"I thought I was just going to work with kids, but I realize I entered a community and found a career."
Kids & Families
"We know that Ethan is safe and his Coaches meet his needs."
"Through both youth and workforce development, LA’s BEST makes communities stronger."
The 2016-17 year was an especially challenging one, but through it all, LA’s BEST staff provided love, strength and support to our children and their families. Our people make LA’s BEST extraordinary, which is why we are dedicating this annual report to them; Our People Are Everything.
Research shows that children who have one or more caring adults in their lives are more likely to blossom into productive and caring adults themselves. LA’s BEST staff do more than just care for our students – they are role models of kindness and leadership, especially during adverse times.
During the 2016-17 program year, I was privileged to see the LA’s BEST team come together. We stood in solidarity with our 25,000 children and families as many of them were threatened with unforeseen difficult circumstances – in addition to the struggles and trauma they face by living in our city’s most economically distressed neighborhoods. Our staff are leaders alongside our families and communities to help strengthen Los Angeles.
I marvel at the level of engagement, compassion and creativity I see every time I visit one of our sites. The impact of LA’s BEST is evident in the lives of our staff, students, their families, and the greater Los Angeles community. . .
LA’s BEST Chief Operating Officer Debe Loxton receiving her award with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, LA’s BEST President & CEO Eric Gurna and Director of the Expanded Learning Division at the CA Department of Education Michael Funk
Thanks in large part to our focus on staff development, staff are empowered to connect with families and create intentional and engaging learning environments. Our team helps students envision what their lives can become and guides them to become active citizens.
The heroic work of the LA’s BEST team is often unsung, but this year we were thrilled to receive some recognition. In October, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson presented our Chief Operating Officer, Debe Loxton, with the California Expanded Learning Visionary Leadership Award. Our Director of BEST Fit, Edith Ballesteros, who started at LA’s BEST more than 20 years ago, was recognized as one of the Most Influential in Health and Wellness in AfterSchool Today magazine.
Debe and Edith are exemplars of transformational leaders at LA’s BEST, and they are two of many. In this Annual Report, you’ll hear from staff member Christine Posadas, the Valadez family and Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Brenda Shockley – all who are invested in improving their lives, their neighborhoods and Los Angeles. I am honored to work alongside our team of 2,000+ staff members, 25,000+ children and families and all our board members and supporters. I am proud to showcase our greatest asset in this 2017 Annual Report – our people.
On behalf of our staff, children and families we serve, thank you for supporting LA’s BEST. Together, we are creating a more compassionate and child-centered Los Angeles.
Eric Gurna, President & CEO
LA’s BEST is a partnership of the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Beyond the Bell and the private sector that provides a safe and supervised after school education, enrichment and recreation program for children ages 5 to 12 living in economically distressed neighborhoods throughout the City of Los Angeles.
School Sites in LA
Children Served Daily
Supports One Child for a Year
2016-17 was non-stop! We provided 25,000 students with enriching opportunities every school day and successfully piloted new programs which we hope to scale.
Last year I really saw how my leadership influenced how we empower our students and focus on their development. The 2015-2016 year kicked off with a training with Debe Loxton, COO of LA’s BEST. The training included self-reflection on the type of leader we want to be, positive behavior support, social-emotional learning, and how to resolve conflict. This was particularly beneficial to me because last year I coached staff to help them nurture and support our students and guardians.
One of my favorite trainings last year was learning how to implement Never Too Young, a financial literacy program in which students learn about economics, entrepreneurial skills and the importance of wants vs. needs. The greatest rewards were seeing the kids create their own prototypes with marketing plans, and seeing them starting to relate to the the financial choices their parents make every day. Students said to us: “I know my mom doesn’t buy the purse she wants because she buys us food instead”, and, “I can’t buy a toy from Target every time we go because everyone in the family has needs.”
Like all my trainings, I learned alongside my colleagues and students. I now know about ecommerce, how to write a business plan, and see better ways to budget my money. I feel very fortunate — learning at LA’s BEST is never ending.
