This past summer, as part of their Global Month of Service, Boeing sent more than 80 volunteers to renovate the music classrooms at Alain LeRoy Locke Preparatory Academy.
The Pride of Watts
For years, starting in the late 1960s, the Alain LeRoy Locke High School marching band was the pride of the Watts community. A trailblazer among high school marching ensembles, the Locke band was one of the first to adopt the “show band” style used by a number of African American groups and college bands at the time. The band was a regular presence at Los Angeles Rams football games and the Rose Parade and, taking its show on the road, an inspiration for other schools across the country.
Under the leadership of directors Don Dustin and Frank Harris, it grew into one of the most acclaimed marching ensembles in the country.
Over time, however, the band program began to decline—in tandem with the school itself. Crumbling infrastructure, sinking grades, and soaring crime all took a disastrous toll on Locke and the surrounding community. By the time Green Dot took control of the school in 2008, Locke’s high school graduation rate hovered around 10% and the band had become a shadow of its former self.
Today, Alain LeRoy Locke College Preparatory Academy is a school transformed. Students are graduating, parents are involved, and the campus has been restored into a safe, welcoming facility.
But until this year, one crucial piece of the community was still missing: Locke’s legendary band program.
Pressing the Restart Button
This past summer, Green Dot launched a major initiative to revitalize the Locke band program and put it back on the path to national acclaim. The initiative had several components:
- In July, the school recruited and hired a talented new band director, Matthew Cotton, to help elevate the music program to its former status.
- It assessed the damage to the school's long-neglected instruments, making repairs and replacing those in poor condition.
- It planned to make needed renovations to the music classrooms, but encountered delays due to budget constraints.
Without the assistance of a committed partner, the final leg of the project would have remained up in the air.
Boeing Makes the Difference
Through the generosity of Boeing's Global Corporate Citizenship, Employees Community Fund of Boeing-California and volunteer coordinator, Maria Passaseo, more than 80 Boeing employees spent a hot July Saturday on the Locke campus breathing new life into the neglected music spaces. Wielding paintbrushes and trowels, they filled holes in damaged walls, refurbished instrument shelves, soundproofed practice rooms, and gave the entire place a fresh coat of paint.
"At Boeing, our employees truly enjoy volunteering in the community and bringing their knowledge, time, and expertise to our local schools. Any opportunity to give back and get students interested in science, math, and the arts is an investment not only in their future, but in our nation’s future.” - Jim Schultz, Director of the Satellite Development Center, Space & Intelligence Systems and the company’s executive champion at the event.
A Band Hall Transformed
Thanks to Boeing, Locke's music classrooms have undergone an incredible transformation.
More than 80 students have joined the band this year, up dramatically from the projected five who were enrolled before the summer. The new, renovated band hall is a source of pride for the new band director and students, and is quickly becoming a home for everyone involved in the rejuvenated program.
Jubilant notes and lively steps that, generations ago, evoked a community’s pride are finding new expression among a group of Green Dot students.
And, sometime soon, Locke's trailblazing band—the pride of Watts—will be ready to march once again.