Restoration of a community can begin with education, according to the Five Keys philosophy. It’s schools and programs help residents restart their lives, focusing on five key areas: Education, employment, recovery, family and community.

Their ad says it all: “It’s never too late to graduate.”

Free, independent study classes can only be taken by non-high school graduates. Additionally, enrolled students can participate in ESL classes and get trained in welding while working on their diploma. 

Welding classes began this year and the next cohort is set to start in January 2020. Classes are open only to students who are enrolled in the Five Keys center.

“Several students were hired right out of the class last semester,” said welding instructor Jessica Smith. “They left with a certificate, a diploma and a job in hand.”

Five Keys is located in the old Weber Bread bakery complex at 5849 Crocker Street, off Slauson Avenue. Smith helped to convert an empty warehouse near the parking lot, designing a lecture room in the space and building welding booths where students can actively learn the trade.

Some of the students are, in fact, helping her weld together steel plates to create a mobile station which will carry an electrode oven.

“That’s the latest addition to our shop, that fancy oven,” Smith said, explaining that electrodes must be kept dry in order to carry the current used to make a weld.

“Water is the enemy of welding,” Smith said. “Water and steel are not the best of friends.”

As long as the welding students are enrolled in Five Keys, all expenses are included for their 16-week training. Students receive books, steel toe boots, welding gloves and two T-shirts. 

“Helmets and jackets are shared,” Smith said. 

The old Weber Bread bakery in South LA is also home to several other community services, including the Weber Community Center and an office of the Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS).  

The Weber Community Center’s goal is to help persons grow from their struggles, heal from their pain and move forward to where they want to be in their lives. The center is a division of Special Service for Groups (SSG), a nonprofit corporation which provides a variety of services to individuals and families in need across Los Angeles.

The center’s mental and physical health services are open weekdays to all children, youth and adults in South LA and the surrounding communities.

HOPICS is dedicated to providing the highest quality innovative social service to South Los Angeles with an emphasis on behavioral health and housing stability. It’s offices are open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“So our students have wrap-around services,” said Efrain M. Diaz, senior regional principal for Five Keys’ LA community sites. “They can get help with housing, health, substance abuse and jobs.”

Five Keys has 95 persons enrolled from the local community. For more information visit www.fivekeyscharter.org or call (323) 685-2782. For additional information about the Webber Community Center, email info@webercommunitycenter.org or call (323) 234-4447. HOPICS can be reached at (323) 432-4399 or visit www.hopics.org.