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“Imagine all the people living life in peace.”  – John Lennon

Exactly 50 years ago, John Lennon released his iconic song “Imagine” to the world. As a huge Beatles/Lennon fan while attending San Pedro High School, I immediately gravitated toward John’s hopeful message. And given my generation’s almost collective hatred of the Vietnam War, we rallied around Lennon’s anti-war protest lyrics even with this stanza’s somewhat controversial ending line: “Imagine there’s no countries/It isn’t hard to do/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion too.”  Overall, my generation saw the song as a clarion call for a better world for all people, even if our parents and the political establishment did not.

Fifty years later — with a self-imposed unrest due to questionable politics, as well as our unprecedented pandemic — we need to imagine how we can truly make our community, country, and world a better place for all, without trying to demonize that collective commitment for good. 

“Imagine all the people sharing all the world.”

Imagine if we never had to subject our children to “virtual” schools? Imagine if there were no Proud Boys, Antifa, QAnon, white supremacists, or other hate groups? Imagine our children reading an actual book rather than staring at a computer for six or more hours each day? Imagine if we were all gender-supportive, religious-tolerant, immigrant-reasonable, and racially-accepting? Imagine if we would all listen to the scientists rather than self-serving politicians, and we all continued to wear our masks and took the vaccine? Imagine everyone having an opportunity to attend college, with enough individualized support to make the right choice about whether or not to attend? Imagine if every member of Congress and their staff had to rely on a stimulus check to survive — how would they all vote? Imagine if we didn’t have to worry about having a job, where we would sleep, or where our next meal would come from? (Low-income jobs are not supposed to return in full until 2024.)

“Imagine no possessions/I wonder if you can/No need for greed or hunger/A brotherhood of man.”

At the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor, we imagined ways we could greatly expand our normal services to be even more supportive of our youth and families during this unprecedented time. I am so thankful for our board of directors who agreed to what we are still sponsoring today and for our many donors/investors who helped make these expanded efforts possible.

FULL-DAY PROGRAM:  Starting day one of the current school year, we opened our seven traditional club sites for full-day and free in-person engagement, providing internet connectivity, academic assistance, daily enrichment activities, and social/emotional support for over 500 K-8 students.

BOOKSTORE ON WHEELS: We secured over 25,000 new books and converted one of our busses to a traveling bookstore, as we distribute books at holiday events to children served by other nonprofits and soon at all schools as they partially reopen later this month.

COLLEGE BOUND: Even though high schools have been closed since last March, our College Bound staff have worked daily to support the best college pathway for hundreds of high school students. Last June, 646 of our 650 seniors graduated on time, 582 were enrolled in college in the fall, and we helped them secure $8.16 million in scholarships and federal funding. 

Even with high schools closed this entire school year, we have had 1,146 high school students and 606 seniors participating both in person and virtually in our weekly workshops, Google classroom tutorial sessions, SAT prep, writer’s workshops, and college, scholarship, and FAFSA application consultations, and each is supported by their personal one-on-one academic case manager.

WEEKEND WELLNESS: Last July, we initiated this food assistance program which provides all meals for all family members from Friday evening through Sunday night. We began with 250 families, and the demand grew weekly. Today, we are providing 1,200 families (a nearly 400% increase) over 40,000 meals each Friday evening, keeping families well throughout the weekend. This is a one million dollar increase to our annual budget — money very well spent.

“You may say I’m a dreamer/But I’m not the only one/I hope some day you’ll join us/And the world will be as one.” spt


photo of san pedro today author Mike Lansing

Mike Lansing

Mike Lansing is the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor.