When Oye Waddell was 14 years old, he noticed that his friends were starting to make quite a bit of money.
“We played basketball at the park,” he said. “They started to drive around in nice cars and wear brand-new clothes. We all grew up together. I was like, ‘Man, I know your family doesn’t have this money. How are you doing this?’”
He didn’t wonder for long. “One of my friend’s moms asked me for dope. She just assumed I was [dealing drugs] too.”
Waddell wasn’t, and didn’t (though it was tempting). When his high-school friends went to prison or the funeral home, he went to the University of Washington. From there, he watched drug addictions, violence, and prison sentences continue to wreck everything – individual lives, families, and the community.
Anxious to help, he took classes in community development. He moved back to L.A. to start a Christian sports program, moved to Phoenix to learn how to start charter schools, and thought about church planting.
Then, six years ago, Waddell veered off the well-worn paths that nonprofits take into under-resourced neighborhoods.