Inner-city youth escape trouble at urban ranch

COMPTON, Calif. - In cities across the country, gang violence has become an unfortunate part of everyday life -- especially for young people. Compton, California has been troubled by gangs more than most American cities, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker.

But tucked away within its city limits, there's a ranch where youngsters can escape their problems; forget about their fears.

Kenny Atkins has a horse paddock right in the middle of gang territory in Compton.

"Right in the middle, and we're still doing it, we're still cowboying it up," said Atkins.

Nineteen-year-old Atkins is not part of a gang -- he's part of a posse -- the Compton Jr. Posse. The free program teaches kids how to ride horses and trains them for competitions. Kenny has been going there for three years.

"When you're stressed, it takes away the stress," says Atkins about the program. "When you want to fight, you just talk to your horse."

For 11-year-old Sonni Garcia, this is about the only time she gets to enjoy the outdoors. It's simply too dangerous to play outside her gang-ridden neighborhood.

"I want to be a jockey," said Garcia, smiling.

Mayisha Akbar -- a lifelong horse lover -- started the Compton Jr. Posse in 1988, with money out of her own pocket, literally in her backyard. She saw young people dying from gang violence all around her. She also noticed how much the neighborhood kids wanted to be around her horses.

"I'd like to say we were in competition with gangs, so we had to provide the same things that gangs did in order to keep our children's interest -- camaraderie, an extended family, a safe haven," said Akbar.

The tiny ranch now attracts children from all over Los Angeles County, including 15-year-old Danielle Beavers. The once rebellious teen was doing poorly in school and hanging out with the wrong crowd -- until she began going there years ago. She eventually met her match -- a high-strung horse named Ziggy. Now her grades are up and her anger down.

"When he got mad, I found out I couldn't be mad at him," said Beavers. "I had to calm down so he could get where I was."

Beavers said Ziggy's been her therapist.

"But I've been his therapist too," she admits.

Beavers is now winning awards for her jumping. As for Atkins -- he has bigger plans.

He wants to go to the Olympics.

"That's my number one goal. I'm going to make it too - I'm going to make it," said Atkins.

The lesson for children here: anything is possible once you get through the hurdles -- and put yourself on the right track.