Located in southern Los Angeles County, Watts is a neighborhood encompassing 2.12 square miles that faces significant socioeconomic challenges. With a population of 36,815 and a density of 17,346 residents per square mile, Watts is an area where its residents grapple with difficult circumstances. The median household income in Watts is only $25,161 and less than 3% of residents have a college degree.
The Watts 2 Boston Foundation traces its roots back to the dedicated efforts of Jay Coughlin, who, along with his wife Kate, relocated to Los Angeles over two decades ago. There, Jay served on the LAPD Gang Unit, specifically in the challenging neighborhood of Watts. Known for its high crime rates, poverty, and lack of educational opportunities, Watts presents a daunting environment for its residents, particularly the youth.
Recognizing the cycle of violence, drugs, and limited prospects faced by the children in Watts, Jay initiated the Operation Progress program 15 years ago. Operation Progress aimed to pair students with police mentors, enroll them in private schools, and provide them with enriching experiences and resources beyond their reach. During their annual visits to Scituate, Jay and Kate shared stories about the remarkable children they encountered through the program with their friends, Julie Mulvey and her husband, Brian.
Inspired by these tales and fueled by a desire to contribute, Brian and Julie sought ways to support Operation Progress. Being based in Boston, they found it challenging to be actively involved, but the opportunity presented itself when Jennifer, the program's first high school graduate, decided to attend Boston College. Brian and Julie gladly opened their home to Jennifer, and she became a part of their family during her college years.
Witnessing the dedication of Jay and his partner, Officer Eric Ortiz, who had become mentors to dozens of students, even though they were not officially part of Operation Progress due to their age, further fueled Brian and Julie's commitment to helping. Jay and Ortiz personally paid for the girls' tuition to attend a private school, demonstrating the extent of their involvement and care for these young lives.
The profound impact of these experiences led Brian and Julie to create The Watts 2 Boston Foundation, a family-run initiative focused on supporting the children of Watts. Recognizing that the biggest obstacle these children face is their challenging environment, the foundation's goal is to raise funds to alleviate expenses for the officers and provide educational opportunities, weekly meals, school supplies, and more for the kids in need.