Words come easily to Jim Tetreau, who is something of a writer. But they didn’t come to him much at all one evening early this month when he greeted about 140 supporters and well-wishers at Strive in Watts, a private after-school program for inner-city youths.

Tetreau started to say how grateful he was to those in attendance, then got choked up as he looked over the crowd, who were seated and awaiting the evening’s entertainment, a solo piano concert by George Winston.

“I hope you read the program,” Tetreau managed to say, “because it’s all in there.”

Indeed, in the program, Tetreau, 50, had written a heartfelt thanks to Strive’s supporters and also explained that whenever he tries to express his gratitude on stage, “emotion wins the moment.”

Strive is an unusual school in that it accepts no government money, teaches kids to have proper behavior and works to inspire students to achieve. (One prominent sign for the kids reads: “Healthy behavior. Willing attitude. Then academics.”) Because of its limited funding sources, Strive has relied on business people for much of its support since its co-founding 25 years ago by Tetreau and Don Anderson.

But Tetreau’s word shortage may have paid off.

At intermission, a woman came up to him and said, “Any man who gets choked up like that over kids wins me over.”

She said that she would figure out a way to double her company’s financial support for the campus.

Running Risks on Road

Randall Leff got his first true taste of adventure in 1972 when he was a college student backpacking by himself across Europe.

It was almost time for him to head back to the United States when he ran out of money. The logical solution, he thought, was to hitchhike.

“This was before cellphones, so you’re kind of on your own,” said Leff, 62. “I needed to get to London to get home. … And to get there, we cut through the corner of Yugoslavia.”

But Leff and the couple who picked him up on the side of the road were stopped by police, who were on high alert at the time because a terrorist attack had just occurred the previous day.

“They took us outside and lined us up against a wall and were basically about to execute us,” he said. “I was just thinking, nobody in the world knew where I was.”

Fortunately for Leff, the police let him ago after checking his passport and he made it to London in time for his flight.

Since then, Leff, a partner at Beverly Hills law firm Ervin Cohen & Jessup, has gone on several more adventures – everything from running with bulls in Spain to completing the Escape From Alcatraz triathlon in San Francisco.

In fact, Leff just signed up to compete in the triathlon again in September.

Despite everything, there are still some things he deems too risky to try.

“It’s funny, I think skydiving is too dangerous,” he said. “I won’t do that.”

Staff reporter Cale Ottens contributed to this column. Page 3 is compiled by Editor Charles Crumpley. He can be reached at ccrumpley@labusinessjournal.com.

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