Born of the idea of breaking down barriers between police and street youths, the Hollenbeck Youth Center unveiled a 15,000-square-foot expansion Wednesday.
The center was formed in 1972, and provided boxing classes by Los Angeles police officers for at-risk youth. Today the facilities have expanded into a three-story sports and activities complex with a full-time staff whose goal is to steer children away from the streets, said Daniel Hernandez, executive director of Hollenbeck.
"The thought that continues throughout Hollenbeck today is that given meaningful alternatives, most kids would rather be productive within society than function as an unwanted outsider," Hernandez said.
With the $2-million expansion, made possible by private investors, the center will offer dozens of additional free programs to Eastside residents, including computer training, academic tutoring and gymnastic classes in a new gym.
Alberto Ramirez, 13, said he was tempted toward street life when a friend told him about boxing classes at Hollenbeck.
"I used to like the streets, now I like boxing,", said Ramirez, as he struck the punching bag with piston-like precision.
Amid hundreds of celebrities and celebrants Wednesday, spokesman Johnny Enriquez said the facility is a role model for other centers.
"We hope the center will serve as a blueprint for other youth centers, offering innovative programs to take kids off the streets," Enriquez said.