PACT’s mission has been to help pilot at-risk 10-15 year olds through the most vulnerable period of their young lives: a time when they seek excitement and take risks without considering possible consequences. They can't, because the prefrontal cortex of their brain is not yet fully developed—and won't be until their mid 20s.
Our at-risk boys and girls, primarily Latino, some African and Asian or White, are typically from large, low-income families, often missing a father, living in crowded housing in enclaves where corrosive peers lurk, tempt and threaten. The threat of violence is a matter-of-fact part of everyday life. We take them away from all that to work in safe neighborhoods.
Beginning this year, PACT’s door to door mentored work experience remains the same. PACT’s Solar Kids will be promoting home improvements and solar installations. We are also planning additional means for learning by doing the Work Ethic.
PACT was founded in 1994 by Gene Weeks, a charismatic former Evangelical Minister. For over 20 years PACT supported itself—as a grass roots nonprofit social enterprise, at its peak generating $140-$200K per year income. PACT has been acclaimed for proving its adult-mentored work ethic training, a safe, self-esteem building experience for children 10-15 years of age, putting money in their pockets weekly and earning stimulating outings monthly.
Over these years, PACT estimates its adult/kid teams have knocked over two million times on safe Westside neighborhood doors without a single incident.
Upwards of 1000 children, predominantly from the Federally funded low-income Mar Vista Gardens housing development, have learned the work ethic through PACT—with none to be found in Juvenile Hall Records.
Resolution by then- Assembly Member Ted W. Lieu and Senator Debra Bowen: "that Positive Alternative Choices Today be commended on its twelfth anniversary of service to at-risk youth in the Westside and South Bay communities, and extend best wishes for continued success in the future."
Debra Bowen later became California’s Secretary of State; Ted Lieu, Chairman of the Senate Labor Committee.
Note: Ted Lieu in 2014 became a U.S. Representative, succeeding Henry Waxman.
PACT’s demonstration of instructed, safe work for 10-15 year old children—selling short-term subscriptions door-to-door to the Los Angeles Times and the Daily Breeze(begun with the Santa Monica Outlook)—has garnered acclamations from:
Monthly, PACT provided recreational and educational activities —beach parties, snow trips, camping, Mt. Everest (via IMAX), Six Flags and Sony Studios, to name a few.
Evenings and weekends, PACT’s kids were learning about work and the psychology of working effectively, with adult coaches in safe neighborhoods—neighborhoods quite different from the one in which they were growing up.
They met the world. They learned how to make commitments—and to keep them. They learned determination and how to present themselves. They learned self-discipline, experienced how THEY appear to others, built self-esteem, discovered the rewards of work—and developed new enthusiasms and ways of seeing the possibilities of a self-directed future. They met with successful people in higher-income neighborhoods, and looked them straight in the eye—while spending time far away from gangs and street life.
They Earned More Than Paychecks. With their work stipend, PACT’s work-like sessions offered kids a means to earn and save, which instantly expanded their horizons. They learned that what they do matters. One boy bought his mother a bed; another bought his mother a washing machine. Numbers of them saved thousands for college.
What’s urgently needed NOW is state and federal legislation to clarify, in law, the opportunity for underserved 10-15 year olds to learn the work ethic–learning by doing–through nonprofit and IT corporations, adult coached, parent/guardian approved, out of school internships, for which they are compensated.
The Federal Child Labor Legislation passed in 1938, to protect children under 16 from hazardous and exploitative work, has been perverted, since the '80s, into a recruiting tool by gangs.
Current Child Labor restrictions, stemming from the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, preclude work for almost all children under 16. There are just two blanket exemptions that permit children under 16 to work: the entertainment industry, and family based businesses (which is where Warren Buffet got his start: in his fathers brokerage at age 11). Each of those under age 16 exemptions or exceptions states explicit year-by-year requirements to provide protection for young children.
In Washington July 2001, PACT found strong bipartisan support among labor committee legislative aides, in both houses of Congress, for PACT’s proposed non-profit managed third exemption or exception. Democrats were satisfied that children under 16 would still be protected. Republicans were pleased with its work ethic emphasis.
Then came 9/11. PACT’s proposed benefit for children was lost. No Lobbyists!
Over 11 years later, January 2012, the Chief of Child Labor in his Washington, DC office, urged PACT to get its proposed child/labor protections for 10-15 year olds into law as an exemption or an exception. Vital for THIS Congress. Democrats and Republicans both care about kids.
And, think what this means with today's congress, he said "It wouldn't cost anything."
Plainly put, PACT’s objective is to launch into PACT’s new-to-us grant/donor/event/volunteer driven 501(C)3 community charity role with all we've learned over our 20 years as a 501(C)3 social enterprise teaching the work ethic—learning by doing.
We know where underserved kids are coming from. We know what they are open to, and what they are capable of We know what inspires the and We know the one-on-one caring presence of an adult mentor is essential.
That said, here are the first five learning by doing experiences/ opportunities that PACT will offer to inspire the Work Ethic in 10-15 year olds. (In every circumstance, the connection will be made between succeeding in school and exceeding expectations in work and in life.)
