Our Mission

Friends of St. Lawrence - Watts Youth Center empowers the children and families of Watts through educational, advocacy, and enrichment programs.

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Our Commitment

Friends strives to live out its mission by being an active and supportive presence in Watts.

Friends primary objective is to educate and empower the children and families of Watts, regardless of age, race, national origin, ethnicity, gender or religious beliefs. Friends provides vital services and support to the any of the area’s 40,000 citizens who need them. These services help children and families begin to break the cycle of poverty and improve their quality of life in the inner city.  Our mission drives us to constantly seek to broaden and enrich learning opportunities for the Watts community.

Our History

In 1999, Father Peter Banks founded Friends of St. Lawrence-Watts Youth Center because he recognized that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and the road to improving the quality of life in the inner city. Children who achieve success in school are less likely to be lured into crime. Fr. Peter sees the possibilities for our Watts community and wants them to have equitable chances to take advantage of the opportunities available; opportunities that come from a strong foundation in education. Father Peter brought together leaders of many ethnicities and religions from the local Watts neighborhood and citizens from throughout Los Angeles County committed to sharing their skills.  One of these leaders, Linda Northrup became Friends first director in 2003. Under the direction of Linda Northup, Friends of St. Lawrence-Watts Youth Center grew to serve a major role within the inner city. Linda recognized that not only was it fundamental to administer support, but also to understand and evaluate the constantly changing needs of the people Friends serves.  With that understanding Friends created empowering programs  which made Friends a safe space for the community to receive the help children and families need the most.

Our Vision

Our core belief is that education is the only

positive way out of poverty.

Friends of St. Lawrence-Watts Youth Center is a nonprofit organization located in the heart of South Los Angeles. Friends is a hub of activity providing scholarships for elementary and high school students, offering adult English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, advocating for families dealing with legal problems, rendering tax advice and mentoring students through their high school years.  


Friends' Literacy Center improves the reading scores of children who are performing below grade level. We offer a comprehensive reading program that pairs each of our children with a teen tutor/mentor from South Central Los Angeles.   

Thanks to our strong community of supporters and hard working recipients, we are increasingly seeing our efforts coming full circle.