MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Helping transform Watts for the past 50 years

In response to the 1965 Watts Riots, social worker Bill Coggins decided to do something to help the community heal and transform.

A couple of years later, in 1967, a community benefit program called the Watts Counseling and Learning Center came into being in an attempt to revitalize the lives of the city’s residents by providing counseling, outreach and educational services to the Watts community.

“At the time, a number of things were happening,” Dr. Chris Hickey, project manager of the center, said. “The federal government and state were thinking about things that could be done in the area, what could be done in the community with respect to education.”

It was then, he continued, that Coggins stepped in to better understand the community’s needs and get input from community members themselves. With the ideas he collected from residents and his own, as well as investments by Kaiser Permanente of Southern California and his own, Coggins created the Watts Projects, whose name would eventually be changed.

The Watts Counseling and Learning Center has since provided numerous services to more than 5,000 people annually, Dr. Hickey said.

Among the services it offers is the Kids Can Cope counseling program, which provides support groups and counseling for children with loved ones who have a life-threatening illness. Family, parent-child and marriage counseling in both English and Spanish are just some of the other therapy services offered to the community.

The center also delivers outreach programs to students from elementary school to high school.

The Homework Help Clubs gives elementary school students after-school homework assistance, while the Youth Work Preparation Certificate Program invites high school students on a seven-week program that focuses on jobs in health care and work skills.

Those 16 years-of-age and older get the chance to take part in a youth employment program over the summer.

Internship programs also are offered to graduate students from local universities. Those interested in social work and educational therapy receive hands-on, professional experience at the center, where they are supervised by licensed staff.

This year, the center was honored at the California Science Center with a proclamation from political dignitaries, including county Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas. Many — including Coggins himself, who is 90 and retired, and the center’s Director Maria Aguirre — were there to celebrate.

“As the community transforms, we want to make sure we have a solid footprint,” Dr. Hickey said about what’s to come. “We’re thinking about how we can better our services and expand. We want to make sure we’re here and to serve the community’s ongoing needs and aid in its growth.”

For 50 years now, the Watts Counseling and Learning Center has provided mostly free services to thousands of Watts residents a year, whether or not they have a membership to a Kaiser Permanente Health Plan. And it hopes to do so for many more years to come.

“Our model is helping people grow,” Dr. Hickey said. “That’s a theme that we always like to point out, and we’ve been here for 50 years doing that.”


Director: Maria Aguirre

Years in operation: 50

Annual budget: Not available

Number of employees: 37

Location: 1465 E. 103rd St., Los Angeles, 90002



L.A. DIGEST: Grant provides computer labs to schools

WATTS — Kaiser Permanente, in partnership with the Chris Paul Family Foundation, has awarded a $100,000 grant to refurbish and equip two computer labs at elementary schools in the Watts neighborhood. The health care provider also brought something just as important to the students in this underserved community in South Los Angeles: lessons on how to cope with stress, bullying and other tests of their mental health.

“Success in life requires you to train the body and the mind,” NBA all star Chris Paul said. “The Chris Paul Family Foundation is proud to partner with Kaiser Permanente to bring vital learning technology and resiliency skills to kids in the Watts community.”

At a ribbon cutting ceremony at Compton Avenue Elementary School, Paul and Gwen Tyson, a counselor from the nearby Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center, teamed up to lead a workshop designed to teach coping skills to children in the community.

The two organizations’ grant brought computers, monitors, printers and software to a pair of computer labs at Compton Avenue Elementary School and Lovelia P. Flournoy Elementary School. In addition to the equipment, the money also helped the schools completely rejuvenate the labs with new furniture and paint.

Festival to celebrate

Independence Day

EXPOSITION PARK — A community festival and fireworks show will take place from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 4, on the Exposition Park South Lawn, 700 Exposition Park Drive.

The event, hosted by City Councilmen Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, will include food, live music, games and activities for all ages. The fireworks show begins at dusk (approximately 9 p.m.)