Interning in PACT’s learning workshops and/or in Westside internet/social media company facilities. PACT kids will be educated and mentored in computer technology as well as software program testing by expertly qualified and screened adult mentors. (Most likely to be conducted in small groups, meeting once or twice a week after school or on weekends totalling 3-5 hours training per week.)
Marketing door to door, mentored, learning to present themselves, selling appointments for solar installations and other home improvements–donations accepted.
Participating in "Take Charge of Your Life" forums every other month on Saturdays 1-3pm, for underserved children from Westside low income neighborhoods. (These forums will provide the opportunity to meet and interact with charismatic role models from all manner of occupations.)
Exploring intriguing work sites, college campuses (and continuing PACT’s tradition of monthly Saturday recreational/educational/fun outings.
This is the Work Ethic that PACT is teaching (which means their new door-to-door participation will earn them tangible monetary rewards weekly, as well as acquire needed skills and perspectives).
See ""You Can Help"" section regarding sponsoring, coaching, volunteering and being a companion.
My name is Santiago Padilla and I currently work professionally in the entertainment industry on the Post Production side. I hope to give you some insight of what this program can do for a kid who lived in an at-risk area.As you know I am a product of the PACT program. I was 12 years old when I started going door to door. I joined the program to put some cash in my pockets. At a very young age I realized my parents could not afford to buy me those extra things that kids always want like video games because I had 11 (yes, eleven) other siblings.Working door to door helped me to build confidence in myself and to teach me the great work ethic that I'm known for today. It taught me sales was a numbers game. I developed the ability to speak in public, which if I'm correct, is one of the biggest fears. I learned how to work with people that were a lot older than me and how to communicate with adults. I learned the true value of a dollar because I worked very hard for it. I was able to put myself into Junior college with the money I saved.
I am truly thankful PACT was there for me as a young kid. It kept me busy, away from gangs and the streets, and it taught me some of the most important lessons in life. PACT prepared me for the real world while still letting me be a kid by providing monthly field trips. I went to Big Bear, Catalina Island (in a helicopter!), Amusement Parks, and many other places that I know for a fact I would have never been to because my parents could not afford it.
In closing I would like to say the door to door aspect of PACT is the back-bone of the program. It has a priceless value and is of great benefit for the young members of PACT.
Thank you all for your time.
My name is Daniel. I've been working with PACT for almost a year, and that’s how long I've had something nice, helpful, and good to do. Hopefully PACT can go on for many years, because it would give chances to those kids that think they don't have any, and may be for my kids too.
One of the best things I like about PACT is that you have to maintain at least a C average in school so the program keeps me straight in class.
What I like about PACT is that I make money and saved up like $1,300 with PACT. I also got the chance to go to CAL POLY to see student architecture work.
I want to be an architect so PACT tutored me in math. The fun part about PACT is all the fun trips.
I've been in PACT about two years and I got to meet a lot of people around L.A. and I was in Frank Gehry’s Office.
PACT has helped me through a lot. I remember the first time I joined PACT-it was so welcoming it was like my own family. I really enjoyed meeting all the different kinds of people, kids and coaches. I enjoyed going out with Jim and the others, saying the speech which I must have said about a million times. My favorite part about working with PACT was when I met someone nice who gave me advice. I guess my favorite part of all was when, after a hard day of work, we finally stop…and my coach says, "You did a nice job today. Now where do you want to eat?"
I recommend other kids from other neighborhoods that have problems with gang violence to consider joining PACT’s program as the best thing to do with their free time. I really learned a lot from this program; I know other kids who really want to learn will too.
Here’s what I have to say to all the other teenagers out there: PACT is a great program. It gives kids a chance to earn money at a younger age than you would otherwise be able to. Not only that, but it gives you work experience for when you get a little older and are looking for a job.
PACT has helped me in school as much as it has helped me with earning money, and learning to work. Not only all that, but PACT has helped me be able to speak in front of people, so that I am not too shy to talk in front of an audience, wherever I may be in the future.
Sometimes I have thought to myself– "How would my life have turned out if there had been no PACT?" I can't imagine it. PACT has been hugely important in making me the person I am today.
PACT is a very wonderful program. They help us stay out of gangs. We have Coaches that teach us positive work. We go on field trips and we go because many people help PACT by buying our paper, The Los Angeles Times.
By doing that work we get paid night by night!
If people want to enter PACT they would be making a good choice.
My name is Adam Garcia. I am 17 years old and I would like to share my appreciation for PACT with everyone. I started working for PACT at the age of 10, and since then I have learned how to be more responsible and sociable in the real world, not only at home.
The Coaches in PACT have also helped me improve my attitude in a positive way. Most of my achievements have been made possible thanks to everything PACT has done for me, including my going to college. I believe that because of all the advice that my former coaches gave me about pursuing my dreams I have become the person that I always wanted to be, which is a hard-working, responsible person.
I would like to recommend PACT to anyone committed to bettering the life of a child, so that other children can experience more of the joys of life and growing up that I and other former PACT kids have experienced.
In my personal opinion, I believe that my whole perspective on life would be different if it were not for the commitment and dedication of PACT and its Coaches.
In closing I would once again like to thank PACT for everything they have done for me and for other at-risk youth.