When Mama Hill first opened her doors to children after school, she couldn’t have known that her program would grow into a much-loved community anchor.
Over the last decade, nearly 3,000 kids have come through her door. In a house—and neighborhood—this small, there are no secrets. Mama Hill knows her kids' friends and she knows their enemies. She knows what they did this weekend, she knows what they're doing when they leave, and she knows who they're going with. Everyone is accountable, from who owes his friend an apology to who left that orange peel on the piano. And the kids seem to thrive under her watchfulness, even though they don't always smile when she orders them to clean up their trash.
At the local public school, David Starr Jordan High, barely half of the students graduate, and those who do are tempted to run fast—literally, in the case of its most famous alumni, Florence Griffith-Joyner. Five years after Griffith-Joyner set a world record at the 1988 Olympics, Jordan Downs, the housing complex where she grew up, made headlines again as the setting of the gritty crime movie Menace II Society.