EAST LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Garage Board Shop in East Los Angeles is more than just a store — it's also the home of a nonprofit program that provides free tutoring and a safe place to skateboard for inner city youth.
"We what we're trying to do here is grab that kid and put him on a foundation. ," Jerry Carrera, owner of the shop, said.
Skate-4-Education is an after school program that allows local kids to earn points they can redeem for skating supplies by completing academic assignments and doing well in school. The program aims to create an interest in education and encourage kids to pursue education beyond high school.
"It's meant a lot to me," Erik Ramirez, who participates in the program, said. "It taught me stuff I never thought I'd learn."
Ramirez said he has never had a relationship with his father, and his mother has spent most of his life behind bars. He currently lives with his grandmother, and said that before participating in the program, he didn't really care about school.
"I never thought I'd have this before," he said. "It's like basically a new family."
One member of that extended family is mentor Erik Diaz, who walked into the store as a 10-year-old boy working for neighborhood drug dealers — a job that got a number of his friends killed.
"They were all murdered, and that's the way it was," he said. "And it kills me even to this day, that they didn't make it."
Now Diaz is in his third year at California State University Los Angeles studying civil engineering. He said he hopes one day to own his own company so he can provide jobs for others.
As for the gang members in the neighborhood, Diaz said they leave the shop alone, because most of the original members from the area now have children who participate in the program.
The shop, originally opened in 2007 at 759 S. Atlantic Blvd. as a business opportunity for Carrera and Patty Ramblaz, has since partnered with the University of Southern California's Center for Higher Education and recently earned a grant from the county to fund a computer room to further their mission of fostering a safe environment for local kids.
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