Crenshaw Chamber

plans awards gala

BEVERLY HILLS — The Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce will hold its 84th annual Anniversary Awards Gala from 6 to 9 p.m. June 30 at the Intercontinental Hotel Los Angeles Century City.

This chamber will honor some of the community’s distinguished leaders and visionaries. They include former City Councilman Nate Holden who will receive the Living Legend Award; KarLee Young of the Crenshaw Yoga and Dance Center who will receive the Pioneer of the Year Award and Alex Warren of the ED Center who will receive the Member of the Year Award.

For information on tickets and sponsorships, contact Janet Mendez at (323) 293-2900.

Breakfast focuses

on social impact

WATTS — The City Impact Lab is hosting a social impact breakfast from 7:45 to 9:15 a.m. July 6 at Old Watts Library, 1513 E. 103rd St.

Councilman Joe Buscaino and Alberto Retana, president and CEO of the Community Coalition, will serve as guest speakers.

The City Impact Lab connects those working to make an impact in government, the arts, neighborhoods, nonprofits and business.

Admission: $15

Brazilian dance

lessons offered

LEIMERT PARK — Viver Brasil, a culture and dance institution, presents “Samba in the Streets,” a free summer program in which kids and adults learn and perform celebratory Afro-Brazilian dance and music, as well as enter into discussions about race, equity and social activism.

A youth (6-13 years old) class will take place from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and an adult (14 and older) class from 5:30 to 7 p.m. July 3, at 4343 Leimert Blvd. Another adult class will meet from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. July 1.

Exhibit shows

artist’s range

CRENSHAW — The Museum of African-American Art, 4005 Crenshaw Blvd. on the third floor of Macy’s in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, is opening an exhibit “Evolving Art Practice, Rags to the Revival,” on July 2.

The exhibit is a 30-year review of the art collection of visual artist Bernard Hoyes, and will showcase two of his defining methodologies: “Rag Series” and “Revival Series.”

“Rag Series” demonstrates his practice of using a rag laden with ink to create prints. “Revival Series” reflects the vibrancy of his Jamaican roots.

The exhibit runs until Sept. 24.

Sword fighting

show planned

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The Hyde Park Miriam Matthews Branch Library, 2205 W. Florence Ave.,

is hosting a sword fighting stunt show for teens from 3 to 4:30 p.m. June 29.

Those attending can learn about the history of sword fighting with battles featuring different types of swords.

Information: (323) 750-7241.

Dance academy

offers camp

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The Debbie Allen Dance Academy, 3791 Santa Rosalia Drive, is holding an Early Bird summer camp from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, from July 10-July 29.

Classes include ballet, jazz, hip-hop and African styles. Students will have the opportunity to perform on stage.


Compiled by Anne Artley.

L.A. Digest is designed to help promote events, activities and initiatives that are serving the interests of residents in L.A.


Float honors Watts Counseling and Learning Center

PASADENA — In keeping with the 2017 Tournament of Roses theme, “Echoes of Success,” Kaiser Permanente chose to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Watts Counseling and Learning Center with a float celebrating “50 Years of Helping People Grow.”

Since 1967, Kaiser Permanente has provided counseling, outreach and educational services to the residents of Watts and the surrounding community through the Watts Counseling and Learning Center.

The float features the street signs on 103rd Street and Success Avenue, the site of the center.

The Watts Towers also were prominently featured on the float. The iconic structures consist of nine major sculptures constructed from steel and mortar then adorned with discarded glass, bottles, broken dishes, rocks, sea shells, ceramics, pottery and tile.

They were built by Simon Rodia, an Italian-American artist who worked alone for 33 years to erect the towers without the benefit of machines, welding equipment, scaffolding or schematics.

The float also depicted healthy eating, active living activities such as enjoying a farmers market, riding bikes, and playing basketball, which are all promoted by Kaiser Permanente at the center.

