Latinx Heritage Tour: Latin American Youth Center

Founded in 1968, the Latin American Youth Center became a central space for Hispanic youth engagement, education, and empowerment.

"Very soon after I became Mama Suann. They saw me as their mother. I was the one who was there for them. We had social services. We went to court with them. The Drop-in Center really evolved into pretty... a multi- disciplinary place to be, but our bottom thing was a place where kids could come together. And we also had the gangs. And it was also a place to bring in different gangs to try and lessen some of the friction that was going on. Also to get the kids off the street and try to find work for them so they weren't on the streets getting arrested. It basically became home to a large group of youth." Suann Hecht interview by Patrick Scallen (November 17, 2017)

In 1968, a growing need for accessible youth services in the neighborhood resulted in the founding of the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC). Only ten years after its establishment, the Center had received enough funding to become an official non-profit and provide youth job training programs. Center staff offered instruction in clerical skills, automobile mechanics, and catering to support student's future employment. Classes also taught attendees English learning skills and helped a number of students obtain their GED. By the early 1980s, LAYC began to engage students in the arts through providing opportunities for them to engage in street theater, paint murals over neighborhood graffiti, and produce a monthly newspaper for the surrounding Latinx community. Throughout the 1990s, the Center began to expand its mission to address gang violence, drug use, and teen pregnancy. LAYC began to receive federal grants to continue their work and establish larger programs to support the young immigrants in the community. In 1998, the Center received a permanent home (after multiple location changes) for its variety of services at 1419 Columbia Road NW. Today, LAYC runs multiple charter schools, provides a bilingual residential facility for teen parents, and serves over 5,000 youths and families.


Suann Hecht interview by Patrick Scallen: November 17, 2017. HumanitiesDC, DC Oral History Collaborative. 



Latin American Youth Center: Audio
Source: Written and Recorded by Shae Corey
View File Record


1419 Columbia Road NW, Washington DC 20009