Stacey Henley posing with youth cheer program. (Courtesy photo)

Women’s History Month may have passed, but Stacey Henley still must be acknowledged. A wife, mother, and community advocate, Henley, along with her husband, Big U, founded the non-profit organization, “Developing Options, Inc.”

Developing Options is a foundation dedicated to empowering the youth of their community and creating a positive, safe space for them to thrive. Within this program, they have created a youth sports and cheer program, a safe passage program, and have a contract with the mayor’s office to do gang intervention in the 77th precinct area.

Stacey was born and raised in Santa Monica, graduated from Santa Monica High School in 1985, and attended Saint Augustine’s University in North Carolina. In 1984, she met Big U, and together, they were blessed with four children – three sons and one daughter.

She has always had a passion for youth development and sports and a desire to make a positive impact on her community. Her mother instilled the importance of hard work and perseverance at a young age.

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Before Developing Options, Stacey worked for a law firm, and then for LAUSD for six years. When she was having her third son, she wanted to be a full-time parent. Being the dedicated, devoted parent that she is, Stacey decided to start doing daycare to be at home with her children. After having another child, she moved to the South Los Angeles and has been part of the community since the age of 21.

“Prior to that, I was always in Santa Monica,” she said. “I didn’t know much about Los Angeles until I met my husband.”

Developing Options wants to provide the youth with several options beyond gang- activity/violence, drugs, and crime. A huge chunk of the organizations’ purpose is to minimize gang-involvement, which is where their contract with the mayor’s office comes in.

“When I say gang intervention, the male employees (of Developing Options) are on call 24/7; and when they get a call, they have to go to wherever the incident took place. They are not the police, but they are mediators. They only respond to gang violence. Whatever the need is at the moment, that is what we will do,” Stacey stressed.

Stacey told the Sentinel that their sole purpose is to help the victims and their families with receiving any type of aide they may need. If there are two rival gangs, they will have one person from each side meet, and try to talk things out to come to some sort of understanding, so there isn’t a “big police activity situation.” The police are present, but the non-profit does not report to the police, and their paperwork isn’t submitted to the police station.

“But we’re monitored by the mayor’s office, so they keep track of the gang violence in our area, and we’ve been doing this for like over 10 years and the gang violence is down by like 98%,” Stacey said proudly.

The non-profit does a tremendous amount of work out of Crenshaw High School – which Stacey calls their “hub”- including their safe passage program. Henley, alongside other Developing Options staff, will go to the high school right before school starts, for the first two hours, to ensure students get into school safely. The team also goes back to the school an hour before school lets out and stays two hours thereafter. This is what Developing Options represents. They are committed to the safety of all students.

Developing Options has a phenomenal youth athletics program that provides coaching and training – specifically in football – for athletes to excel in sports all while providing pathways for them to earn college scholarships. Stacey and her team are the certainly the right candidates for the job, being that she birthed and raised a football star. Her youngest son attended Washington State and got drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers in 2023.

Stacey expressed that her long-term goal is to continue doing the work herself and Developing Options has already been doing. A short-term goal of hers is to get as many kids as they can into the program, and to help them be better citizens. She emphasized how the sports program is a beneficial outlet to keep them off the streets, from doing “crazy things” that could potentially get them in trouble, and from being influenced by the outside world.

Her unwavering commitment and determination for empowering the youth led her to the cheer side of the program.

“I’m in charge of cheer and I have a coordinator there whose name is Joy Collins Adams. She is my cheer coordinator. So together we collectively decide what the girls are going to do,” Stacey said.

Both ladies play a pivotal role in nurturing and developing these young women into future confident, self-assured adults.

Aside from the thriving football and cheerleading program, the non-profit takes trips to museums, goes to amusement parks, has movie nights and weekends, bowling, and so much more.

“We try to do a lot of different things to keep them busy so there’s not a lot of downtime to have the cell phone in your hand. Kids don’t even watch TV anymore. They’re always on their phones and there’s a lot of crazy things on these phones,” she said.

Essentially, Stacey, and the entire Developing Options team can be deemed the honorary aunts, uncles, and older siblings of the inner city community.

For more information on Developing Options, visit: