Chris Dusseault, Chair of the Board of Directors
I hope you and your family are healthy and staying connected. I want to thank you for trusting and supporting LA’s BEST, especially this past fiscal year. Our year started strong, and we thank you for facing the unprecedented challenges of 2020 with us.
Each one of us feels the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet economically distressed neighborhoods — where LA’s BEST works – have been the hardest hit. This disproportionate impact stems from the systemic racial and economic inequity throughout our society, and LA’s BEST strives to combat and overcome these disparities. We recognize the connectedness of our community and believe that fighting for equity and change is important work for all of us. The children served by LA’s BEST deserve to have the same opportunities, the same health, and the same safety as children anywhere else in our country.
During the first half of the academic year, we continued offering students activities to enrich their lives. The 2019-2020 annual report below provides a slice of the enrichment activities we provided. Equipped with these opportunities generally only afforded to the affluent, students have the foundation to succeed in school and in life.
On March 13, 2020, everything changed when schools closed. I am proud of the way LA’s BEST shifted to meet the immediate needs of our community. Driven by our foundational values, we turned our focus to providing the services and basic essentials that our children and their families need in this time of unprecedented crisis. We also used this time to develop an even stronger workforce, better equipped to support our students and families, both today and once we emerge from the current crisis.
On behalf of all my fellow Board Members, thank you for enabling LA’s BEST to do what we do best: care for the children of Los Angeles and work towards equity. Together, we are cultivating community connections to serve all Angelenos.
Eric Gurna, President and CEO
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
These days, I am often reminded of this quote by Coretta Scott King — it feels like a reminder of who we are. The LA’s BEST community includes not only our 2,000 staff members and our 25,000 students, but also their families, neighbors, and fellow Angelenos. Since the pandemic, I’ve grown more aware of this powerful interconnectedness. And while I am constantly reminded of the disproportionate impact the crisis has had on the families we serve, I’ve been inspired by our community’s spirit and strength.
One new connection, as of March 14th: LA’s BEST staff members are working at Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Grab & Go Food Distribution Centers where families can pick up free food, and other necessities. We are proud to be a part of the LAUSD Beyond the Bell Branch, and are grateful for their leadership. We are all beyond grateful to the LAUSD/LA’s BEST Operations Team. Led by Chief Operating Officer Debe Loxton, they have truly gone above and beyond to meet community needs with tremendous compassion and fortitude.
We’re also communicating with LA’s BEST families virtually through our new platform, LA’s BEST Connects. Building upon decades of personal relationship-building within the communities we serve, LA’s BEST is proud to continue our role as a trusted source of information and encouragement.
Meanwhile, our entire community is going through a tremendous amount of stress due to the pandemic and economic related hardships. In response, we are providing remote professional development for our staff that focuses on wellbeing and mental health. This training enables our staff to create caring environments for social and emotional growth when programming resumes.
Lastly, I’m proud that LA’s BEST is part of the movement for racial justice. LA’s BEST has always fought barriers to access and opportunities. We are committed to the movement to dismantle structural inequality and systemic racism, and in the short term have created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee to guide us through the process of reforming our own practices and culture.
While the COVID-19 crisis has altered life as we know it, it has also provided an opportunity to reimagine how expanded learning can meet our city’s changing needs. These creative solutions come from the community — and from the compassionate actions that define who we are.
Every school day, from the time the school bell rings until 6pm, each LA’s BEST student receives a nutritious meal, help with their homework and the opportunity to participate in a wide array of enrichment activities.
LA’s BEST engages children creatively, emotionally, intellectually and physically, empowering them to explore and discover the opportunities in their lives. We inspire and prepare children to create lives full of choices.
in neighborhoods with the highest needs yet fewest resources
90% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch
who are mostly 18-25, who predominantly live in a neighborhood served by LA’s BEST
When schools closed for in-person teaching, we had to abruptly halt our robust enrichment programming and focus on meeting the community’s immediate needs and cultivating connections with our students, families and staff. We pivoted to supporting the LAUSD Beyond The Bell Grab & Go Food Distribution Centers; maintaining a connection between staff and students by creating online engagement via
LA’s BEST Connects; and increasing staff training. We were unable to run our 2020 summer program for students; instead, staff worked at the Grab & Go Food Distribution Centers, participated in online workforce development, and worked in teams to plan for how we would support children and families in a radically altered educational landscape when the new school year begins.
participated in training through our online Learning Management System.
68 resources + 24 videos
LA’s BEST Connects includes 68 curated resources and 24 videos produced by staff.
worked at the LAUSD BTB Grab & Go Food Distribution Centers.
LA’s BEST developed a training series that provides a solid foundation for staff to build authentic connections and run quality programs rooted in trauma-informed practices and social-emotional learning.
participated in three 3.5-hour leadership workshops: Leading the LA’s BEST Way; Making a Difference: Coaching; and Programming at LA’s BEST.
attended the Caring Lens & Building Relationships training session, which covers: applying a trauma-resilient lens, incorporating sensitivities to the impact of trauma on the brain, and learning strategies to support youth in developing resilience.
received training to effectively engage students in intentional physical activity.
