OP Mission Statement

The ultimate goal of Operation Progress is to create hope, opportunity and success for the city’s most disadvantaged kids.

The mission of Operation Progress is to empower underserved youth to become educated, capable, ethical and productive people who will in turn lead, mentor and contribute to society at large. To do this, we guarantee our commitment to supporting students from kindergarten with the help of high school and beyond through our comprehensive program called Ten Pillars of Success. Through Academics, Arts, Athletics, Coping Skills, Ethics, Long-term Commitment, Mentoring, Parent Involvement, Service Work and Skills Training we believe hope, opportunity and success can be achieved.

Overview of School Progression

Starting in kindergarten, scholars are accepted into the OP program, and attend St. Lawrence of Brindisi for Kindergarten – 8th grade. At 6th grade, students who fit the criteria participate in the HYPE afterschool and summer programs. After graduating from 8th grade, the HYPE students attend a HYPE partnership school. The other graduating OP scholars matriculate into Verbum Dei High School (boys) or St. Mary’s High School (girls). In 10th and 11th grades, the OP scholars participate in the South Central Scholar summer academy program. The OP scholars in college continue to be supported by South Central Scholars, which provides college scholarships, mentoring, and job programs. The goal is to have our scholars graduate from college career-ready.


Major Supporters

Primary funding for Operation Progress is provided by the Caruso Family Foundation (Tina & Rick J. Caruso) and Janet Crown & Steve Robinson.

Board of Directors

The governing board of Operation Progress includes Steve Robinson, Janet Crown, Rick J. Caruso, Sam Garrison, George Milman, Howard Goldman, Kevin James, Fr. Mike Mandala, Officer John Coughlin (LAPD), Officer Tim Pearce (LAPD), and Theresa Gartland.

Rick J. Caruso

Founder and Chief Executive Officer Caruso Affiliated Recognized as a business innovator, civic leader and philanthropist, Rick J. Caruso is founder and chief executive officer of Caruso Affiliated, one of the largest, privately held real estate companies in the U.S., whose portfolio of world-class retail and mixed-use properties attracts tens of millions of guests each year. A native of Los Angeles, Caruso earned a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Southern California in 1980, and a J.D. degree as a Margaret Martin Block Scholar from Pepperdine University in 1983. He started his professional career as a real estate lawyer at Finley Kumble, then chose to purse his passion of real estate development and established Caruso Affiliated in 1987. Rick Caruso has been an active civic leader for nearly three decades. In 2001, Mayor James Hahn appointed him to the L.A. Board of Police Commissioners. Caruso was elected the commission’s president and led the selection process for William Bratton to become the new Los Angeles Chief of Police. In 1991 Caruso founded the Caruso Family Foundation, dedicated to supporting organizations that improve the lives of at-risk children in Los Angeles, with a special focus on healthcare and education. “Having the opportunity to succeed is everything. That is the essence of Operation Progress, and the key to the future of our children and our communities.”

Sam Garrison

Vice President, Development & Strategic Initiatives – Caruso Affiliated Executive Director, Caruso Family Foundation Samuel Garrison is the Vice President of Civic Initiatives for Caruso Affiliated, overseeing civic engagement projects and managing public policy issues. In addition, he is the Executive Director of the Caruso Family Foundation. Prior to joining Caruso Affiliated, Sam was a Director at the High Lantern Group (HLG), a public affairs firm, and was Vice President of Public Policy for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. Sam currently serves on the board of directors of the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, L.A. County Economic Development Corporation, Southern California Leadership Network, South Central Scholars, and Operation Progress. He is also a board and executive committee member of Hillsides, one of the region’s oldest and most successful foster care providers. A fifth generation Angeleno, Sam graduated from Harvard-Westlake School, University of Southern California, and Loyola Law School. He is an active member of the State Bar of California. Sam lives in Pasadena with his wife and two young sons.

Steve Robinson

Chief Executive Officer of Reimagine Steve Robinson has more than 30 years of experience in multiple industries, in leadership, strategic planning, value creation, operations, business development and corporate transitions capacities. He has been an integral participant in more than 50 operational transformation efforts in the manufacturing, retail, hospitality, distribution, telecommunications, food service, day care, ready mix and computer industries. He has successfully led the transitions of more than 30 troubled companies and has served as Interim CEO/COO for numerous companies. Mr. Robinson holds a BA in Business Administration from Michigan State University, and a B.S. in psychology. He is a LEAN certified specialist, Certified Six Sigma Black Belt, Certified Project Manager and Certified Toyota Production System (TPS) Practitioner. He is an active member of the Young Presidents’ Organization, Corporate Growth, and The Entrepreneur Institute. “Giving hope is like giving breath to life. That’s what Operation Progress does, gives hope where none exists.”