Float riders included current and former Watts Counseling and Learning Center clients.

The float was part of the spectacle that makes the Rose Parade a special event.

Hundreds of thousands of fans braved occasional light pre-dawn rain, and reveled in the relatively warm 50-degree air. The 5 1/2-mile parade route was the subject of extra security, including water-filled obstacles at 52 intersections designed to thwart any high-speed vehicle attacks.

The parade began with the customary Air Force B-2 Stealth bomber flyover. The marching bands, horse units and floats were positioned on Orange Grove Boulevard, ready to make the tight turn east at Colorado Boulevard as the parade kicked off at 8 a.m.

A float with waterfalls, a princess with fiery hands and a working volcano, dedicated to “The Spirit of Hawaii,” won one of the top awards at the 2017 Rose Parade. The Sweepstakes Award went to Dole Packaged Foods, for its homage to Hawaii.

The float had one of the largest portable waterfalls to ever make its way through Pasadena.

And the longest, heaviest float to ever lumber down Colorado Boulevard made the tight turn at Orange Grove Boulevard without incident. The Lucy Pet float featured a block-long tank and surfing dogs, and the crowd roared as the first bulldog “hung 20” down the boulevard, as one anchor put it.

“Lucy Pet’s Gnarly Crankin’ K-9 Wave Maker” won the Extraordinaire Trophy, and set records with its 126-foot length and 148,000 pounds worth of water, flowers and wet dogs.

The Downey Rose Float Association’s float, “The Gold Rush,” was honored with the Governor’s Award for the best depiction of life in California.

The humorous “Backyard Rocketeer” float made by volunteers in La Canada-Flintridge won the Bob Hope Humor Award. And the Sierra Madre Rose Float Association’s “The Cat’s Away” won the Mayor’s Trophy for best city entry.

Other winners announced just before the parade’s start included a group of surfing dogs on the Lucy Pet float, winner of the Extraordinaire Float.

A trio of Olympic gold medalists — Allyson Felix, Greg Louganis and Janet Evans — served as grand marshals of the parade.

The Los Angeles Unified School District's All District High School Honor Band marches along Colorado Boulevard Jan. 2 in the 128th annual Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. This is the 45th consecutive year the band has participated in the parade. (Courtesy photo)
The Los Angeles Unified School District’s All District High School Honor Band marches along Colorado Boulevard Jan. 2 in the 128th annual Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. This is the 45th consecutive year the band has participated in the parade. (Courtesy photo)

Temple City High School senior Victoria Cecilia Castellanos, 17, reigned as this year’s Rose Queen, aboard a special float with the six princesses on the Royal Court. They are Maya Khan, 18, Arcadia High School; Natalie Petrosian, 17, La Canada High School; Audrey Cameron, 17, Blair High School; Autumn Lundy, 17, Polytechnic School; Lauren Powers, 17, Arcadia High School; and Shannon Larsuel, 17, Mayfield Senior School.

Riding on a float sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation were three survivors of the mass shooting inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded. The float, titled “To Honor and Remember Orlando,” was a tribute to those who were killed in the June 12 shooting.

The float featured a giant dove soaring over a field of 49 white stars representing each of the victims of the shooting, and a colorful rainbow representing “the diversity of the LGBT community” and symbolizing “the humanity of all victims killed or injured.”

The float also featured a “Tree of Life” with condolence notes left on a communal board in Orlando. During the parade, 49 white doves were released from the float, twice.

The three survivors were Victor Baez Febo, Isaiah Henderson and Jahqui Sevilla, whose boyfriend was killed in the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

The parade again featured a float sponsored by the ABC series “The Bachelor,” along with one sponsored by the National Hockey League and the traditional Donate Life float dedicated to organ donors and recipients.

Marching bands from across the country marched, along with the Gifusho Green Band from Gifu, Japan. The Los Angeles Unified School District’s All District High School Honor Band also made its annual appearance in the procession.