Staff members at a Westchester nonprofit organization that works with local high school students in their preparation for college entrance say that student work took a big hit after a recent office burglary but the youths are determined to follow through on their ambitions for college.
The Community Outreach and Opportunity Programs (CO-OP), a nonprofit social and human services organization, is one of five organizations that was the victim of recent burglaries at a business complex in the 8900 block of Sepulveda Boulevard, south of 89th Street, in Westchester, police said.
The burglaries are believed to have occurred sometime between 5:30 p.m. Sunday, October 14th, and 9 a.m. Monday, October 15th, said Detective Tim Grimes of the Los Angeles Police Department Pacific Community Station.
Grimes said police believe the suspects in the incidents pried open the rear security gate of the complex and either pried or forced their way into each of the businesses.
Only one of the businesses had submitted a report at Argonaut press time of stolen items which included a TV and a computer, Grimes said. The other companies, including the Community Outreach and Opportunity Programs, had yet to submit an inventory report, Grimes said.
But according to Joyce Taylor, an educational advisor at CO-OP, the organization’s office was burglarized of five laptop computers, $100 worth of students’ snack money and gift cards. The organization is unsure of the exact amount of loss in the burglary, but the laptops are valued at approximately $700 to $800 each, Taylor said.
While the incident came as a shock to the staff and students, they were “mostly in disbelief” that the program, which helps youths prepare for college, was the victim of a burglary, Taylor said.
“We are a nonprofit and we’re helping kids — who would steal from our kids?” Taylor wondered. “We all felt violated because this is like our home.”
CO-OP staff say the organization is dedicated to improving the lives of Southern California residents by providing comprehensive services and projects in targeted communities. Its mission is to empower the individuals, children and families in urban areas by exposing them to educational, financial, career and health opportunities they might not normally receive.
One of its programs is intended to help students prepare for college. The program works with students from Westchester High School and the Youth Opportunities Unlimited Alternative High School.
Staff members say the goal of the program, which currently serves about 100 students 14 to 17 years old, is to increase the rate at which the youths complete secondary education and enroll in and graduate from college.
A key step in the college preparation process is the admission application. Many of the students in the program had begun working on personal statement essays for the applications, as well as other school- related assignments, and had saved the work on the office laptops, Taylor said.
As a nonprofit organization with limited resources, the loss of the laptop computers hit the program hard, she said.
Aside from the items taken and damage to the office, the burglary robbed the students of months of dedicated work, Taylor noted.
“It was a huge loss to the kids, especially because they have their homework and everything saved on the laptops,” she said.
While the students suffered a setback in their college preparation, they have vowed to start over on any lost work and continue to stay focused on their path to college, Taylor said.
Taylor, who first noticed the office break-in along with another advisor, said it seemed that the suspects were primarily after the laptops, as other offices also reported missing computers.
CO-OP staff say they are planning to raise funds and are asking for donations to try to purchase new computers and other supplies for the office. After the burglary, chains were placed on the gates at the complex and CO-OP installed a new alarm system.
Police did not have any description of the suspects. The complex has no security guards on patrol and there is no video footage of the burglaries, Grimes said.
Police have taken fingerprints at the scene which will be analyzed to try to identify any potential suspects, Grimes said.