Debrah Constance, Founder of A Place Called Home
In 1988, Debrah Constance watched the film “Stand & Deliver” and her life forever changed. For those unfamiliar, “Stand & Deliver” follows the amazing story of one high school math teacher from East L.A. who helped her students to achieve such phenomenal AP Calculus scores, the examination board accused the class of cheating. The math teacher, Jaime Escalante, proved that disadvantaged children can supercede expectations given the opportunity and someone to believe in them.
Moved by the story, Debrah Constance convinced her boss to sponsor a teacher in L.A.’s inner city. But when Debrah reached out to the teacher, he said he didn’t want her money; he wanted her time. What his students didn’t have was the opportunity to experience life outside of South Central.
For the next 5 years, Debrah worked hard to provide non-inner city experiences for seniors from Jefferson High School. The students joined her on all the boards she was on: the National Councils of Jewish Women, Alternative Living for the Aging, Clare Foundation; and together they helped feed seniors and put on community service events. Then through Debrah’s office, she started a mentoring program, pairing up her co-workers with the high schoolers. It was at this point that a major lightbulb went off for her:
Over the years, Debrah fell in love with the students and new she needed to follow a different path. So she quit her job, took her $50,000 severance package, and started A Place Called Home (APCH): a safe place for inner city students to go after school. 27 years after watching Stand & Deliver, APCH has grown substantially, it’s no longer just a safe place for kids to go, but a safe place where kids can learn and grow. Through its programming, APCH teaches kids (and their parents) about health, nutrition, education, creative expression and service to others.
And not only does it impact the lives of its clients, APCH impacts the lives of the entire community. Chelsea Khatami, a volunteer with APCH, got involved with the organization two years ago. She said she initially signed up to purchase christmas gifts for one family, as a means to teach her 6-year old daughter about the importance of helping others. When I asked Chelsea about her experience she said,
In addition to getting involved with Christmas gift giving, Chelsea also helped organize a Halloween costume drive. After the event, said Chelsea, “I received beautiful thank you cards from the students, which proves A Place Called Home is not only giving these kids safe haven, but teaching them values that will follow them throughout their lives. I can't rave about their organization enough and seeing it in person is the only way to truly grasp the love APCH has for their students and in seeing them succeed as well rounded, successful individuals.”
To learn more about A Place Called Home and how you can get involved, please see their website.