Straight Outta Compton: A Case Study in Impact


If there is one thing that gets SGA up in the morning (aside of the double-shot soy latte), it’s impact. We like to make a difference.

We put our passion for impact to the test one recent Saturday morning, when we met in the parking lot of Bunche Middle School at 7am sharp (caffeine in hand) to participate in Compton Initiative’s Just Do Good work day. The Compton Initiative is a nonprofit dedicated to restoring and transforming the City of Compton.

Four times a year, hundreds of volunteers gather in the school parking lot, put on bright yellow t-shirts and pick up their work assignments—anything from building planter boxes and planting trees to painting a mural or renovating a house.

In the 1980s, hometown rappers like N.W.A and Dr. Dre etched Compton into popular culture as a city besieged by gangs, drugs and violence. It’s a reputation and a reality that the Compton Initiative aims to combat through community-driven restoration and beautification projects. For the organizers of the event, the projects mean so much more than a new coat of paint. The way they see it, the revival of even one structure provides enough beauty and dignity to give all residents hope for a positive future. Since it was founded 8 years ago, the group has completed more than 650 renovations on private homes, public schools, public spaces, medical clinics and churches.

SGA’s project was painting the home of an elderly resident. We teamed up with a few dozen men, women and children, poured canary-yellow paint into trays, grabbed our rollers and got to work.  Off the bat, a few things became clear. 1) Stucco is really hard to paint with a roller. 2) Our intern Sean, who used to paint houses, could wield a paint brush like Van Gogh. 3) Plastic lawn chairs are not ladders. 4) Making an impact is even more fun in a group.

Within 2 hours, the house was transformed. And as we walked to our cars, paint streaks in our hair, we knew that we had done something that morning to change someone’s life. Even at 7am, that’s worth getting out of bed for.

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