Los Angeles Rams Tight End TYLER HIGBEE has donated $5,000 to both Think Watts and Communities in Schools Los Angeles (CISLA) to help support residents in the Watts community who are experiencing food insecurity and students who are lacking the technological resources to successfully engage in school and course assignments.
The donation will support Think Watts Foundation's food delivery efforts and resource hub as well as Communities in Schools of Los Angeles' emergency food delivery service, case management and tutoring for student-families from 13 LA-area schools.
"It's a tough time for a lot of people right now and I'm just trying to help out in any way I can," said Higbee. "I understand that I'm extremely blessed to be in the position I'm in and it would be selfish for me not to help out."
Higbee linked up with rapper, producer and songwriter STIX, a Watts native, to support his Think Watts Foundation. The non-profit has a primary focus on grassroots activations and developing financial literacy programs, weekly meal distributions, custom container housing solutions and entrepreneurship training for residents in his hometown community.
"Growing up I noticed the lack of resources and the lack of career opportunities for people in those areas and for me, I don't like to talk about things. I like to do things," said STIX. "I always told myself that if I ever had a platform and an opportunity to create some change, I would."
The hip-hop artist is exceeding his own self-promise. Through his leadership, Think Watts has created partnerships with a variety of different LA-based organizations and professional sports teams. In partnership with the Rams and with the generous donation of Higbee, a portion of the funds will also be used to support Think Watts' youth development space where community members can go to get exposure to different hobbies and career paths while developing transferrable skills.
"This donation will help us continue our efforts with the food restoration project and our resource hub that focuses on financial literacy, entrepreneurship development and job training. The space will even offer resources so our children can create their own clothes and learn about digital design and coding, which can be pathways to careers with companies like Google," said STIX. "It's definitely going to help tremendously."
Over the past several months, Communities in Schools Los Angeles has been working around the clock to help students in under-resourced communities get familiarized with distance learning and operating in a virtual world. As a result of school closures, many of the families CISLA serves lost access to reliable resources such as meals and WIFI connectivity.
"When schools closed, families had less of those resources that they usually have to stretch out. We stepped in to help make some of those ends meet for those families through direct financial support and the distribution of basic needs such as food and hygiene items," said Elmer Roldan, Executive Director of CISLA. "We're also helping our students with the social and emotional weight that came with transitioning into this virtual world in communities where the technological divide was already prevalent."
Many students are waiting for a parent to return home from work to use their cell phones to complete coursework. Other students and families have one laptop to share amongst relatives making it a challenge to be present and engaged for a full school day.
"Many of the students that we serve were able to get around this by going to school," said Roldan. "But while many of these families have been resourceful in finding WIFI, when everything shut down, they found themselves disconnected from the world and that's when we stepped in."
CISLA recently launched a headphone donation drive for 2,000 students to increase a sense of privacy during virtual school hours. A portion of Higbee's contribution will even help provide WIFI and academic tutoring and resources to students in need.
"Tyler's donation is well received because it will help amplify the work that community organizations like ours are doing and it helps to show that someone with stature in LA and is invested in our community," said Roldan. "Not only is he providing the financial backing needed to support families but also bringing more awareness to the needs of our families and what we can do together to meet those needs."