Her response was to help start a non-profit agency to provide support to those children. The organization is called the Lawndale Amachi Mentoring Program -- or LAMP. It's modeled after a nationally recognized program that has been providing mentoring to children of incarcerated parents since 2000. They may seem an unlikely pair, but Alison Janus and Dasai O'Neal say over the past school year they have become nearly inseparable.
"When we met we talked about everything that we have in common and everything that we like is in common. We even wear the same shoe size," O'Neal said.
Janus volunteered to become a mentor through LAMP. The pair spend time one-on-one each week having fun and swapping secrets. Janus usually tries to incorporate physical activity into their outings.
"In a community with more violence certainly than in my neighborhood, things that I would take for granted like sending my son out to play, well Dasai doesn't run out and play because it's not always safe," Janus said.
In addition to their individual activities, they also work side-by-side with other mentors and students. On this day, they are cleaning a vacant lot with plans to add flower beds. Dr. Betty Allen-Green says she started the program specifically for children with incarcerated parents, but realized other children affected by violence also needed positive role models.
"We have children who came to us who were angry, had low self-confidence, didn't feel good about themselves because of the poverty and other barriers that they are faced with in our community. Now they are uplifted. They feel good about themselves," Allen-Green said.
Volunteers say it takes consistent intervention to set troubled youth on the right path.
"We need more black male mentors cause these young men have to see role models," said Phillip Pendleton, volunteer mentor. "Unless they see something powerful and positive to take them out of their condition, they'll just remain there."
LAMP also holds weekly peace circles with teens to give them a safe forum to discuss their struggles. It also connects teens with summer jobs.