Janet Crown

Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Children’s Author Janet Crown is a successful entrepreneur in Los Angeles, most recently, the founder and owner Burn 60 ® Fitness Studios, Brentwood, California. Prior to her involvement with Burn 60®, Ms. Crown was with Creative Artists Agency developing their commercial and sponsorship division. Crown is also a founding board member of the Painted Turtle Camp, part of Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for chronic and terminally ill children. She is a member of the board of trustees at Denison University and on the advisory boards for the Infrastructure Safety & Environment (ISE), the RAND Corporation, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art.) Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Ms. Crown graduated from Denison University with a B.A. and received her M.S. from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Janet resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Steve Robinson, and their combined five children. She recently released a children’s book called, “Where Do The Animals Go When It Rains?” “In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘Safety and security don’t just happen, they are a result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.’ If children are given the necessary tools to succeed, they will achieve beyond their wildest dreams. My goal, through Operation Progress, is to help build a useful foundation for these children, so they can succeed in life despite their current circumstances.”

Officer Jonny Coughlin

Los Angeles Police Officer John was born and raised in Boston and moved to Los Angeles to join the LAPD in 1995. After five years of combating gang violence, he founded Operation Progress to help those who were unable to break away from the cycle of inner city poverty. Since 2000, he has nurtured and grown Operation Progress from an initial $2000 scholarship to the $80,000 in scholarships awarded in 2008. “Operation Progress views this new initiative as a thread that will weave together the Watts neighborhood under the common goal of using education to empower the community’s youth. By affording our scholars access to better education and experiential learning opportunities we hope to be an impactful advocate for Watts’ bright future.”

Officer Tim Pearce

Retired Los Angeles Police Officer Tim Pearce, designer of RotoComm, prides himself on always looking for a better solution. Whether in a patrol car or working the projects as a gang officer, he thrust himself into his work with a passionate intensity. In 2003, he married his former patrol partner, an equally intense gang officer named Kristina Ripatti. She was later shot and paralyzed in a fight with a robbery suspect, and their story became national news. Her courageous fight to walk again and Tim’s steadfast support of her through every circumstance inspired newspaper readers and television audiences all over the world. In 2007, a year after his wife was shot, Tim found a therapeutic outlet in the form of invention; specifically, he began prototyping new officer safety products. Tim and Kristina started Accuracy Under Fire LLC, and began successfully developing effective officer safety products, like RotoComm, to better protect fellow officers. “I have a uniquely clear view of South Los Angeles inner city living. I’ve witnessed the terror and uncertainty that good honest hardworking people and their families face daily. I believe that these are the people who need a helping hand. I support OP because it helps the good kids in really bad places navigate toward a better life outside of these dangerous communities.”

Howard Goldman

CFO Edge, LLC Howard Goldman is a Partner at CFO Edge, a Los Angeles-based provider of services that help executives solve financial problems as well as create, grow and sustain enterprise value. Howard began his career in the U.K. and has more than 30 years of experience in finance and operations. He brings extensive expertise in strategic and financial planning, cash management, cost reduction, management information systems and more. He has worked with start-ups, high-growth private companies, turnarounds, and international firms including Reuters and Warner Communications (now Time Warner). Howard was admitted as a Chartered Accountant to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (CPA Equivalent) and he earned his B.Sc. with Honors in Economics and Accounting at the University of Bristol, Bristol, England. “I am a great believer in education as the foundation on which someone can build the life they choose, and I was attracted to Operation Progress because it makes the educational opportunities that many of us take for granted available to a group that does not have access to those resources.“

Kevin James

Public Works Commission, President Kevin James moved to Los Angeles from Texas in the late 1980s, to begin his career as an attorney with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Keven immediately became involved in local politics and started working with local charities. Kevin left Gibson Dunn to join the United States Attorney’s Office as a Federal Prosecutor in Los Angeles, and later returned to private practice focusing on entertainment litigation. Kevin also had a decade-long broadcasting career, which began in Los Angeles on KABC in 2002. He focused on local issues and rapidly grew a loyal base of listeners. He has continued to work hard to provide common-sense solutions to many of LA’s complicated challenges, donating his time and legal expertise to local charities serving neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles. Most notably, Kevin joined the Board of Directors of AIDS Project Los Angeles where he served for six years, including a term as Vice-Chair and then Co-Chair of the Board. Kevin continues his service to non-profit organizations in the City as a Board Member of Operation Progress, and as a Board Member of the First-in-Fire Foundation that supports the Los Angeles Fire Department. “I believe that most often, the one thing a young person needs to inspire the will to succeed is a fair opportunity. Operation Progress provides that opportunity to local kids who are willing to work hard in school while overcoming the daily challenges they face growing up in low-income neighborhoods in inner-city Los Angeles.”

