Education Center in South L.A. Planned by Urban League

Times Staff Writer

In what an official said will be a major assault on illiteracy within the black community, the Los Angeles Urban League announced Thursday night the creation of a family and youth education center to train and tutor South Los Angeles residents “for the opportunities of the future.”

The Los Angeles Urban League Milken Family Literacy and Youth Training Center, to be housed in a former bank building at 54th Street and Crenshaw Boulevard, will provide tutoring for schoolchildren, literacy courses for adults and job referrals and training for the area’s youth.

“The training center (will be) in the forefront in equipping people to get off welfare, to not have to wait in unemployment lines,” according to league President John Mack, who said that blacks are often ill-prepared to deal with an increasingly technological job market.


The facility, which is named for the foundation that enabled the Urban League to purchase it, will feature programs designed to attack what Mack said are two devastating problems plaguing Los Angeles’ black community--”the low academic achievements of African-American students attending Los Angeles schools today . . . and the problem of literacy.”

“Few of our children are qualified for admissions to the UC system and Cal State system . . . (and illiteracy) is often a major barrier to black adults who are unemployed and underemployed,” Mack said. He added that the center will mark the first time the organization has offered tutoring and literacy courses to the community.

“Hopefully, we will be able to equip our constituents with the capacity to function successfully in the rapidly changing work and educational environment of Los Angeles,” Mack said.

Mack announced the creation of the center to a sold-out house of 1,700 guests attending the league’s 16th annual Whitney M. Young Jr. Award dinner at the Century Plaza.

The center, which Mack said could open by July, will provide tutoring to students from eight elementary, four junior and four senior high schools throughout South Los Angeles. It will also house the league’s youth center, which now finds work and provides job training for teen-agers in the community, he said.

The facility will also offer courses in math, reading and computer training for adults, Mack said.

But the league president emphasized that the center will be more than just a training facility. He said it will provide an after-school refuge for South Los Angeles children whose only other alternatives would be an empty house or streets plagued with gang violence.

“The volunteers we envision as tutors will not be our superstars,” Mack said. “They will be people who (represent) professions more in the realm of our youngsters. The engineers, the lawyers, the business people. . . . They are people who we hope to make their heroes and heroines.”

The Lakers’ Earvin (Magic) Johnson was saluted during the dinner for his contributions to the community, including summer camps and free basketball clinics for inner-city youngsters. He was presented the league’s highest honor, the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award for promoting “equality in education and employment across racial lines.”