Education, Arts & Culture

A Legacy of Life Lessons on the Gridiron

Coach Robert Garrett holds his scroll, flanked by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LA Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, and the Crenshaw High School football team. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas awarded a scroll to a local high school football coach who has mentored student athletes in South Los Angeles for over 30 years, helping some achieve their dream of playing in the NFL. As head coach of the Crenshaw Cougars at Crenshaw High School, Robert Garrett teaches youth in at-risk communities how to become champions – lessons that they carry with them throughout their lives.

Coach Garrett was recently named 2017 Don Shula National Football League High School Coach of the Year during the recent Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida, which aired nationwide on ESPN. The Los Angeles Chargers nominated Coach Garrett for the award named after the winningest coach in NFL history, which honors exemplary high school football coaches for demonstrating a commitment to player health and safety, and the integrity, achievement and leadership exemplified by Don Shula. The award included a $25,000 cash prize from the NFL Foundation, $15,000 of which will benefit Crenshaw High School’s football program, a much needed contribution.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Coach Robert Garrett and LA Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors.

“Coach Garrett often says that although he loves football, his favorite part of his job is helping his young players become better men,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We can see from all that they have accomplished – from winning state titles to being drafted into the NFL – he has been very effective in doing just that.”

“Coach Garrett is a symbol of how discipline, focus, hard work, humility, and determination can make a difference in young lives,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added.

As the entire Crenshaw High School football team enthusiastically watched their mentor receive the scroll, Coach Garrett  said, “It is my passion and my ministry to be involved with young people. I am commissioned by a higher authority to continue to fight that fight to give my self-worth to the betterment of the young people in our communities.”

This year, Coach Garrett led the Crenshaw Cougars to the 2017 CIF Division 4-AA State Championship. He has inspired many student athletes to victory, including Hayes Pullard and Brandon Mebane, who now play for the Los Angeles Chargers as a linebacker and a defensive tackle, respectively.

Mebane attended the scroll presentation, saying, “I’m now in my 12th year in the NFL, and I give Coach Garrett credit for a lot of it. He did a lot of things for me to help me get to this stage in my career.

“I feel very good about Coach Garrett receiving these honors,” he added. “It’s good to recognize all the great work he’s been doing for over 30 years at Crenshaw High School.”

The NFL Foundation recently presented a $15,000 check to Crenshaw High School because its football coach, Robert Garrett, was named the 2017 Don Shula National Football League High School Coach of the Year. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors


Falcons Take Flight

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas awarded scrolls to the Southern California Falcons Youth Football and Cheer Organization, winners of the 2017 Pacific Coast Conference Youth Football Championship.

“This morning we acknowledge a shining example of success by those who take the time to work with our young people,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“The Falcons are about more than just a winning football organization – they develop character,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “I am honored to present them with this County scroll in recognition of their continued commitment to develop the leaders of tomorrow.”

Keith Johnson had founded the Falcons with the simple goal of providing children in the community a safe place to play football. Its mission soon evolved, however, to empowering underprivileged and underserved youth to excel in life by providing them with services to better their education, health, physical fitness, and cultural appreciation.

The Falcons also mentor the children on personal and social responsibility by using the motto:  It’s time to teach new school kids old school values.

“In 2007 and 2008, we were just a young football program that had a dream to do something special,” Johnson said after receiving the scroll. “But what was really needed was a place where kids could learn, where they could understand who they are and what they could become.”

“We are not doing this alone. When Mark Ridley-Thomas was still running for Supervisor, he came to our park. Before he left, he simply said this, ‘I don’t know whether I’ll win or not, but I do know this: I will always support you because you’re doing real work with real people,’” Johnson said. “The Supervisor’s support has allowed us to catapult to the place where we’re mentoring not only our own children but we’re also mentoring other organizations to do the work that we do.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with Falcons coaches, players and parents. All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors


Legendary Los Angeles Jazz Musician Turns 90

All photos by Henry Salazar / Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors paid tribute to the legendary jazz musician Ernie Andrews, who will be turning 90 on Christmas Day, 2017. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas presented him with a scroll and a birthday cake, and also led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday.

“Our local legend is in the house,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Join me in celebrating the one and only Ernie Andrews on his remarkable jazz career and his upcoming 90th birthday.”

