Jevon Wilkes, a recent Cal State Channel Islands grad and a former member of the Los Angeles Youth Leadership Council (LAYLC), spoke at the recent graduation celebration hosted by Majestic Realty Foundation. Wilkes, a communications major, who is also a former foster youth, is committed to giving back to his communities. His inspiring comments came from his own real-life experiences and sheer determination to graduate and make a difference.
The LAYLC is a flagship program of the Majestic Realty Foundation that brings together student leaders from LA’s inner-city youth centers for leadership training, community service and college preparatory activities. Youth centers participating in the 10 year old program include the Salvation Army Red Shield, Bresee, Salesian Boys and Girls Club and Salesian Family Youth Center.
The LAYLC meets monthly with student leaders, hosting dinner meetings that bring in guest speakers, trainers, and other resources to help these students succeed. One of the highlights of each year is the training session on business and dining etiquette – soft skills that are so important is this very competitive job market. Community service is another highlight as the students enjoy giving back.
“The LAYLC works on many levels,”
said Irene de Anda Lewis, executive director of the Salvation Army Red Shield. “In neighborhoods where families and schools may not have the extra resources to help students achieve and succeed, young people turn to their local youth centers for support.
By establishing the LAYLC, the Majestic Realty Foundation is investing in tomorrow’s leaders today. Best of all, these are students who will likely come back to Los Angeles as a new generation of civic leaders.”
This year’s graduating seniors totaled 26 students from the three participating youth centers. These students attended 12 different high schools. The graduates plan to attend Mount St. Mary’s College, West Los Angeles City College, UC Berkeley, Cal State Los Angeles, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Fullerton, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Monica College, Cal State East Bay, UC Santa Cruz, Cal State Northridge, University of San Francisco, The Art Institute of California (Santa Monica), Los Angeles Trade Tech Community College, Glendale Community College and UC Irvine.
Many of them are the first in their families to earn a high school degree and the graduating seniors will all attend college in the fall.
“The student leaders have really raised the bar since the early days of the decade- old LAYLC program,” said Fran Inman, president of the Majestic Realty Foundation. “In the initial years, we did a lot of what felt to us like preaching to the students that they needed to graduate and go on to college. Now the students themselves have built those assumptions into the program and enjoy the peer to peer mentoring, especially from the former LAYLC grads that have walked in their shoes and have managed to obtain a college degree. It is so very contagious and powerful.” Despite whatever their individual challenges and hardships might be, these students have learned to dream big dreams.
Simon Flores, the LAYLC coordinator for the MRF and senior program officer for Southern California Leadership Network, blends his experiences of growing up in the Highland Park and Pico Union districts of Los Angeles, graduating college and working as a college admission counselor. Simon current works with the SCLN and often provides the students with the highlights from the materials that are covered by the SCLN, a nationally recognized civic leadership program. “These kids are true heroes and I look forward to a day when they return to Los Angeles to be the business and civic leaders of tomorrow.”
At the graduation celebration, the students were presented with a college sweatshirt from their intended school, as well as with a gift card for the purchase of school and dorm supplies.
Established in 2002, the Majestic Realty Foundation provides grants and other support to various charitable community partners that work the areas of youth, family, education, health and violence prevention in the communities where Majestic Realty Co., one of the nation’s leading private commercial real estate developers, does business. For information visit: www.majesticfoundation.org.