In a place as diverse as L.A., it shouldn’t be surprising that you can find a posse of kids on horseback in Compton. But the members of Compton Jr. Posse aren’t just out for a joy ride. The organization, the brainchild of Mayisha Akbar, helps keep kids off the street, away from gangs and in school. As a side benefit, the kids connect with the animals, and each other, and have a good time in the process. Compton Jr. Posse offers a wide range of programs, including after-school activities, summer camp and an equestrian team (with Olympic aspirations).
Akbar is firm in her rule that kids have to put time in at school before they can ride, but says they learn a lot from the program itself. “Through these equestrian activities, youth develop responsibility, discipline and self-esteem,” she says. “Students learn to set and achieve both academic and career goals.” The educational part of the program also ties directly into academic subjects such as science, math, research and sociology.
Akbar is eloquent and clear on the deeper results CJP can offer kids. “In our society, education is the great leveler, great equalizer. So most children of low-income families have no idea that education [can] give them the opportunity to change the situation … things that they were born into that they have no control over,” she says, adding that the education posse members receive is broad-based. “We know that in this world, not only is it book knowledge, but social knowledge that we have to have. You have to understand the development of relationships and have the ability to communicate in various ways. Children also have to be accepting of others – whether it’s culturally or economically or with mental and physical challenges, because we all have those.”
With 26 years of experience running CJP, Akbar has seen a solid set of benefits for the kids in the program. From an increase in test scores at school to an ability to mentor others and create a strong community, the program has measurable rewards. And while most of the action takes place on horseback, CJP has made strides in other ways, too. Compton Jr. Posse members who travelled to Tanzania, Africa to speak at the 2012 World Ranger Congress – an international gathering of park rangers – were so well received that CPJ was asked to organize an international component of the next congress, which meets in Colorado in 2015.
Visit them at www.comptonjrposse.org for more information or to make a donation to the program. As a non-profit group, they are always looking for help to keep kids on horses, and off the streets.