Founded in 2003, the KW Center for Leadership is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing youth with the tools and opportunities necessary to become future leaders. Based in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles, the Center offers youth leadership training and educational programs that encourage community organizing. The mission of the Center is to teach and train youth to take proactive steps towards improving and enriching the quality of life in their communities.
Inspired by the lifetime of service of civil rights activist K.W. Lee, the Center reflects his passion for community consciousness and his dedication to fostering young leaders. K.W. Lee is a renowned journalist, having worked in the mainstream and ethnic media for 50 years as a reporter, editor, and publisher. He has covered such issues as civil rights struggles in the South in the early 1960’s, massive vote buying practices in southern West Virginia, and the plight of Appalachian coal miners, but he is best known for authoring an investigative series on the 1973 San Francisco Chinatown gang murder conviction of immigrant Chol Soo Lee, upon which the film “True Believer” was based. His five-year-long coverage with more than 120 articles led to a new trial and an eventual acquittal and release of the prisoner from San Quentin’s Death Row.
In the summer of 2005, The K.W. Lee Center for Leadership launched its first leadership development initiative for college students called the Korean American Youth Leaders in Training (KAYLT) Program. Sa-i-gu, which serves as the impetus for this program, exposed many deep-rooted problems in the Korean American community, particularly the lack of leadership. The purpose of this program is to take deliberate steps to fill that void by developing and supporting a new generation of Korean American leaders, who can bridge the gap with other communities of color and mainstream society. The program provides an opportunity for Korean American students to develop leadership skills, explore their culture, experience hands-on community organizing, and develop a larger perspective of themselves in relation to their own community as well as the larger public arena.