When I was a Program Worker in LA’s BEST, Program Coach Ralph inspired me and helped shape the person I am today. I started working at LA’s BEST when I was 19 years old and six years later, I’m enrolled at Pacific Oaks college getting my degree in Human Development with a concentration on Social Change. LA’s BEST impact is coming full circle: Coach Ralph’s leadership influenced me, and now I can see the impact of his influence in the changes in my staff and students. In 2018, I’m launching LA’s BEST first partnership with AARP to help volunteers boost younger students’ reading skills. Thanks to my previous LA’s BEST training, I’m ready for this new challenge.
When Ethan started LA’s BEST at Gates Elementary, Site Coordinator Laura really welcomed us. We both work long hours and it’s really nice to have a relationship with the people who care for Ethan after school. When I pick-up Ethan, I learn how he did that day and if he had any struggles – they don’t judge, they just make sure we know.
Our son has ADHD. The staff are always patient, working with him and giving him the tools he needs to play with the other kids. He also has a speech problem and his Coaches work with him and the other kids to make sure he doesn’t get bullied. We used to worry about it a lot, but because he’s in LA’s BEST it’s not a big problem anymore.
We’ve learned that he needs to be active. Coach Corina noticed this too. She asked us if it would be okay if Ethan played sports with another group of kids. She kept us informed every step of the process. This worked great and Ethan is much happier while playing sports – which he loves.
When we pick Ethan up at 6pm, we like to go to the park and play together and we can only do that because he’s had a good snack and finished his homework. We get to have fun together, which is so nice for us!
We feel like we get a hug every time we pick him up. I want people to know that if LA’s BEST didn’t exist our lives would be very stressful. I know this is the same for a lot of other families too – it’s nice to have a community. We see Ethan’s Coaches in the neighborhood and they always get excited to see him. It makes him feel so good. Us too!
Brenda Shockley, Deputy Mayor of Economic Opportunity, Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti
"Through both youth and workforce development, LA’s BEST makes communities stronger."
As the Deputy Mayor of Economic Opportunity for the City of Los Angeles, I lead Mayor Eric Garcetti’s efforts to improve the lives of the most vulnerable Angelenos – by fighting poverty, housing the homeless, expanding affordable housing and improving access to workforce development resources. As a partnership of the City, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the private sector, LA’s BEST is an important part of these efforts.
After more than two decades of work in South LA, I know how important both education and employment are to lifting up communities in need. In addition to providing an after school program that benefits 25,000 children and their families, LA’s BEST also promotes workforce development by employing more than 2,000 staff – the people who make the program happen every day.
LA’s BEST staff are hired from the communities they serve and provided with opportunities for training, development and advancement. They learn to create successful learning environments, support children and develop their own leadership skills. LA’s BEST staff often grow within the organization – from being in charge of a classroom, a program site, or a region – or go on to careers in education, social services and more. For example, James Bigelow, who is both an LA’s BEST alumnus and former staff member, went on to work for the Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction & Youth Development, where he ran youth programs in the same South LA community he grew up.
LA’s BEST staff go beyond just keeping kids safe after school: they help communities thrive. That’s why Mayor Garcetti joined with LA City Council, LAUSD, LAPD Chief Beck and many others, to successfully advocate for increased state funding for after school programs. Mayor Garcetti also invested in LA’s BEST by funding an expansion of the summer program for 1,200 additional students (that’s more than 100 new summer jobs for staff!).
Through both youth and workforce development, LA’s BEST makes communities stronger. I’m proud to have LA’s BEST as part of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity – working together with all 2,000 staff members to make Los Angeles a better city for all its residents.
LA's BEST Family Brunch
We honored Michaela Pereira, Kaiser Permanente and alumna Karen Calderon at our annual Family Brunch on May 21st at the UCLA Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center. Our premiere fundraiser celebrated one of our core values – Every kid counts! LA’s BEST students showcased their talents as they performed La Bamba, a rap, a science experiment and more at this warm and engaging event!
Cycle 4 LA’s BEST
Led by the BEST Friends Board, LA’s BEST partnered with Pedal On The Pier for the second time on June 5th. We raised more than $50,000 to support LA’s BEST and send our students to Camp Ubuntu, where they are able to engage with nature, participate in character-building activities and develop leadership skills.
A summary of LA’s BEST revenue, support and expenses for 2016-17.