I was peering over his shoulder.
When he looked up at me with his round, round eyes, his short-cropped hair circling off his head as smooth as a teddy bear, it seemed his pear-shaped cheeks just begged for an ounce of help. That's when I spotted the black-green-yellow crescent moon perched below his left eye.
“What happened?” the words leaped out of my mouth before I had a chance to think.
“I got jumped,” he answered back promptly – with all the sincerity in the world, as if I shouldn’t be surprised, as though this was just part of his life.
My heart fell into my stomach, because as with most kids, I appreciate this child’s steady attendance to the after school club and his joy that he gets from being there. He was in the after school program, after all, because so many were designed at Dana Middle School – to help keep the kids off the streets, place them in a safer environment, help them forge close friendships and explore other interests in their lives.
“Where were you jumped?” I demanded.
“In Wilmington,” he explained. The student lives in San Pedro.
It was just the day before I had listened to two Los Angeles Police Gang Officers – Adriana Ruiz and Junior Nua – detail ways to student leaders on the Los Angeles Police Teen Advisory Board speak at the Boys and Girls Club about ways to protect themselves.
But before I get into that, I want to explain how volatile it's become on the streets of San Pedro. If we were once safe on one side of town – as we seem to think – we are discovering more and more that the walls are narrowing and gangs are now taking the lives of children we know – like La Terian Tasby, a 17-year-old San Pedro Pirate football and basketball player who was gunned down this fall at a party while protecting his friends.
At one time, San Pedro residents could basically argue that most gangs didn’t live near them. Now, they live in all pockets of our community – which means its time to clear away our dreamworld and find ways to curb gang activities. Wilmington has had some great success by creating a gang injunction, which according to the gang officers, has helped them keep gang members from controlling resident's lives. The injunction prevents gangs from congregating and imposes curfews. I’m all for an injunction – as I don’t want to see anymore kids killed.
Recently, Rev. Jeff Carr, whose been appointed by Los Angeles mayor, to tackle gangs and is otherwise known as the – “gang Czar” – came to a fundraiser for the Los Angeles Harbor-Area Boys and Girls Club.
He told those attending that while crime has dropped in Los Angeles, the problem is still severe. Every time his beeper goes off, he knows that another person has been killed or wounded by gangs. On Labor Day weekend, he said, two young people were shot and 11 were wounded.
“We have an epidemic,” he reported to the crowd. “We are the second largest city. If we continue to fight the problem this way, (through suppression) we are going to lose.”
I agree. Prevention has to be a huge part of solving these issues. That’s why Mike Lansing, executive director of the the Boys and Girls Club, has upped the ante for his kids by enrolling hundreds of club members into his College Bound program – and achieving so much success, I’m convinced that he will be overwhelmed when all parents realize what he’s offering.
My son and several of his friends are already there, looking at different colleges, learning what classes are needed for a higher education and they can get practice taking the SATs.
We have it all backwards, the executive director and the former Los Angeles School District board member told those attending.
“This is an amazing statistic,” he contended at the fundraiser, shortly after La Terian’s death reverberated through our town. “In San Pedro and Wilmington, there are 67 newborn to preschool child care (facilities). In San Pedro and Wilmington, there are only two teen centers. That is for the youth at most risk. As my father would say: “This is bass ackwards.”
And that’s why so many folks have worked diligently to pull together after school programming at Dana Middle School. And why I was shook up that one of the kids in the art had been hurt.
That made me start telling the students the gang officer's advice, one of which was never walk alone or an an area unknown to you. When I explained it to the students, the 11-year-old yelped: “But I walk to Von’s everyday,”
But that’s in San Pedro, I explained to him, “an area you know.”
“We’re here to assist and put these gang members in jail,” said Officer Nua, who revealed that the students aren’t talking about what happened to La Terian and others gang shootings out of fear. They have not been able to make any inroads, recently, in any of these deaths – because no one is talking. Anyone with information is encouraged to call police detectives – even anonymously – at 310-522-2040 or visit Another option is to call Los Angeles City’s 311 number to get access to detectives.
Here are rules to follow to protect children’s safety:
--No matter how popular and trendy, do not even attempt to wear any style of gang attire, including being cautious of colors, hats, and even the shoelaces you chose, to help prevent becoming or a “target” and being asked “where are you from?” – a common question gang members ask.
--Only be in areas that are well lit in the evenings and let everyone know – including your parents – where you are going and when you’ll be home.
--Know your friends and think twice about “who you hang out with,” and always be aware of any parties you attend.
“Educate yourself,” Nua told the students.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why Kids Are So Often Invisible

Dear Readers:

I am introducing what I’m calling “Snapshots into Invisible Faces.” These will be gathered from what students have written in my class. It all came together one night when I was reading the “Amazing Grace” biography of William Wilberforce – who was an abolitionist and the primary parliamentary leader in beating down the slave trade – and its acceptability in England. He spent a majority of his life fighting this cause, which sucked his life away from him slowly. But he won – after years of dedication. Due to his diligence, the slave trade was abolished in 1807. Three days before he died in 1883 slavery was abolished in the British Colonies. As I was reading this, something sparked; it was the author’s explanation that had the English really known what was going on on the slave ships at sea and in their colonies, they would have been appalled and more readily agreeable to doing away with the horrors.

But they could not see. It’s was far away and for England, they were dealing with “invisible faces.” Often, that’s what happens with our kids. Their faces are invisible. They seem far away – South Central, Watts, below Pacific Avenue in San Pedro. We also have all these laws the government uses to protect their rights, so the general public can not see them. We don’t know who is in foster care. We don’t know who’s living in group homes. We don’t know who is up for adoption. And most of us, we have absolutely no idea what happening with the kids living in areas of poverty or crime. Should we care?

Americans are the most generous people in the world. If only they could see clearly, my gut says our world for our children would change for the betterment of their lives. But we can’t help, if we can’t see.

Here’s what one boy, a high school student, wrote in my class recently and his sense of helplessness to save other kids. I’m impressed after what I read that he still had values and that he still cared – despite the madness going on around him:

Ever since I was born, I have lived in Wilmington. It’s not as bad as people think – or at least that’s what I thought. But then one day, I looked out my window and saw a man selling drugs to a seven-year-old. When I saw that I fell into shock. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I don’t know why but I felt this anger inside of me.

Then, just when I was coming to terms with that, I witnessed a bunch of gang members make these two elementary kids fight. They were fist-fighting while they were just laughing at them. I just felt like going out there and doing something, but I knew if I did something, I would have had problems later on. Since that incident I have seen the world in a whole different perspective. Between that and my family life, my brother has epilepsy, I believe this will shape my future world and the choices I will make.

My family consists of six members. It’s myself, my brother, my sister, my parents and my grandma. My father dropped out of school right after middle school. He didn’t want to school anymore; he was an alcoholic. It got so intense that he drank rubber alcohol. What made him stop is that one day he got into a really bad fight and was seriously wounded. Since that moment, he hasn’t drank alcohol for almost twenty years and like my mother, works extremely hard to help his family. My mom dropped out of second grade. Her reason of dropping out is more reasonable. She dropped out because she needed to help my grandma sell candies to some schools near by so their family could survive.”

Despite the hardships in his life, this student told me he plans to use his Spanish translation skills to help people after learning years of patience helping his epileptic brother, changing his diapers and taking showers and babysitting him when his mother and grandmother have to go out. He plans to go to college and study perhaps medicine. He’s currently in the College Bound program at the Boys and Girls Club. Perhaps when he becomes a professional, he will not be an invisible face.