Meet the Woman Saving Thousands of Kids From Gang Violence

Mama Hill is on a mission to educate and empower at-risk kids in South L.A.
Mama Hill (center) with her kids. (Photo c/o Millicent Hill)
Aug 25, 2011
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

When it comes to giving back, there are few people quite like Mama Hill.

The 71-year-old retired teacher wakes up each morning dedicated to educating and empowering kids in Watts—one of the most gang-ridden neighborhoods in the U.S.

At Mama Hill’s Help, a learning center located in her home, she and her team offer tutoring, counseling, job-skills training and gang intervention.

Millicent “Mama” Hill wanted to start this safe haven after her 40-year teaching career. “On my 50th birthday, I started counting all the children I lost to gang violence, and it was 2,000,” she said.

She vowed to help 2,000 kids. Since she opened her door 10 years ago, Hill has made a difference in the lives of 3,000.

Often, the kids are forced to pass through six different gang pockets to reach Mama Hill’s Help, and she says gang members approach students who are as young as seven or eight years old.

Our greatest enemy is poverty and ignorance.

“I had a 4-year-old who came to the house for the first time with his mom. His sisters were in the program, and he was throwing up gang signs. I said, ‘You know what? You leave him with me.’ We got him straightened out.”

The kids, Mama Hill says, are her cookies. “I put them in the oven; I take them out and, if they aren’t done, I put them back in.”

Mama Hill’s Help also works with the parents of kids who come through her doors.

“Parents do a lot of damage because they don’t know it’s a trickle-down thing. This is how they were taught; so they’re doing the same thing. Our greatest enemy is poverty and ignorance.”

Mama Hill has been fighting ignorance her whole life. Years ago, she says, she was a “disciple of Dr. King.”

She demonstrated in downtown Nashville during the Civil Rights movement and still has a rock that was thrown at her during the peaceful protest.

“I saw a lot, and I learned about human nature and the power of people and love,” she says of that time.

Today, it’s the kids that keep her going. “When I see them coming down the walk and see that they need me, and that we could help to possibly change the world, that’s a good thing.”

Donate to Mama Hill's Help here.

Through the process of storytelling, a group of women in 'The Help (from DreamWorks Pictures and Participant Media) become empowered and, in turn, inspire and empower others. Drawing inspiration from the film, TakePart brings you “Real Stories, Real Change,” an original series featuring inspiring people across the country who are making a positive impact in their communities.

From DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment, in association with Participant Media and Imagenation Abu Dhabi, comes the drama ‘The Help.' Participant Media is TakePart's parent company.
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