COMPTON, Calif. — Taking care of animals is something Daniel Zepeda has been doing on his family farm since he was 4 years old.

“This has been part of my life,” he said. “This is my upbringing and I’ve been doing it since.”

His parents’ ranch is in the Richland Farms neighborhood in the heart of Compton.

There, the sight of people on horseback and the sounds of crowing roosters are common. It’s this life on the ranch that Zepeda credits with keeping him on the right track.

“This is what kept me busy and out of the streets,” he said.

It was during his college years at California State University, Dominguez Hills that Zepeda met two friends who were also studying to be physical education teachers. They also shared his love of the ranch life.

Hector Gomez comes from a long line of charros, or Mexican horseman.

“Daniel overheard me talking about horses and invited me to his ranch and I said, ‘Alright, let’s do it,’” Gomez said.

Rogelio Díaz always loved visiting his family ranch in Mexico.

“It’s something that I always loved but never thought I’d get to do,” he said.

The three men came together to create Connecting Compton, a nonprofit focused on teaching people about the area’s agricultural roots.

Their plan is to build a multicultural equestrian center on an 18-acre plot of land in Compton, a safe space for educational based programs where people can learn about the equestrian lifestyle.

“For me, it’s very connected to what we can do through it in offering support to kids here in Compton,” Díaz said.

“What I think of is opportunity, resources, and pride, belonging,” Gomez added. “We want to be able to unite people together.”  

They’ll need financial help to build the center that’s projected to cost $45 million, but they’ve already earned support from both local and state legislators. For these men, the road ahead may not be easy, but they say it’s an important step in helping their community.

“You don’t know what these kids are going through, so through the equestrian center, I think it’s going to bring a lot of positive attributes to these kids,” Zepeda said. For more information, visit