LOS ANGELES — For the kids in Crenshaw, the YMCA is a safe haven.
It's a place for them to learn, play basketball and unwind with friends after school. But the building was in serious need of some love, so NBA superstar Russell Westbrook teamed with Jordan Brand to completely renovate the basketball court and space upstairs.
What You Need To Know
- For the kids in Crenshaw, the YMCA is a place for them to learn, play basketball and unwind with friends after school
- NBA superstar Russell Westbrook teamed with Jordan Brand to completely renovate the basketball court and space upstairs
- YMCA Executive Director Veda Ramsay-Stamps was near tears when she saw the result
- Westbrook is also launching a six-week program that will give the YMCA youth resources to support their dreams through leadership and tech training
At just 12 years old, Deandre Kirkpatrick said he feels like he’s already lived a lifetime. Even when he’s playing games like charades, it can feel like one because depression and anger come and go often.
But when Deandre is at the Crenshaw YMCA, he can finally feel like a kid again.
"I would go here, I would have fun and then that would really help me cool off steam from all the bad things that happened at home, like when my sister died," he said. "I came to the YMCA a lot, practiced basketball, and that really got my head straight that there’s gonna be losses in life, and life is not fair."
It was a loss to violence that many of the kids who frequent the Crenshaw YMCA can relate to, living in a community with a crime rate that is 78% higher than the national average.
Kids like Deandre get so used to violence and poverty at home that it becomes all they know, which only perpetuates the cycle.
"What I see in my future? That’s a very hard question because, you know, not everyone knows what’s gonna come in the future, all the bad things that’s gonna come in the future," he said.
A former kid who grew up just a few miles from Deandre is now NBA superstar Russell Westbrook, who came back home with his family for the ribbon cutting of the new Crenshaw YMCA. Westbrook announced the renovation on Instagram.
"The struggles of innercity youth for me is a huge, huge part of my life. Just because I was one of those kids that grew up in the city," Westbrook said in his post.
YMCA Executive Director Veda Ramsay-Stamps was near tears when she saw the result. In addition to the new basketball court, Westbrook is also launching a six-week program that will give the YMCA youth the resources to support their dreams and aspirations through leadership and tech training.
"We just getting started," Westbrook told Ramsay-Stamps, who said it's true. She is working to transform this entire community through partnerships within the YMCA organization.
"When they come here, it is a place where they can feel safe and be creative, but now? We’re gonna take it to the next level," she said.
This is no longer just a place for sports programs. Ramsay-Stamps is recruiting successful filmmakers to teach the kids, experts in technology, entrepreneurs and even Grammy-nominated artists like D Smoke.
"Especially with young men, you know, I think in our communities, there’s so much against us," D Smoke said. "And we need outlets, we need mentors, we need to see ourselves in our leaders."
"They are like the proof of what I can become," Deandre said.