Residents of the Watts-Willowbrook, Broadway-Manchester, West Athens and Compton communities believe they are in the process of bringing out the best in their individual communities and the South Los Angeles region. They are doing this through Best Start, an effort of First 5 LA, an advocacy organization created by California voters to invest tobacco tax revenue in programs that improve the lives of children.
In Los Angeles County, Best Start has partnered with these four South Los Angeles communities to design a promising future, focusing attention on children ages 0-5.
Best Start is unique, because it is the first program of its kind that has asked community residents to share their concerns, to listen to others' concerns and then to work together designing and implementing a program that they agree will benefit their community.
This place-based effort puts South Los Angeles community members in the driver's seat in developing projects, obtaining funding, and creating programs that they believe are critical to their specific community. The Best Start program started with the premise that children should be born healthy, maintain a healthy weight, be safe from abuse and neglect, and be ready to learn when entering school.
Best Start also launched Get Out and Play to promote the importance of physical activity in helping children maintain a healthy weight. The Get Out and Play campaign, which runs through the summer, will encourage families and children to exercise by sharing tips on:
*How to incorporate daily physical activities for children ages 0-5
*Fun and creative ways to play inside and outside
*Safety tips for exercise and sports, inexpensive and free ways to create games and physical activities at home
Best Start is currently in collaboration with Let's Move L.A./Body and Soul at FAME Assistance Corp. to bring a healthy lifestyle message, nutrition education and physical activity and fitness programs to children and their families throughout Los Angeles. Let's Move L.A. is the West Coast arm of first lady Michelle Obama's national Let's Move! campaign to end a nationwide epidemic of childhood obesity.
Community members involved in the South Los Angeles regions' Best Start include parents, business owners, representatives from community-based organizations and others. These members have been attending local partnership meetings where they have not only joined the Best Start educational campaigns, but also have developed a community vision statement.
They have learned statistics about their community and its needs, received trainings on topics such as leadership and communications and, importantly, shared their personal insights about their community and their experiences. These community members have devoted their time and passion for more than a year to brainstorming projects. They are now preparing to submit a community plan to the First 5 LA Commission to request funding to make their dreams into a reality.
"This is an exciting time for the South Los Angeles communities, as well as other Los Angeles communities participating in this pilot program," said Marvin Espinoza, South Los Angeles senior program officer. "I've seen community members collaborate and grow together. These community residents are united to bring out the best in their communities and I've no doubt that they will be successful in making the changes that will greatly improve each of these neighborhoods."
To learn more about Best Start or to get involved, please contact Best Start at (213) 482.7800, or visit the website at beststartla.org.