Cully Pratt, a California police officer, and artist — who also happens to be the older brother to Hollywood megastar Chris Pratt — is on a mission to help kids in tough neighborhoods plagued by gang activity and out-of-control drop-out rates.
Pratt and his famed brother came together last fall to support The Leaven at the Christian organization’s annual “Mayor’s Gala” event, and Pratt has continued to be a vocal proponent, recently telling The Pure Flix Podcast that The Leaven is offering a truly unique after-school mentor and tutor program.
“They are the solution. I’ve been in law enforcement now … coming on 16 years,” Pratt said. “And this is one of the best programs that I’ve seen to where [police] departments involved, fire departments are involved and leaders of the community are involved.”
Mark Lillis, executive director of The Leaven, explained that his organization’s work takes place in “high-density, high-crime neighborhoods,” with both he and Pratt explaining how these after school and mentoring centers “change communities from the inside out.”
“We establish a tutoring center within the neighborhood and it’s kindergarten through fifth grade because we were told by the Department of Education … that, at the third-grade level, if a child is behind there’s a high, high probability that they will be dropping out of high school,” Lillis said.
The Leaven centers offer homework help, reading intervention, healthy eating, and active living tips. But the centers also goes deeper, helping moms and dads navigate their own struggles. In addition to financial education for parents, The Leaven helps kids preparefor college.
“We’re really surrounding them with positive people with great morals,” Lillis said of the kids who participate in The Leaven. “We’re trying to surround these children and their families with … good, productive, solid citizens, so they can be that way within our communities.”
The Leaven was founded in 2009 in Fairfield, California, as a partnership between the city, churches, and the local school district. The central idea was to bring a learning center right into the middle of a difficult neighborhood — the creation of a safe place for kids to come and learn.
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