December 08, 2022

By Rodd A. Amos

Contributing Writer


The Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center has been cited by local and national media outlets as ‘something positive’ in the aftermath of the 1992 civil unrest. It is a neighborhood approach to the revitalization and empowerment of a community in crisis.

The Wooten Center, located on 91st and Western Ave in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of South LA, provides free after-school and summer tutoring programs to help students in grades 3-12 attain grade-level proficiency and promotion, high school graduation, and college and career access and success.

Executive Director, Naomi McSwain explained how local universities help to make an impact for her students:

“There was a time when there was zero involvement from universities at our youth center. But Pepperdine was the first to step up and provide volunteer tutors for our college and career readiness after-school program. Since then, we’ve built relationships with USC, UCLA, and St. Johns (NY). They help with student evaluations, Christmas toys, grant funding, meeting space, and more”, Naomi said.


Isidra Person-Lynn is lead English language arts teacher. The former KACE public affairs director and host of “Sunday Morning Live” tied her career in broadcasting to her role as tutor.

“Thanks to today’s smartphones, I ask students to write short news reports about something shareable from their lives. When they read their stories over Zoom, some add a little on-air flair, while others cringe at the sounds of their voices. I help them articulate and enunciate, so when they do have to read in front of their classes at school they feel more confident”, Isidra said.

The Wooten Center has come a long way since founder Myrtle ‘Faye’ Rumph opened its doors in 1990. It was in honor of her son's life, tragically taken in a drive-by shooting in 1989 – a crime that remains unsolved. In 2010, President Barack Obama named Faye one of 13 recipients of the Presidential Citizens Medal, our nation's second-highest civilian award, for her work founding the Wooten Center.

Volunteers are wanted to tutor at least one student per week for 45 minutes per session in math or English language arts. Volunteers help students in grades 3-12 complete their online i-Ready diagnostics in the two subjects and the online lessons based on their results. Tutors also help students with homework and can request to work with elementary, middle or high school students.

Naomi spoke fondly of the impact the center has on the lives of their students.

“I say it a lot – having a caring heart is our No. 1 requirement for all staff. This goal is apparently working since I hear all the time that our staff are very caring and that we have a very loving environment. I hear it from our kids and parents via surveys and in person, usually with a big hug!”, she said.

●          Budding artist Jalicia, 11, needs help with her math homework. She is understanding more about shapes and sizes.

●          Khalil, 12, is a future video interactive gamer. By playing skill-based math games, he is engaged more in his studies.

●          Meanwhile, aspiring entertainer Adrianna, 9, is getting help with science and math.

●          And Terron, 15, is proud his math scores have soared from an F to a B.

Isidra takes pride in her work.

“My reward is when the student shares GPAs of making the Dean’s list, certificates, and high grades. I know it is not just my work. I am on a diverse team of parents, teachers, counselors and sometimes therapists. We are here for these diverse students and when they see results, we have willing workers. That makes life easier for all of us”, Isidra said.

"The Al Wooten Center embodies the notion 'the community knows what the community needs’”, said Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents District Eight, where the center is located. "Since 1990, the center has touched the present lives of young people and shaped their future through the care and services they offer. We are proud to support them through a $75,000 grant to continue serving the youth of South LA", he said.

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Category: Community