Levar Arps is a whirlwind of activity in his 1906 Enterprises recording studio as he fiddles with engineering dials, advises a rapper who’s recording lyrics for a new CD, and scribbles notes on a pad.
Arps is living his dream-but just a few short years ago, Arps was a desperate young man headed down the wrong path in life.
“Basically, I didn’t have any guidance when I was growing up. My family and I endured a lot of financial problems,” recalls 24-year-old Arps, who is originally from San Diego, Calif.
Struggling to keep a roof over the family’s head and food on the table, Arps resorted to survival by any means. “I took to the streets to earn money,” admitted Arps. “By the age of 12, I had run away from home.”
But Arps possessed dreams and talent. He could rap, and he secretly nurtured a desire to showcase his talents in the music world.
But the lure of the streets proved too tempting and by the age of 13, Arps was dealing drugs on the streets.
“My mother moved to West Los Angeles and enrolled me in Westchester High School,” recalls Arps. “I began running with the wrong crowd. I was shooting dice and ditching class.”
Caught up in illegal activities, it was not long before Arps realized that his life was spiraling out of control.
“I got kicked out of Westchester High School and after going for a semester to another school, I dropped out of high school completely.”
“With no means of support, Arps once again turned to hustling on the streets to stay alive. “From the age of 16 to 20, I was sent to jail about three times and finally ended up in a juvenile detention facility.”
While he was languishing behind bars, Arps took stock of his life. “When I was in jail, I began to read the Bible and get a firm understanding of what life is all about,” admitted Arps.
Released from jail at the age of 21, Arps realized that his future looked bleak. A cousin handed Arps a flyer about a Bridge to Work program offered at the One Stop Business and Career Center in Inglewood, sponsored by the South Bay Workforce Investment Board (SBWIB). Arps decided to apply.
The Bridge to Work program turned out to be a lifesaver. Arps was assigned to a case manager who assessed his skills. He was placed in a 16-week program at the California State Dominguez Hills extended education program. “The organization even paid for me to attend class,” Arps recalls.
SBWIB Chief Executive Officer Jan Vogel recalls meeting Arps and being immediately impressed with his boundless enthusiasm and energy. “He seemed like a real personable young man who had a lot of drive and great potential to succeed,” recalls Vogel.
Vogel said that the Bridge to Work program has proved to be invaluable to people seeking a hand up.
“The SBWIB is a resource for people who want to better themselves by changing careers or if they need to find out information about careers,” said Vogel. “When a person comes to the SBWIB, we determine what their skill level and abilities are through assessment testing. We also talk to them about careers they might be interested in. Then we offer training or get them placed in a job or both,” said Vogel. “The program has had tremendous success. Nearly 80 percent of the people who complete the program have gotten jobs.”
Once he was enrolled in the Bridge to Work program, Arps said he gained valuable business skills after taking a class with Kelly Perkins, an entrepreneur who owned her own turf management business.
The Bridge to Work program provided other benefits. “To be honest, the program made me realize that I could become an entrepreneur and inspired me to become a businessman,” said Arps.
“In 2005, I graduated with a certificate of completion in sports turf management,” said Arps, who proudly recalls the day he walked across the stage at Cal State Dominguez and received his diploma from Vogel.
Despite receiving a certificate in turf management, Arps decided to take the plunge into the competitive music industry. In 2006, he formed his own music production company, 1906 Enterprises. “The SBWIB has a One Stop facility that offered access to a fax machine, phone lines, and computer to help me launch 1906 Enterprises,” said Arps. “They provided me with all the tools I would need to become a business entrepreneur.”
It wasn’t long before Arps began managing young recording artists and producing his own rap records. “I write R&B songs, I co-write songs with other artists, and I work with producers, engineers, and distribution.”
Arps said he is grateful to have found the South Bay Workforce Investment Board’s Bridge to Work program. “The program kept me focused and occupied. It also kept me out of trouble and allowed me to advance my education,” he reveals.
With his artists now firing up the music charts, Arps said he is finally making sweet music.
“I’m grateful that the program believed in me,” says Arps. “Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
The South Bay Workforce Investment Board is located at 11539 Hawthorne Blvd., Suite 500 in Hawthorne. They can be reached by calling (310) 970-7700.