Keeben Marks, a dedicated OP parent, has lived in Watts for the past decade. When he learned about the opportunities that Operation Progress could give his children, he decided to go all in. “My daughter Amir has been in Operation Progress since about third grade. OP has allowed her to be focused and opened up a lot of possibilities for her,” he shares. Keeben believes OP has allowed her to become more focused and has showed her that police are just “regular people”. His other daughter, Kamille, he feels, has benefitted the most. “Amir has grown from so many opportunities and experiences she gets with OP like horseback riding and all the different programs, but Kamille has really been impacted”. Keeben shares that since starting in OP, Kamille has improved her grades, her work ethic, and believes that because of the program, she is turning into a wonderful young lady due to the organization’s support.
Since joining the program in 2013, Keeben’s support for his children has also been invaluable. He serves as a dedicated parent to two OP scholars, as well as three other children at home. Keeben has worked as a truck driver for the past year and a half, but his true passion lies in culinary arts. Because of the demands of raising a large family, he had to put his dreams on the back burner, to help provide for them. Keeben is fully aware of the barriers that his children face growing up in Watts, with lack of resources, high gang activity, and low educational attainment. “I’m not the same person I used to be. 10 years ago, I used to get in a lot of trouble. I was in and out of jail and not doing what I should have been doing.” Programs like OP, he believes, help make the difference and provide the extra help to keep kids out of the situations he found himself in when he was younger.
Keeben shares that OP has not only benefitted his children, but himself as well. “If it impacts them, then it impacts us as a family. Not only has this program helped make things easier for us at home, but it’s changed my perspective.” Because of OP, Keeben views on law enforcement within his community have shifted. “I didn’t mess with the police before OP. I didn’t like them. I thought they categorized our community.” After meeting his children’s LAPD mentors, he says a lightbulb went off for him. “LAPD are nice people who are just doing their job”. Now, he is more comfortable speaking to officers and has formed a great bond with some of the LAPD mentors within the organization.