COMPTON, Calif. — As Chrystani Heinrech, who uses they, them pronouns, walks into their office at Color Compton every day, they are reminded of just how far they've come through a community that's always been home.

"I never would have imagined that this was my position," Heinrech said. "Thirteen-year-old me would think I was so cool. It's so special."

Because even as a young girl growing up in Compton, Heinrech never could have imagined that life would bring them here — as the founder of what's called the Compton Girls Club. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Compton Girls Club was created in 2017 by Chrystani Heinrech

  • Unlike ordinary after school programs, this one is built on the idea of bridging the gap between classroom concepts and real-world skills

  • Programming has included activities such as a business incubator, resume workshops, sexual health classes and arts lessons

  • Heinrech said their goal is to provide an inclusive space for girls in the neighborhood and give them access to resources they may not get in school

The after-school program was created in 2017, serving young girls in the community that Heinrech can relate to personally.

"I am my market," they explained. "I'm from this neighborhood, and there wasn't much going on for us. I remember that feeling of being alone where there were no arts programs, no teen connection moments."

Working as a library assistant at Compton High School — Heinrech found themselves with a lot of downtime. It was there, they decided to try something new, putting together a six-week program for the girls on campus. 

"I found that in public schools, there's a lack of training for like the real world," they explained. "Like you'll learn how to do the math, but you don't learn how to do your taxes, how to open up a bank account, and I was like, 'OK, well there's a gap.'" 

From that point on, what started as a side project became more of a full-time job. Club activities have been selected with a specific intention over the last three years—the goal: to provide unique programming for an often underserved community. 

There's been a "Shark Tank"-style business incubator, resume workshops, sexual health classes and even piñata-making lessons. 

The different activities are designed to provide a safe space where the girls can feel comfortable and included. 

"Kids in the hood don't have access to the same resources, and if I have the ability to give them that, I'm going to go out of my way to," Heinrech said. "Because I remember when I was that kid who didn't have access to those things." 

In addition to the activities, the speakers are also chosen with care. 

To Heinrech, it's about making the girls feel represented and confident expressing who they are.

"So they can be like 'Hey, I see a Black person that looks like me and is from the hood and they are identifying as they/them/their,'" Heinrech said. "It's important that adults show up in this way."

Although the club had gone virtual over the last year due to the pandemic, its growth has not slowed. With all of their students learning remotely, more and more girls are showing up via Zoom, eager to connect through this space. 

As they look back on photos from the past three years, Heinrech can't help but feel excitement for the future, knowing that they are doing good work in their hometown. 


"I like to think they see me as a mentor," Heinrech explained. "They see an adult coming back to the neighborhood, not trying to flee the hood but to make it better. I hope they wanna do that for the next generation."

The goal of the Compton Girls Club is to provide a unique experience and open up an inclusive pathway for the community.