George R. Milman

Law Offices of George R. Milman George R. Milman has been an active litigation and transactional lawyer in Los Angeles since 1968 (Southwestern Law School, 1967), and is a trained mediator. Mr. Milman currently represents or has represented clients in the fields of criminal law, civil rights, entertainment, energy production, electronics manufacturing, food and wine services and storage, construction, manufacturing, technology and healthcare-related services, among others. In addition to his law profession, he has been active as an entrepreneur and innovator in the restaurant business. Mr. Milman has been an executive producer in Broadway and Chicago theatre, and currently sits on the Board of Directors of a motion picture and theatrical production startup company. He was a volunteer with the Los Angeles Superior Court in dispute resolution programs, is a participant in the Constitutional Rights Foundation Mock Trial Competitions for middle- and high-school students, and does pro bono legal and dispute-resolution work for underserved clients. He is a member of the California State Bar, various Federal Circuit and Appellate Courts, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Los Angeles County and American Bar Associations. “I accepted the invitation to join the board of Operation Progress not really understanding how wonderful its people are: the mentors, administrators, school affiliates, volunteers and donors. Nor did I realize what a truly formidable, dedicated and proactive ally Operation Progress is to so many deserving kids. One of my best decisions ever.”

Rev. Michael J. Mandala, S.J.

Director of Community Relationships, Verbum Dei High School Michael J. Mandala, S. J. is an ordained Catholic Priest and a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He has extensive experience working with inner-city ethnic communities both as a community organizer with the PICO National Network and as a Pastor of two Catholic parishes. Mandala began at Verbum Dei Jesuit High School in January of 2012 as Director of Community Relations. He has been chosen to be the next President of the high school beginning in June of 2014. He enjoys a good scotch. “I joined the O. P. Board because I want to do something to support a good future for kids who live in a community that often limits their hopes for a productive life. The partnership of LAPD, Value Based Private Schools, and generous donors provides a unique opportunity to implement a strategy for success for youth participants in O. P. It is unique. It is exciting. It can work. I am grateful for the opportunity to be involved.”

Theresa Gartland

Executive Director of Operation Progress A native of the Washington D.C. area, and graduate of Villanova University, Theresa Gartland moved to Los Angeles to attend Loyola Marymount University where she received a Master’s degree in Elementary Education. Theresa has a passion for working in communities with the greatest need for educators. She has taught in a parochial grade school in South Los Angeles, worked at Verbum Dei High School and was Program and Curriculum Director of a nonprofit in Watts. Theresa also served as Executive Director for Urban Compass before joining Operation Progress. Theresa brings a solid foundation in education through her hands-on classroom experience, in-depth understanding of curriculum development and the experience of running a nonprofit in the Watts community. “Every day I witness how vital Operation Progress is to this community. I am so grateful to be a part of an organization that is so committed to ensuring these youths have the opportunities to succeed.”

William “Bill” Scott

Los Angeles Police Department, Deputy Chief, South Bureau For more than 20 years, Deputy Chief William Scott has served the city of Los Angeles. Appointed to the Department in October 1989, Commander Scott has worked assignments in patrol, detectives, gangs, Operations West Bureau, Internal Affairs, Professional Standards Bureau, the Office of Operations, Patrol Commanding Officer and Area Commanding Officer. Commander Scott was promoted to the rank of Commander on January 1, 2012, and has been assigned as the Assistant Commanding Officer, Operations-West Bureau, and the Assistant Commanding Officer, Operations-South Bureau. In April 2015, he was appointed Deputy Chief of South Bureau Operations. Commander Scott is a graduate of the Senior Management Institute of Policing (SMIP), and has a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting.

