September 14, 2016
“A better world to me is a place where everybody can live out the dreams that they — when they close their eyes — think about. That every barrier that holds them back dissolves away. That the challenges that everybody faces in life are ones that we can collectively overcome and that there’s no racism, no sexism, no poverty that holds us back from that. That at the end of the day, we can determine our own fates — our own destinies — and that we can build something new that nobody else has ever seen before.”
“I’m one of these rare species in Los Angeles who’s actually a 4th generation native of this city. I think what makes LA amazing is that people come from around the world and around the country, but I’m lucky enough to have had a great-grandfather who came here as a young boy.
I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, but my parents grew up in South LA and West LA. My grandparents are from the Eastside. For me, this whole city has been a combination of all of those communities and neighborhoods. I went to school in the San Fernando Valley, left for a few years to go to school on the East coast, and then in England. You can always see the face of the world on the streets of LA. When I left Los Angeles, I saw the face of Los Angeles on the face of the world.
I love so much about LA. I love its people. I love its topography. I love the layout of this place where the beautiful mountains collide with the ocean. It’s the edge of a continent. It’s just rich and ripe with possibility. And I love that LA is both free and innovative.
YPI also embodies Los Angeles’ creativity and innovation. I’ve been working with YPI for over a decade. They are able to be this incredible tapestry of this city and have programs and a philosophy that is inclusive of everybody. It’s in some ways how I’ve modeled my governance style. That to be successful, you cannot leave anybody behind — you can’t leave any dollar behind — and you certainly need to have a plan where to go when you bring these bits and pieces together. YPI embodies that.
At a time when resources are thinner than they’ve ever been, at a time when people feel more disconnected in many ways than they ever have been, YPI actually is the glue that brings that together. They pull funding sources and braid that together. They pull different philosophies and unite them.
YPI is the bridge. It’s the connection between peoples and different backgrounds and neighborhoods and ages and philosophies. It’s a bridge that I think is able to take young people from despair to hope, from disconnection to connection, and ultimately take the pressing problem of poverty and find a pathway to finally find opportunity for everybody.
YPI gets the intersection of how we live. They know a young person’s need might be counseling today; it might be mental health tomorrow; it might be legal services for her family the third day; the fourth day, they might need to have tax preparation help.
In some ways, YPI pioneered the idea that there’s no wrong door. Once they find you or you find them, they’re going to take you from the immediate need you have today to the challenge you face tomorrow, to expanding that into serving your family and maybe even your entire neighborhood.
They were thinking ahead of the curve as technology was cresting to make sure that young people and communities of color in our low-income areas of town had access to technology that’s just as cutting-edge as the wealthiest areas. That was something that we take for granted now.
YPI has also been a superb and key partner in my goal of making sure that every young person in Los Angeles can find a job in the summertime and during the school year that can help prepare her or him to graduate, to go to college and to have a great career. Sometimes they’ve hired youth directly or they’ve helped place youth in great jobs with corporate partners that support YPI.
Los Angeles was one of the first three cities in the nation to be selected as a Promise Zone. This is President Obama’s signature anti-poverty policy. The Promise Zone is based on the idea that poverty will only be eradicated when we serve people as full human beings and YPI does that every day.
YPI helped this city be the only city in the nation that won the three precursor grants to the Promise Zone. In some ways, the Promise Zone was almost built on the success of the City and YPI’s work in the precursor initiatives that then led to the Promise Zone.
We would never have gotten there were it not for YPI’s core philosophy of bringing every person, every grant, every organization to the table together.
They’re collaborative which is so rare in a nonprofit. I think as YPI has grown, they have brought so many people and so many organizations with them. To me, that’s part of the legacy of YPI.”