Hood Corps Fosters Future Leaders With Community Service

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(Sacramento, CA)
Sunday, April 15, 2007

Charles Hudson did not always walk the streets of Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood with confidence.

Charles Hudson: I grew up that way toward McClatchy Park 

The 19-year-old remembers walking quickly and taking different routes to school.  He also kept a low profile in the classroom; scrapping by on the Cs he needed to stay on the football team.  But in the last two years, Hudson’s outlook has changed.

Charles Hudson: Man, I see big things I know like, before I kind of said, like I really didn’t know where I was going when I was younger it was like I was very confused.  Now it’s like, I know I am going succeed. There’s no way that I’m not going to succeed.  I’m going to tackle four years of college.  Finish.  Then go to graduate school, knock t hat out then just blow-up.  I mean there’s no doubt that I won’t blow up.

After Hudson graduated from high school he became a junior fellow in a program called Hood Corps.  It’s like an inner city Peace Corps where young adults spend a year improving the community and themselves.  Former NBA Star and Oak Park native Kevin Johnson started the rigorous volunteer program eight years ago. 

Kevin Johnson: You know Charles is a great example.  I mean a lot of his family members have not done well in school, gone on to college, have been as productive as we all would like to see and he’s committed to trying to be the male role model for his brother and his family. 

Johnson aims to build future leaders who will come back to serve Oak Park or a similar community.  This year Hood Corps has 36 members, but Charles is one of three junior fellows who have made the most intense commitment.

Kevin Johnson:  My goal for them is to make it the hardest year they’ve ever had  because then after that, after they graduate from the Hood Corps program there’s no obstacle that they’ll come in contact with that they can’t overcome.

Junior fellows work seven days a week from early in the morning to late at night. When they’re not working as student advisors at Sacramento High School, they’re studying and taking college prep courses.  They also take lead roles in Oak Park improvement projects.  I caught up with Hudson on a cold, wet and windy Saturday morning as he pitched in during a community clean-up.

Street Exchange: So what’s your area today? Uh, we have, we’re going down second and San Jose Way.  Do you usually find enough to fill up all these bags? Uh, there’s usually a lot of trash, last month we went down Martin Luther King and we filled like 5 or 6 bags on our trip, so yeah.

Hudson leads about a dozen high school students through the streets of Oak Park.

They’re wearing orange pullovers.  Some hold bags while others use garbage pickers to toss in trash.

Charles Hudson: Don’t touch anything that you don’t think is safe, alright. 

Curious neighbors come out to see what’s going on.  Others stop their cars to say thank you.

Then Hudson runs into the younger brother of a kid he grew up with.  He says the kid looked high.

Charles Hudson: I mean pretty much if it wasn’t for Saint Hope and Hood Corps then probably that would be me.  I would probably be getting high everyday and doing pretty much nothing with my life. 

But Hudson sees big things in his future.  This fall he’ll become the first person in his family to go to college.  After he graduates, he says he will come back to his old neighborhood.

Charles Hudson: There’s no reason why not to come back.  I mean, this is where I grew up, so it just doesn’t seem right that I put 18 years into a community or a community has put 18 years into me, making me what I’m going to become and not coming back to give back and you know, do my share.

Charles Hudson dreams of a future as a sports agent.  Kevin Johnson believes Hudson’s experience in Hood Corps has also given him the skills to be a teacher or business owner.

Kevin Johnson:  But regardless of what he decides to do, I think he’ll be a pillar in our community. 

Krista Almanzán, KXJZ News.