Southern Californians unfamiliar with the Compton Jr. Posse have to have been living under a rock the last 25 years. Started in 1998 by single mom Mayisha Akbar as a way to get her own and other neighborhood kids "on horses and off the streets," the Compton Jr. Posse has since graduated 1000-plus solid citizens and positively influenced many more through outreach programs.
On Sat., May 12, the Posse puts on its fifth annual fundraiser, to be held in the ballroom at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. This year they move to a new level by honoring Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca with the Community Visionary Award and show organizer Dale Harvey with the Equestrian Excellence Award. Olympic equestrians like Will Simpson, incoming USET show jumping chef d'equipe Robert Ridland, Charlotte Bredahl-Baker and Gina Miles will be involved but the real stars will be those who respond to the evening's critical mission: fundraising.
Pushing 60, the remarkable Mayisha recognizes that the Posse can't go on forever if powered purely by volunteers and in-kind donations, as it has been thus far. Infrastructure needs to be built in the form of at least a few paid positions. Last year, Mayisha announced the goal of raising $1.3 million over a three-year period. The Posse's wonderful supporters have already ponied up $300,000 of that and Mayisha hopes this year's fundraiser will pull in at least $500,000.
In addition to monetary donations, the Posse seeks silent auction items. Already, there are several vacations available as well as coaching from some of the country's top trainers and riders.
The goal is to hire a paid riding director and ranch director, enabling Mayisha to transition from doing it all, (including driving the horse trailer and mucking stalls!) to focusing her considerable persuasive powers and energy on soliciting grants, sponsors and sources of funding that will ensure the Posse's continuance for the next 25 years.
"We need all of our supporters who've been there for the first 25 years to understand that we are at a critical point," Mayisha explains. She thought she had reached a critical point four years ago, when she announced plans to close the Posse. "I was going to retire, but there was such uproar among our support base. We came through that and now we are pushing to build the infrastructure so that the Posse will go on long beyond me."
Mayisha admits it's "mind boggling" that something she started in her backyard in the Richland Farms area of Compton has grown to the point it has.
Jr. Posse members are everywhere. In the past few months, they competed at the Interscholastic Equestrian League Championships in Orange County, visited Gov. Brown's offices in Sacramento and are taking college classes at Posse partner Pierce College. Mayisha has fielded inquiries from Australia, Japan, South Africa, China and elsewhere from those interested in creating programs modeled on the Posse.
Speaking to a panel of potential donors last year, Mayisha explained that horses are a great substitute for gangs. "They both provide camaraderie, economic gain and an adrenaline rush." The economic gain, she clarified, comes from learning the rewards of responsibilities and other skills that will translate well in the job market. The Posse was started to give kids a safe place to go after school and quickly became a place where working with horses helped participants develop self-esteem and discipline. And if you've ever seen the Posse in competition, you know they have a heck of a good time!
The Posse offers certification in ranching and riding skills. Ranch management courses cover animal husbandry and care, including feeding, stable maintenance and transportation. The Riding program teaches western and english and includes body mechanics, balance and etiquette. The privilege of riding is earned. Ranch chores add up to saddle time for those who maintain the Posse's academic and in-program education goals and the progress of all members is carefully tracked over the years.
The program typically works with between
25 and 50 kids throughout the year. Many more visit the ranch to experience the rural lifestyle and interact with horses through various
When she can take a break from daily ranch duties, Mayisha foresees that the Posse can earn some income by making its facilities, horses and staff available to outside groups. "We are frequently approached by agencies that want us to provide services to them, and many of them are willing to pay fees for that." And that's just one of her plans for the future.
"The sky is the limit," she says. All that's needed is the financial wherewithal to get there.
Tickets sold out completely last year. This year's tickets for the May 12 gala are $175 per person, (early bird $150, prior to April 12) and are on sale now on the Posse's website. For more information and/or to donate cash or an auction item,
please visit www.ComptonJrPosse.org, or