A Glendale police lieutenant, wife raise 6 success stories in Watts

Rodney and Renee Brooks live near 101st and Central Avenue in Watts, and it was in that house — a modest two-story, brown stucco cube — that they raised six extraordinary children.

Jason is at Harvard, working on a PhD in education.

Veronica went to Columbia for a master's in finance.

Amanda graduated from Boston College and is in a master's program at Hunter College.

Virginia is studying for a master's at Southern Methodist while working 60 hours a week in three jobs.

Elizabeth, a Columbia grad, is an actress in New York.

And Phil, a musician who uses the stage name of River St. James and is the baby of the family at 18, just flew to Boston for an audition at the Berklee College of Music.

I wouldn't have known a thing about this family if not for Ricky Lewis, an aeronautics engineer who started the Youth Leadership Conference to mentor young men in South Los Angeles and beyond. I went to the 19th annual conference last month at USC, which was attended by 475 kids, their parents and 220 African American businessmen who are all members of Omega Psi Phi, most of them since college.

There were doctors and lawyers, teachers and engineers, all of them wearing suits and hooking up with kids they mentor all year long. Next year, when Lewis puts together the 20th conference, I'll tell you more about who he is, and about his commitment to "saving lives, one young man at a time."

But for now, I want to tell you a little more about the man Lewis and another mentor, Drew Palmer, introduced me to, saying he was someone worth knowing. I shook Mr. Brooks' hand and asked his story, but he seemed kind of shy. So Lewis and Palmer answered for him.

Six kids. Six success stories.

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-- Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times columnist

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