The Al Wooten Center has been a staple in the community since the early ‘90s creating a pipeline of helping students and families attain a high level of academic success and become productive members of the community and society.
The center was started by Myrtle Faye Rumph after her son Alton “Dunnie” Wooten, Jr. was killed in a South-Central LA drive-by shooting in 1989. The murder of the 35-year-old man was said to be the result of a gang initiation.
This resulted in community members starting programs like “Taking Back Our Community” and “Mothers Against Gangs in Communities” out of a desperate attempt to stop the violence.
“Gang sweeps” by police and tougher penalties for youth offenders also emerged. But Rumph had other plans to help the youth.
“What they need is love and attention,” said Rumph. “They need to stay busy. They need to have more confidence. They need to have their attitudes changed. If somebody had taken more time with the person who killed my son, maybe my son would still be alive.”
Soon after Wooten’s murder, Rumph gathered kids in the community and started taking them on field trips to get them out of the community terror and give them a different perspective, this led Rumph and her staff to come up with an idea that would change everything.
After a few months, Rumph expanded her youth center by renting a two-room storefront at 9115 S. Western Ave., next door to the moving and storage business she owned with her husband. She later named this building Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center.
Christelle Telesford, the associate director, is proud that she can uphold the standard and mission of the center as they aid local youth in holding academic excellence.
“In my time at the center, all the students we had have graduated high school, and most have gone to college and attained degrees,” Telesford said.
The Wooten Center offers many different program options, from private tutors to college prep classes and internships for teens that can start as young as third grade. The center often takes youth on field trips to give them different life experiences, creating and changing their perception of the career options available.
The Wooten staff takes students’ interests into heavy consideration when planning field trips, as they want to enhance learning experiences with hands-on moments.
“We have students that start in the third grade and stay with us through 12th and even college, as many kids come back and volunteer or even work at the center,” Telesford said. “When the kids come here, they become part of a family, and it shows up once they graduate high school. Many of the staff and students keep in touch because once you join the Wooten family, you will always be family, no matter how far you go.”
Center offerings are free to students. The only thing they ask is for students to have open minds to the Wooten experiences. For more information, visit https://tinyurl.com/b6n5uyu6.