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Community Build’s gang prevention program

Families pick up groceries and snacks at Community Build Vermont office for the weekly movie night, which the families watch at home online. Afterward, the children write a synopsis about the film.

Community

The community organization provides daily activities for children who are at risk of joining gangs.

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Community Build’s Leimert Park office hosts a martial arts class. Photos by Jason Lewis
 

By Blake Carter

There is a theory among gang prevention counselors that children who have idle time without adult supervision are more likely to join street gangs, while children who have planned activities are more likely to make positive decisions that will steer them away from gang life.

Khary Crump, assistant director of Community Build’s Gang Reduction Youth Development Program (GRYD) program agrees with that theory.

“We have something planned everyday for the kids to take advantage of,” he said.  “And this is during the pandemic.”

Crump works with the GRYD programs out of Community Build’s office on Vermont Boulevard and 77th Street.  Community Build also has gang prevention programs at its Leimert Park office on Degnan Boulevard.  The programs are designed for children ages 10 to 15 years old.

“We get them at that age where they can still be molded,” Crump said.  “Most of our kids are just leaving elementary or are in middle school.  They’re at that age where they’re still willing to listen.  We can give them activities and they’ll do it.  When kids get a little older, they’re already set in their ways.  Unfortunately sometimes they already are who they are.”

Community Build’s gang prevention program features tutoring, mentoring, social work, counseling, family activities, and youth employment.  The children have learned how to make electrical toy cars in a STEM program that is in partnership with Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.  They have a movie night where the children are tasked with writing a synopsis about the film.  They also learn how to draw and paint from professional artists.  

The key part of all of these activities is that the children are having a learning experience.

“All of our activities have a learning component attached to it,” Crump said.  “When these kids think that they’re just being entertained, there’s always some type of education component attached to it.  With the STEM program, they think that they’re making a toy car, but they’re learning how kinetic energy works.  Even with the painting, they’re learning how to follow directions, and they’re learning how to do things that they didn’t feel like they could ever do.”

The program also has workshops for life skills, classroom etiquette, organizational skills, and how to do household chores when their parents are at work.  

During the pandemic, many of the activities are being done virtually through Zoom, with their free homework assistance program taking place twice a week.  

Crump has seen struggling children come through the GRYD program and go on to become successful adults.  One of the children from the program was a student at Augustus Hawkins High School.  She would either get to school late or miss all of her classes as she was taking care of her younger brother.

“I talked to some of her teachers at Augustus Hawkins,” Crump said.  “Those teachers went above and beyond, and set up time after school for her to catch up on her school work.  This young lady just last year graduated from college.  And her brother who is two years younger than her is currently in college.  So this was a family that started off with sporadic attendance, and education wasn’t a big thing.  Now this young lady has a college degree.”

For older children and young adults ages 14 to 25 years old, Community Build has a gang intervention program.

For more information about Community Build programs, contact them at (323) 290-6560 and visit their website at www.communitybuildinc.org.