Challengers

Lou Dantzler & Challengers

Our Mission

To motivate, educate and elevate the children and teens of South Los Angeles to become responsible, caring, productive adults.

Our History

In the summer of 1968, Lou Dantzler, a South Central Los Angeles father of two, came home from his gardening route early one day to discover his neighbor's 11-year-old son breaking into his house. Though angry to see the child commit such a crime, sadly Lou was not surprised. Lou knew that his young neighbor, like many other kids in the community, didn't have a father around. No one to take an interest in him and give him the attention and discipline so desperately needed to keep him out of trouble. Sadly, Lou knew dozens of kids like his young neighbor.

Lou Dantzler also knew what it was like to grow up without a father. The youngest of 22 children born to a poor South Carolina sharecropper, Lou lost his father when he was just seven years old. While his father's death devastated Lou's family economically, he later realized as a teen how much his father's absence also affected his well-being and self-confidence.

So when Lou caught that young boy stealing from him, he didn't call the police. He was well aware that simply having the police cart an impressionable kid off to juvenile hall -- finishing school for budding criminals -- was neither going to help that child nor the community in the long run. Like the dozens of other fatherless children in his neighborhood, Lou knew that what this boy needed was someone to teach him right and wrong and help him become a productive adult.
Lou had an idea. He decided to take an interest in his young neighbor's life; to give him and some of the other wayward boys in his community something positive to do. He invited his neighbor and eleven other neighborhood kids for a day of fun at a nearby park -- a place that not one of them had ever visited. To them, it was like paradise. Amidst a day of sports and recreation, they opened up to Lou about their problems and he offered guidance; when they got out of hand Lou firmly brought them back into line. For these boys, Lou was a revelation.

As they were preparing to leave, Lou asked them if they wanted to do this again. Cheers went up amongst the group, and then one boy asked, "Can I bring a friend?"

The following Saturday, instead of twelve kids, Lou had twenty-five. A month after that, there were fifty. Lou enlisted some of his friends to help and soon he had a network of parent volunteers helping him organize the more than one hundred kids he took to the park by the end of that summer. Seeing how much enthusiasm and pride these kids now had, Lou wanted to give them something of their own, a feeling of ownership and belonging that would unite them into something positive - a club. After Vons, a local grocery chain, donated a storefront on 51st Street and Vermont Avenue, abandoned since the Watts Riots, Lou's group of boys became "Challengers Boys Club," becoming the first of more than 35,000 boys and girls to walk through its doors and become part of what has come to be called the "Oasis of South Central Los Angeles."

Our Programs

ACADEMIC SUCCESS

Arts & Crafts
Develops and promotes individual creativity. Aids in strengthening motor skills and enhances self-confidence and self-worth through cultural enrichment.

Career Development
Education and Career Development enables youth to become proficient in basic educational disciplines, apply learning to everyday situations and embrace technology to achieve success in a career. The following programs aim to promote Educational and Career Development

Genesis Mobile Innovation Pop Up Lab 
is partnering with the Challengers site to run STEM programming for our kids throughout the year including summer. Kids experiment, explore and discover hands-on activities in science and technology including robotics, game design, and machines.

Power Hour
An educational enhancement program for members ages 6 - 12 that encourages them to be more self-directed learners. During Power Hour, homework help and tutoring is provided through enrichment and reinforcement activities. The Coca-Cola Company sponsors Power Hour.

Teen Technology Center
Teaches youth ages 13-17 computer technology basics, reading, math, writing, spelling, how to fill out applications for PSAT, ACT college tests and more, which create opportunities for career development, college preparedness, and academic enrichment.
HEALTHY LIFESTYLES

Sports & Recreation
Sports, Fitness and Recreation helps youth develop fitness, positive use of leisure time, skills for stress management, appreciation for the environment and social skills. The following programs aim to increase Fitness and promote social health.

Tennis Center 
The tennis program exposes youth 6-17 years old to a sport that enhances individual developmental skills, builds character, enhances perception and promotes healthy attitudes. It also helps to build strength, flexibility and endurance. Participants of the Los Angeles Youth Tennis (LAYT) program receive instruction from certified tennis professionals, qualify for membership with SCTA, receive a certificate of participation, participate in various special events, receive awards and participate in tournaments.

