Venus Williams Changes Kids' Lives
by venus williams
YWCA Greater Los Angeles Job Corps honors students at the YWCA Black & White Benefactrix Ball.
From the time I was young, I knew the importance of giving back and understood that people can make a difference in their own communities. This year I decided to go back to basics and return to my hometown of Los Angeles to see if there was anything I could do to affect change at home. When I was young, my dad encouraged my sister and me to practice and work hard at tennis. He invested time and faith in us. But now I wonder about the kids back home who don’t have parents like we did. What if the next young tennis champion, culinary genius or business guru is in foster care or homeless? Who’s going to push them? I remembered how the YWCA Greater Los Angeles was always a strong community partner, and I thought maybe they could use my help.
When I learned about the YWCA Greater Los Angeles Job Corps program, I was blown away. The program helps women and men ages 16 to 24 who would otherwise likely end up in a correctional facility and become “just like their parents.” Most of the young people in the program are formerly homeless or emancipated foster kids. The YWCA teaches them everything they need to know, from social etiquette to offering specific job training—even how to handle an employment interview. They provide housing, medical coverage and meals for two years while students complete the program and broker deals with local businesses to hire the students upon graduation. The YWCA Greater Los Angeles also works with companies to train the students in the skill sets necessary to excel in their chosen industry.
The students’ personal stories moved me to the core. Some were prostitutes, while others lived out of shopping carts their entire teenage lives. Most never heard the words “you can do it” until they got to the YWCA Job Corps program. That’s hard for me to imagine—not getting one single word of encouragement for that long. I love how the YWCA Greater Los Angeles acts as surrogates for these young people and provides them with the compassion, guidance, support and inspiration they’ve lacked, freeing them from the past.
I live in Florida now, but when my schedule permits, I look forward to coming home to LA to work with this organization. I’ve supported charities and good causes all over the world, but nothing makes me more proud than my relationship with the YWCA Greater Los Angeles. Now, more than ever, I believe charity starts at home. Visit ywcagla.org.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ARNOLD TURNER/WIREIMAGE.COM (YWCA)