When schools closed, we had to quickly shift to a new and uncertain paradigm. Immediately, we helped staff by providing self-care resources and relevant online training. We worked with staff to connect with our students through educational and fun resources via LA’s BEST Connects. We also prioritized social and emotional awareness in light of the new and heightened challenges our staff, students and families are facing. LA’s BEST staff will be on the frontlines of supporting young children when they return to school, and we made sure our team will be ready.
for staff to help them respond
to the impact of COVID-19.
used the internal Learning Management System for an average of 3.5 hours Monday through Friday.
participated in a Town Hall with esteemed guests Michael Funk, Director, Expanded Learning Division, California Department of Education and LA’s BEST Advisory Board Member Dr. Tyrone Howard, Faculty Director, Center for the Transformation of Schools, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.
First Day of School to March 13, 2020 (pre-COVID-19 pandemic). Due to the impact of COVID-19 and school closures, the enrichment programming for the 2019-2020 academic year was curtailed.
In partnership with Los Angeles Unified School District Beyond The Bell Branch, we provided each student with a substantial nutritious meal to help them focus on their homework, academic support and enrichment programs.
It’s a priceless joy and experience to be part of a child’s growing confidence and competence as their reading skills and understanding increase. Another reward is the relationship that results from– Arlene Antonoff,
such a positive process.
AARP Fdn. Volunteer
served every school day.
participated in the AARP Foundation Experience Corps that helped kids boost their reading comprehension.
spent with family not stressing about homework.
Most LA’s BEST sites received quality music, dance, theatre and/or visual arts programming, and many students had the opportunity to participate in an array of multi-week, professional artist residencies. Through quality arts education programming, students had the opportunity to discover and develop new skills, express themselves with confidence, and create deeper connections with their coaches and peers.
Through thoughtfully designed art clubs and activities that support connecting our community and social and emotional learning, it’s been so inspiring to help our students boost their creativity, see themselves as artists and develop an appreciation for the creativity of others.– Mario Davila,
Director of After School Arts Program
participated in 53 artists-in-residencies workshops and a related culminating event for their friends and families.
performed their own songs, skits and dances at the 26th LA’s BEST Community Jam for Peace in front of more than 500 of their peers and family members at Grand Arts High School.
went on at least one
arts-related field trip.
Our programmatic focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) helped cultivate students’ skills as they grew to excel on par with their more affluent peers, and as they actively contributed to community development.
participated in the Celebrate Science & Engineering Program where student teams had an opportunity to perform hands-on activities, design a project using either the scientific method or the engineering design process and compete in local, regional Celebrate Science & Engineering Fairs until March 14, 2020.
participated in KidBot, where they explored technology through the collaborative process of programming, designing and building robots.
participated in CoderTime, where they learned binary code, sequencing, loops, functions, algorithms, debugging, patterns, and abstraction.
participated in Zula Patrol, a science program that immersed them in science inquiry through play.
All of our 25,000 students received the opportunity to play basketball, softball, flag football, and soccer. By playing in city-wide sports tournaments on the weekends, students and their families were able to connect with each other, which furthered our commitment to cultivating community.
Flag Football – 248
Basketball – 256
Softball – 253
Soccer – 261
Dance & Drill Team
The impact of our sports programming goes beyond the field. We are dedicated to decreasing the play equity gap and ensuring students not only have the opportunity to compete in sports tournaments but also learn sportsmanship, confidence and resilience.– Michael Santillan,
Director of City Wide Events
Every student learned the importance of eating a nutritious diet and exercising every day. Our team focused on the beneficial impact of health and wellness on the development of the whole child.
lower grade students
from 98 schools participated in University of California Cooperative Extension’s Happy, Healthy Me…Moving, Munching & Reading Around MyPlate program which provides an early introduction to healthy and positive attitudes around food, physical activity and overall health.
and family members attended the 17th Family Health Festival where they sampled healthy snacks, played fitness games, received free medical screenings and engaged in hands-on activities designed to promote an awareness of healthy lifestyles.
from sites with beautiful native and edible gardens participated in the gardening workshop, engaging 505 students in their School Gardening Club. The lessons helped them connect with nature, learn to grow and prepare healthy food, and develop critical thinking skills.
participated in a series of experiential workshops on the best practices in youth play, exercise, and group management. The coaches engaged students in 30 minutes of organized play everyday, rotating groups of students year round and increasing the outreach to over 4,000 students.
We strived to send each LA’s BEST student on a field trip to connect with our city. We’ve learned that one day and one experience can transform how students see themselves, and how they envision their futures.
including cultural hubs and sporting events.
This year was like no other, but one thing was consistent — our amazing community of supporters. During the last several years, we’ve been fighting to increase public funding for LA’s BEST and afterschool programs across California. With broad support from our community, over the past four years we’ve been successful in securing an additional $100M for afterschool statewide. We began this year excited to build on that momentum but, when COVID-19 hit, everything changed.
The pandemic and economic downturn had a severe impact on the state’s budget and, in May, Governor Newsom proposed cutting $100M in state afterschool funding — a 15% funding cut that would have been devastating to LA’s BEST and the families we serve. We are grateful to so many of you who spoke up for afterschool programs by contacting elected officials, posting on social media, and more. Your voice was heard by our legislative leaders and, happily, the final budget state budget protected funding for afterschool programs.
We know this work is not over and, together, we will keep pushing to maintain and eventually grow afterschool funding (sign up for email updates to stay in the loop!).
Laura Beebe, Director of Public Partnerships