GOOD CHARACTER & CITIZENSHIP

Keystone Club
A leadership and service group for teens ages 14-18. Keystoners elect officers and plan and implement their own activities in six areas: service to Club and community, leadership development, education and career exploration, unity, free enterprise and social recreation.

Mind Body
Mind Body and Soul (MBS) is a combination of classroom education, physical fitness activities, workshops, guest speakers, parental involvement, community outreach and field trips that address the mind-body connection in order to address the underlying factors in the environment.

SMART Moves
This prevention program teaches youth to resist alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. Designed to increase participants’ peer support, enhance their life skills, build their resilience and strengthen their leadership skills, also encourages youth to abstain from premature sexual activity.


Street SMART
Youth ages 11-13 learn to build awareness and resistance skills from the temptation of negative influences of gangs, violence and the “street”. Participants develop the confidence and knowledge to make intelligent choices though three modules: recognizing how gangs work and how to resist being recruited, how to recognize and resolve conflicts peacefully and how to become positive peer helpers.

Torch Club
Torch Club is a leadership and service group for ages 10-13. Members learn to elect officers and work together to plan and implement activities in four areas: service to Club and community, education, health and fitness, and social recreation.

Youth of the Year
Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s principal recognition program. It focuses on each nominee’s service to Club, community and family. It also awards members for their commitment to academic performance, spiritual values, life goals and poise and public speaking abilities. Local clubs select a Youth of the Month and from this group, select a Youth of the Year who then participates in state competition. State winners participate in Regional competition and Regional winners compete in the National competition. Candidates should be between the ages of 14 - 18. All nominees must have at least two years of continued service prior to January 31 of the year of nomination.

Nominees under 14 can be identified for participation in future Youth of the Year programs on State, Regional and National levels.
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Success Story

At Challengers Boys & Girls Club our aim is to ensure that all Club members graduate from high school on time, ready for a post-secondary education, and with the skills needed to achieve the truly great futures we envision for them.

From the age of 8 Jazmyne has found her footing at Challengers Boys & Girls Club. Participating in programs, and workshops on everything from home-economics, to interview techniques, fostered the leadership skills that were necessary for her career. She also met invaluable mentors that shaped the way she looked at herself and the world around her, and what possibilities looked like. At the age of 14, Jazmyne was one of two Challengers teens selected to receive a scholarship to participate in the six-week summer academic program at Taft Boarding School in Connecticut, one of the top college preparatory schools in the country. 

By implementing those skills acquired at the Club and the new tools learned while at the boarding school, she successfully finished the program and learned how to be self-sufficient. From there the workshops, community service projects, and even conferences offered through the Keystone made imagining success- accessible. "Challengers was my home away from home. It gave me the personal and academic skills I needed to excel. It also showed me opportunities through various programs that were offered, that are now a part of my career goals," said Jazmyne McNeese .

Today, Jazmyne has been heavily involved in her community on and off campus at UC Irvine. She was admitted as a dance major and now is a Sociology major with a minor in African American Studies. Currently she is president of the Xi Omega chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Co-Chair of the Afrikan Black Coalition Conference, and is on the board of the Black Student Union and Demands Team at UC Irvine. All of her on and off campus organizational efforts and community service ventures are inspired by her family. She aspires to pursue a career in public policy earning a J.D. or a Ph.D. in Public Policy or Public Policy Management to effect change for her community. While at UC Irvine Jazmyne’s understanding of social issues have been influenced heavily by her majors. Utilizing her dance major, the use of creativity and spatial awareness helped her develop her drive to create policies that sustain the basic necessities of life for all. Sociology has allowed Jazmyne to understand the mechanics of what becomes knowledge, and why its effect on the communities are studied. Finally, her African American Studies minor has solidified her foundation in the work of her community and how to critically think about how processes affect those who are being processed. All together these tools have fostered her growth and integrity in helping her community.

As for the future Jazmyne will be attending Rutgers University in New Jersey in the Fall of 2016 for a Master’s in Public Policy on a scholarship. She has received the Order of Merit award for the School of Social Sciences at UC Irvine and she will be speaking at her graduation in June.

Challengers congratulates Jazmyne McNeese and all of the 2016 graduates who will be taking their next steps across the stage and embarking on a journey to find their passions, chase success, and thrive in the real world.

Club Director

Corey Dantzler 

Jobs + Internships

Please visit our jobs page for current opportunities.

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