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Robertson Activities League / Stepping Forward
The Robertson Activities League (RAL) came into being as a response to teenage violence in the community.
In July 2006, three youths in the La Cienega Heights area were shot and killed by gang activity. At a candlelight vigil, the brother of the first victim said, “I wish I had known there was this much support from the community without having to lose my sister.”
Taking that as a rallying cry, SORO NC collaborated with the Los Angeles Police Department, Hamilton High School and LAUSD, Robertson Rec Center staff, City Councilmen Herb Wesson and Jack Weiss and their teams, the City Attorney's office, Safe Passages personnel, local neighborhood associations, business owners and community members to develop the summer- and winter-break Robertson Activities League.
Under the leadership and management of community organizer Beth Ryan (and later, Robertson Recreation Center Director Brooke Powers), RAL created a safe haven for the students in the community who grow up with gang members as brothers, cousins, fathers and schoolmates through activities, field trips and athletics. 86 students attended the first program.
After a brief hiatus, the program was revived in 2011 as Stepping Forward. Once again run by Beth Ryan, Stepping Forward is a leadership development program that offers teens the opportunity to interact with community volunteers to learn more about art, music, acting, drawing, writing, sports, leadership skills and improving their reading and math skills. The teens also participate in sports and learn the benefits of working together as a team. They receive training, individualized coaching and support, and numerous group activities to supplement the one-to-one support.
Teens are also involved in character building exercises, as well as participate in solution-oriented discussions bringing the students more actively involved in their local community. The program takes them throughout SORO and Los Angeles, visiting places such as Fox Studios, Griffith Observatory, the Museum of Tolerance, etc. that they might never have the opportunity to experience. In the process, they build self-confidence and awareness of their local communities.