L.A.’s Urban Compass Starts 2nd Decade Helping Watts Youth

Photo of Urban Compass participant serving as mentors to young members of the community. Photo by Urban Compass.

Photo of Urban Compass participant serving as mentors to young members of the community. Photo by Urban Compass.

New America Media, March 6, 2016, by Deirdre Newman.

LOS ANGELES - On a playground in Watts, surrounded by barbed wire, kids are playing and laughing. Immersed in the joy of the moment - and insulated from what is going on around them - they are part of a program called Urban Compass. Its mission is going into the grittiest, low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods to keep kids in school and out of gangs, typically the only other viable alternative for survival.

Now beginning its second decade, the nonprofit was founded in 2005 by Patrick McNicholas, a plaintiffs' attorney at his family's Los Angeles law firm, McNicholas & McNicholas LLP, and Don Morgan, a community development consultant who teaches public policy at the University of Southern California (USC).

300 Kids Helped--And Counting
Their model of cultivating partnerships is a big reason for Urban Compass' longevity, McNicholas said. 

“We went to one of the most difficult neighborhoods in the country and were able to find people with staying power and create an organization that has not only been supportive and successful of the community that it’s in, but it’s also a model that can be replicated easily throughout the state and the country,” McNicholas said.

Urban Compass partners with a Jesuit high school to bring underserved children from adjacent elementary schools children to receive private tutoring, mentoring and enrichment activities. 

Over the past decade, the nonprofit has served approximately 300 kids from kindergarten through fifth grade, who attend 112th Street School next to the Nickerson Gardens housing project, one of the largest in the country.

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