“I appreciate the recognition,” Andrews said. “I’ve been doing nothing but singing for a living – over 72 years now. That’s all I’ve ever done and I’ve had a nice journey.”

All photos by Henry Salazar / Board of Supervisors.

“I have enjoyed the ride and I’m still enjoying the ride,” he added. “Thank you.”

Born in 1927, Andrews spent his early years in Philadelphia and Louisiana. After moving to Los Angeles in 1944, he soon made a name for himself as a bright young talent in the local jazz scene.

Songwriter Joe Greene heard him performing on Central Avenue and quickly signed him, eventually writing his biggest hit, “Soothe Me.”

Andrews joined the Harry James Orchestra in 1958, and adopted a lush pop-oriented orchestral sound. From the 70’s through the 90’s, he collaborated with many stellar musicians, including the Frank Capp-Nat Piece Orchestra, the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra and the Los Angeles Symphony Camerata. He also performed in such iconic events as the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and the Playboy Jazz Festival.

In 1986, his remarkable career was documented in the film “Blues for Central Avenue.”

A Day at the Marina

Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Los Angeles Watts Willowbrook Clubhouse with Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Life Guards, and the Department of Beaches and Harbors. All photos by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors.

It was a fun-filled day at the Marina, as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Los Angeles Watts Willowbrook Clubhouse joined Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Life Guards, and the Department of Beaches and Harbors for the first ever Second District Day in the Marina featuring ocean safety, sail boating, paddling, and kayaking.

The District Day in the Marina is a new program by the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors bringing youth ages 8-12 to experience a programmed day of water and beach activities in Marina Del Rey. Chairman Ridley-Thomas took to the sand as he led the children in a day of fun in the sun.

“Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro LA-Watts Willowbrook Clubhouse is in the house…or should I say in the sand!” Chairman Ridley-Thomas said to begin the day. “We encourage you and your families to return as often as you’d like to enjoy the beach and some of the other things the Marina has to offer, including concerts in the park, fishing docks, and the South Bay Bike Trail.”

Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Ocean Lifeguards offered instruction and education to the 25 children in attendance including several first-time beach goers.

“We hope to help instill in these young people a love for the coast and our marine environment at an early stage in their lives,” said Carol Baker of the County of Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors.

Avis & Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center Breaks Ground

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas led the groundbreaking ceremony for the Avis & Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center with nearly 200 in attendance.

The Avis & Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center will be located at 5054 South Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles. The Life Learning Center was named in honor of two prominent leaders who proactively support coalition building, social justice, empowerment, and non-violent solutions. The newly reimagined and renovated building will be a dedicated youth center to encourage participants and their peers to “drop in” and use it as a safe zone and resource. This warm, welcoming stand-alone drop-in center will provide access to holistic arts education, permanent housing, comprehensive resources, school assistance, career training, and a positive support system.

“One of the most challenging periods in a young person’s life is the transition from adolescence to adulthood,” said Avis Ridley-Thomas.

There is a significant overlap between homelessness and commercial exploitation: a 2017 study found that 91% of homeless youth reported being offered work opportunities that turned out to be fraudulent work situations, scams, pandering, or sex trafficking. More than half of homeless youth report mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, psychosis, and post-traumatic stress. Half of chronically homeless adults in the U.S. experienced homelessness between the ages of 18 and 24. And youth homelessness increased 61% from 2016 to 2017 in the County of Los Angeles.

“This transition from adolescence to adulthood also provides a window of opportunity to intervene and guide young people toward self-sufficiency,” the Chairman said.

The Avis & Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center will serve as a drop-in center for any young person seeking a sense of safety and belonging.

The Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic (LACGC), a nationally acclaimed mental health service provider for children and youth in South Los Angeles, purchased the building that will house the Center which will occupy 10,000 square feet of space. The center will provide trauma‐informed mental health services and support resources to at‐risk transition‐age youth, ages 16‐25. LACGC’s Life Learning Program was founded in 1992. In 2014, the program was renamed the Avis & Mark‐Ridley Thomas Life Learning Program in honor of their joint achievements in community empowerment and social justice.

“We fully expect that this Center will avert many a young person from the criminal justice system, the mental health system, and a lifetime on the streets,” the Chairman said.

The center is expected to open in mid-2018.