There are more than 450 active gangs in Los Angeles with at least 45,000 members, according to the L.A.P.D. These groups attract troubled youth and tie them into a life of violence, abuse and danger. Many youth turn to the streets because they believe that is the only option they have for their future.
New Directions for Youth strives to change that mentality. This incredible organization invited the Good Celebrity team inside their North Hollywood headquarters to view the life-changing work it performs. The NDY team has been actively helping Los Angeles youth stay off the streets and live violence-free lives since the mid-seventies.
Larry Bakman, a criminal defense attorney and judge on the television series “Hot Bench,” is using his celebrity to bring awareness to this Good Organization. He recently sat down with us to explain why NDY’s work means so much to him.
“This has been an incredible experience for me because what it did, is it took me out of my role as a criminal defense attorney,” he explained. “It has given me a platform to try and reach people in different ways and one of the best ways I have been able to reach other people is to get involved with New Directions for Youth. “
Bakman explained that reaching out to young people is the key to less violence on the streets. He said that we need to reach them when they’re young to have a chance at making a meaningful difference.
“If we don’t save them at this point in time from the dangers of gangs, the dangers of drug abuse, the dangers of physical or sexual abuse, then we’re lost,” he added.
Unfortunately, many of the children that get involved with gangs come from broken homes. They see this type of activity all around them and they may not realize that there other options. Plus, they may be downright fearful for their lives.
“These children are afraid not to become a gang member,” Bakman said.
During our visit to NDY, we were fortunate to talk with members of the organization who were formerly involved with gangs. Time and time again, these members expressed how NDY saved their lives and showed them a concrete path out of their gang.
NDY not only helps youth, it also helps their families. A mother of an NDY member told Good Celebrity that she almost lost her job because her son kept getting in trouble. His life on the streets was trickling into his attitude at school, she said. He didn’t believe in authority and he would just walk out of the classroom. NDY paved a way for a new life for both her and her son.
Paul Gross, Chairman of the Board for NDY, told us that it’s very difficult for these young people to avoid the traps of gang life. Once you’re exposed, it’s easy to get sucked in, he said.
Before you know it, these kids are involved with bad stuff like drugs, violence and prostitution, Gross added.
NDY targets children ages eight to 21 and currently helps more than 7,000 youth in the Los Angeles-area. The organization’s prime demographic is young people that are involved with gang activity, abuse in their homes, teen pregnancy, poor performance at school and violent crimes.
Its North Hollywood headquarters acts as a safe haven for these kids to simply, act like kids. They can practice art, learn valuable computer skills, and socialize with people their age. This is all under the supervision of licensed social workers and therapists.
“Everything is to make them think,” Bakman said. “Recognizing the problem allows you to get inside the minds of the parents and the children who you think you can save.”
John, a member of NDY, told us that without the program, he would probably “be in jail or worse.”
Meanwhile, another member named Samira said, “they pushed me to do better.”
“The most satisfying part about doing this type of work is knowing that you have changed a life,” said Monica Jackson, Executive Director of NDY.
All of NDY’s services are provided to the youth and their families for free. It’s able to make such a huge impact on the community through donations, with 90% of funds going directly towards its services.
To support the New Directions for Youth organization, visit NDFY.org.