Matthew Krieger

President of Creative Law Enforcement Resources, Inc. Matthew Krieger was born and raised in Los Angeles. He graduated from the University of La Verne, College of Law with Honors in 1995, after attending the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) where he studied Political Science. Over the past 15 years, Mr. Krieger has been involved in numerous business ventures, including: (i) founding and operating seven 24 hour advanced veterinary specialty and critical care facilities in the Los Angeles and Orange County; (ii) real estate development of commercial properties in the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, City of West Hollywood and Orange County areas; and (iii) investing in early stage technology companies. He currently serves as the President of Creative Law Enforcement Resources, Inc. which develops and markets innovates law enforcement products. For the past ten years, Mr. Krieger has served as a Reserve Police Officer (Currently Level 1 / 24 Hour Authority) for the Los Angeles Police Department working patrol at the 77th Street Division. In addition, Mr. Krieger has been assigned to the Metropolitan Division K9 Platoon, has taught as an instructor at the LAPD / West Point Leadership Program and assisted with numerous administrative projects for command staff. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the LAPD 77th Street Charitable Foundation, the Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union, is an Ambassador for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and a member of the San Gabriel Valley Young President Organization. From 2009 to 2014 Mr. Krieger served as a Trustee of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association / Los Angeles Zoo. He is the proud husband to his wife of 13 years, Lauren and father to their three wonderful children!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What exactly is this new Operation Progress ecosystem? Operation Progress or “OP” is a wraparound mentoring and scholarship program originally founded by LAPD officers. The program has expanded to become a partnership consisting of OP, local Catholic schools, scholarship providers, mentoring organizations, and the LAPD. OP will now provide wraparound support guiding scholars from elementary and high school through college graduation. 2. What are the “10 Pillars for Success”? The pillars are the ten essential elements of scholar success: Academics, Arts, Athletics, Coping Skills, Ethics, LAPD Mentoring, Long-Term Commitment, Parental Support, Service Work, and Skills Training. Each pillar is reinforced through extensive programming provided by OP and our partners. 3. How is Operation Progress funded? OP welcomes support from foundation and general public for our scholars. Currently, major funding is provided by the Caruso Family Foundation, Janet Crown and Steve Robinson. 4. How can students apply to become an OP Scholar? Any student in the Watts’ area community – grades K-8th grade – may apply to become an OP scholar. Applications are available online, at our partnering organization campuses, or at the Operation Progress offices. The application period runs from November 15, 2013 to March 1, 2014 for Fall 2014 placements. 5. What grade levels are eligible to apply? Kindergarten through 8th grade students may apply to the OP program. In addition, our partners will work to identify existing students at our three schools who may be eligible for the program. 6. How are scholars chosen for the program? The OP Advisory Board and LAPD officer mentors will review all applications and submit finalists to the OP Board of Directors for consideration. The Advisory Board will confer to evaluate who best fits the program’s criteria and where to place accepted students. 7. What does the ecosystem provide to each OP Scholar? Scholars receive a scholarship and admissions assistance to attend the appropriate partner school. The Advisory Board and OP Staff customizes the best mentorship program for each scholar based on the “10 Pillars of Success” that includes extensive tutoring, mentoring, and skills-building, and personal development.
8. Who are the partnering schools? Our anchor schools are St. Lawrence of Brindisi (K-8, co-ed), Verbum Dei High School (boys), and St. Mary’s Academy High School (girls). 9. What is required of scholars and parent(s)? OP Scholars must be highly motivated and maintain good, positive behavior. OP has a zero tolerance policy for academics and behavior. Each scholar and their parent(s) and/or caregiver must sign pledge agreements to comply with the OP program’s standards as well as those set forth by the scholar’s school. This includes maintaining a minimum 3.0 GPA. 10. What is the role of LAPD? LAPD officers founded Operation Progress more than 13 years ago. Today, a number of Southeast Division LAPD officers continue to volunteer personal time and resources as mentors. Officers also work with the Advisory Board to help identify new scholars and guide them through the ecosystem. 11. How does the college component work? South Central Scholars (SCS), an OP partner organization, has a 10-year track record of supporting more than 700 college scholars. OP scholars can transition into the SCS program to receive college admissions and financial aid assistance, intensive college academic preparation, and ongoing mentorship through all four years of college. 12. Will you be adding other partners to the ecosystem? Each year, the OP Board of Directors and the Advisory Board will evaluate how best to serve our scholars, including the potential of adding additional partners. 13. How will you measure success? Success is measured one scholar at a time. The ecosystem will constantly evaluate our programs and processes to ensure we are providing the best programs and services to our scholars. At the end of each school year, we will evaluate all aspects of each scholar’s achievements through the lens of the 10 Pillars of Success.