Three prominent human rights organizations announced plans Friday to establish a literacy program for young adults in South Los Angeles.
The "Principle of Alphabet Literacy System" (PALS) program--sponsored by local chapters of the National Urban League, the American Jewish Committee and the National Conference of Christians and Jews--will enable 400 students a year to upgrade their literacy and job training skills, spokesmen for the groups said.
"We felt it was important to do something that would give hope to youth who are unemployed and illiterate," said Bob Jones, executive director of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. "This way, we divert them from drugs and crime."
Officials from the groups said the program would open after they had raised seed money, which they expect to come from corporate and philanthropic institutions. They said it would take $150,000 a year to run PALS. IBM has already donated $100,000 in computer equipment to the project, the spokesmen said.
The program will be located at the Urban League's Data Processing Training Center in South Los Angeles.
Urban League President John W. Mack said the literacy program would help increase the labor pool in the African-American and Latino communities in South Los Angeles: "Whether they drop out or graduate, many of our constituents leave school functionally illiterate. As a result, they cannot complete a job application and their employment and earning potential are severely restricted for life."
The groups' spokesmen said they developed the idea for a literacy program during a series of meetings between the organizations over the last several months.
"We wanted to do something to mark the 25th anniversary of the (Watts) riots," said Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, the director of the American Jewish Committee. "The three organizations had worked together prior to this. We didn't want a lot of words or rhetoric. We wanted to come up with a program."