Youth train in SCUBA diving
Los Angeles’s history of racism has shown in more ways than one. Whether it was police brutality, redlining, discrimination, or domestic terrorism from the KKK, Black families were limited in what they could do in terms of community activities and the little stuff they were able to acquire or build up was usually stripped from them or destroyed for reasons that align with racism and segregation.
One of the activities that many kids who are now adults and some even grandparents had taken away from them was learning how to swim. The lack of access to this skill has caused generations of families not to know how to swim, which also affected some of them missing out on job opportunities. Barbara Stanton is making a change to the stigma of Black people not knowing how to swim and is also offering them the chance to be of service to their community while getting paid.
Stanton, executive director of the Entrepreneur Educational Center Inc (EECI), is a pillar in the South L.A. community as it acts as an outreach program for adults. On Saturday, May 6, from 2-4 pm, EECI will be holding free scuba diving and lifeguard certification classes at Ted Watkins Park, 1335 E. 103rd St., in Watts. Also taking place on May 6 and May 13, EECI will be hosting free business seminars form 2-4 p.m. at the Quarles Opportunity Business Center at 10124 S. Broadway, Suite 200, in South LA to kickoff their Miracle Business plan development course.
The organization offers outreach, screening, enrollment classes, classroom training, and seminars, round table discussions and workshops, individualized consulting, and mentoring.
“I worked for the director of the USC Entrepreneur program in 1989. While working there, I noticed the lack of minority students in the program.” Stanton said as she described the importance of EECI. “I went to the outreach program and offered to help them recruit more minority students and was turned down immediately. I went to L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley and asked him for help. With his help and my fundraiser, we started having minority seminars about business and entrepreneurship that led to the creation of EECI.”
While the seminars and workshops started in 1989, the organization wasn’t truly created until 1994, after Stanton and some of her colleagues left USC to continue their mission of educating the youth around South L.A. about being an entrepreneur and learning how to handle finances.
“Everyone one of our students that graduated, I have started and supported either their company or Non-profit organization,” Stanton said in highlighting the longevity of her organization. “It’s an important and serious need for us to have our own companies as it can create up to 80 percent of new jobs for us, and that’s critical to me. I can not give up or retire until that 80 percent is met or exceeded.”
Stanton points out that most of the issues Black and Brown people face are financial; keeping money within the community will eliminate not only problems that most minorities face but also help create generational and community wealth.
“Students selected for the program go through a nine-week training with EECI, and upon completion, they receive a logo for their business, a completed business plan, and marketing and advertising help,” Stanton said.
The ‘EECI Dives to the Blue’ will be the first scuba diving and lifeguard certification program in South L.A., that will teach students how to swim, dive, and award them a license that will allow them to pursue jobs at available ports. The program is also supported by Altasea as they will lead the deep-sea diving portion of the course.
“I want the jobs and small business at the port of Los Angeles, in my long years of living in Los Angeles, I have never heard of any Black or Brown person having a job at the port,” Stanton said as she talked about what led to the creation of the new program. “ I introduced blue and green business to the Watts community last year in some of my seminars, as I feel like that’s where some of our future money and jobs are.”
Stanton and her partners eventually agreed upon a diving program that has helped her create a partnership with Altasea that will lead graduates from the program to obtain jobs either with Altasea or through one of their partners in their network. Stanton also connected with Gerald Durant, the first Black dive master in Los Angeles. Durant, currently with the Los Angeles Fire Department, is the program coordinator. Stanton mentions that the diving program is only available to people with strong swimming skills, with scuba suits provided.
“I will make sure each person gets a job and is connected with people that will help them in the diving career field. I know we don’t have the money or capacity here in Watts to help them, but we will make sure they get the jobs everybody else is going for, whether it’s in South L.A. or somewhere else.” Stanton said as she encourages people to attend the event. “We should all want to play a role in saving our community, but we should also want to play a role in saving our planet.”