The End of Year Celebration for the Watts Dreamers was the first event that I attended as an intern with IHADLA. I was able to meet the third graders for the first time as they celebrated the completion of their first year with IHADLA at Griffith Park. The event started at ten in the morning, and already, the kids were bursting with energy; they played a variety of games on the field, including football. Their enthusiasm and joy was contagious. One young Dreamer, the self-proclaimed captain of his football team, shouted again and again, “Who are we?” His response came back as a chorus of voices yelling “49ers!” All the kids were completely immersed in their games, competing to win both prizes and glory.
At 11 am sharp, the kids finished their games only to race up the hill to the merry-go-round. They then waited in line impatiently, murmuring and twitching with excitement. However, upon the arrival of Executive Director Katy Garretson, the kids found a focal point for their energy and broke out in a chorus of “Ms. Katy!” I caught a glimpse of the warmth and solidarity between the staff and the kids, as everyone shared a massive hug.
When the gates of the merry-go-round did finally open, the kids took multiple rides, enjoying themselves immensely as they went on four or five times. Afterwards, lunch was served. Watching them giggle and exchange stories at the picnic table, I saw that the program had essentially created a home away from home for these kids. The Dreamers had become brothers and sisters to each other, and the staff members had become their adopted role models.