A bank and a rapper may seem unlikely partners, but this week, Chase Bank and will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas announced a collaborative project aimed at changing the face of Boyle Heights.
The project, TRANS4M Boyle Heights, is focused on addressing community needs of education, jobs and job training, home ownership, and green space.
Students, politicians, and community members gathered at the press event at Roosevelt High School, where Chase announced the $1 million grant awarded to will.i.am’s foundation “i.am angel.” The grant will begin the building of a new community center in Boyle Heights.
In addition, Chase and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation promised $7 million over the next three years to their other non-profit partners to help TRANS4M Boyle Heights.
Ryan McInerney, CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, said that the bank is committed to Los Angeles, its home. “We have millions of customers and thousands of employees in the area,” he said, “and have vested interest in helping rebuild the communities here like Boyle Heights that are struggling.”
Will.i.am understands the struggles people face in Boyle Heights. Born William James Adams, and raised in the Estrada Courts housing projects the Black Eyed Peas singer wants to give back to his neighborhood. “We are the community. Let’s make this happen,” he said.
The seven-time Grammy Award winner says a big focus of the program is on youth in the community. “I want to encourage these kids in Boyle Heights because if I can do it, some 13-year-old right now can do it,” will.i.am said.
Other organizations that have joined forces with TRANS4M Boyle Heights include: College Track, a college access program that will open a new center in Boyle Heights this summer; First (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) which aims to inspire the study of science and technology, and the California Endowment which expands access to affordable health care for underserved communities.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar were among other public officials in attendance at the Roosevelt event. Chase employees and volunteers handed out school supplies and backpacks to students at Roosevelt, and promised to deliver more to other schools throughout the community.
In Boyle Heights only 31 percent of adults over the age of 25 have a high school education, and only five percent are college graduates, according to a press release provided by Councilman Huizar’s office. Boyle Heights also has one of the largest homeless student populations in L.A. County and the unemployment rate is 17 percent, almost 5 percent greater than the rest of the county, the press release states.