LA’s BEST Annual Report 2017-2018

A Message From Our President & CEO

We are always striving to improve what we do, to benefit the staff, children and families even more. In 2017-18, we focused on how we tell our story, how we communicate the benefits of LA’s BEST, and even how we visually represent ourselves. It was an extreme makeover, LA’s BEST edition!

The process was challenging and rewarding. We do so much, and it was paramount to convey the impact of all the programs and services we provide, and the impact we have on our city. We create the conditions for children to learn and thrive – and experience joy. Whether students choose to participate in Dance & Drill Team, Celebrate Science Club, Soccer, Healthy Habits, Robotics, Young Authors or other enrichment activities, we engage each of them creatively, emotionally, intellectually and physically, preparing and empowering them to create lives full of choices.

To help students determine their success, LA’s BEST provides the avenues for them to explore transformational opportunities, to engage deeply with their peers and community and to expand their horizons. We also strive to create unique opportunities with partners from the private sector – opportunities that many of our students would otherwise not have. I invite you to learn about a handful of these partnerships that helped our students Explore. Engage. Expand.

Our look has changed, but our role in Los Angeles remains the same – we create environments where 25,000 students can grow into their true, whole selves.

It was a building year and I am optimistic that our refreshed look and emphasis on empowering students to explore and discover the opportunities in their lives will help create the conditions for success for the next 30 years. Thank you for standing by us for 30 years and thank you for sharing our journey to become a stronger organization.

Eric Gurna, President & CEO


LA’s BEST Afterschool Enrichment Program plays a vital role in the lives of unique and talented elementary school students who come from neighborhoods with the fewest resources and the greatest needs.

Fundraising Events Highlights


unWINEdLA on November 11th was a chic event at The Viceroy Santa Monica attended by 500 of Los Angeles’ influential young professionals. The BEST Friends Board and the stellar Host Committee led by Jaclyn Frattali, Danielle Lew and Bill Mayne organized this exceptional evening of top-notch wine, beer, spirits and food tastings. We are thankful to our sponsors including United Airlines, The Binder Foundation, Warner Bros. Records, Bain & Company/Russ Hagey, Stila Cosmetics, DFS North America, Doris Goad Industries, Elbaz Family Foundation, Healthcare Partners A DaVita Medical Group, ZipRecruiter, Factual Inc., Merrill Corporation, Paul Hastings, PubMatic, Super A Foods and guests from Guggenheim Partners, ZipRecruiter and HATCHBEAUTY.

LA’s BEST Games

The inaugural LA’s BEST Games fundraising event on May 12th at 20th Street Elementary was a fun and active peer-to-peer fundraising event attended by supporters who hopped, skipped, jumped and danced with LA’s BEST students! Everyone had a great time (despite the rain)! Many thanks to co-chairs of the event Mona Sobhani and Jordan Kaye who led the BEST Friends network to raising awareness and funds for LA’s BEST. We are grateful to our top fundraisers Jeff Goad, Kelechi Ogbunamiri and Jenna Brill Binder.

Locally Grown

On March 15th, Neal Fraser and Amy Knoll Fraser hosted Locally Grown, a garden party at Redbird | Vibiana honoring U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. It was a lovely evening in the garden with delicious food prepared by renowned chefs including Michael Cimarusti, Neal Fraser, Ray Garcia, Christian Page and food represented by Matt Molina and Alice Waters. The culinary auction made the evening extra special! Over 100 guests attended and we are thankful to the event sponsors FedEx, Kaiser Permanente, Chris and Sarah Dusseault, L&R Group of Companies, Russ Hagey/Bain & Company, Adventist Health White Memorial, Deloitte, Los Angeles Chargers, and Mary & Glen Odell.

Exploration through STEM

During this critical point in their lives, LA’s BEST nurtures elementary school students’ curiosity and wonder and provides them with opportunities to explore in diverse areas: from the arts to sports to health and wellness. It’s a first step in helping students create their own success.

Increasingly, there is a need for children to develop the necessary science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills to think creatively and solve problems we can’t yet imagine. LA’s BEST responds to this need and last year 700 students explored how to build and program a robot in the KidBot Club, 520 students learned to code, 200 students explored topics for their documentary-style videos in the KidPress Club and 3,960 students explored their own hypothesis in the Celebrate Science Club. Of equal importance, these explorations encouraged them to collaborate and learn about themselves.

In addition to the meaningful and comprehensive programming all LA’s BEST students receive every day, we seek private partnerships that provide students with exceptional opportunities to explore beyond the afterschool hours. These unique, life-changing opportunities – often only accessible to affluent families – can change the trajectory of a student’s life.

For example, thanks to our partnership with the Los Angeles Sparks women’s basketball team, last year over 100 girls participated in their Spark into S.T.E.M. program. A group of students traveled to San Francisco in January where they met with tech-company executives and privately toured the companies LucasFilms and 500 Start-Ups. They explored the Verizon Innovation Center and learned how consumer electronics and entertainment content affects everyday life. In May, girls participated in the financial literacy program, that encourages leadership and financial responsibility. This is just one example of a partnership that presented the type of transformational experiences we strive to offer our students.

We are grateful to all our 2017-18 partners who help ensure LA’s BEST students will be equipped to navigate the 21st century workforce. Surely, LA’s BEST students will become leaders in Silicon Beach, engineers at NASA-JPL and renowned environmentalists. Our students would not otherwise experience this sense of empowerment and personal success without access to opportunities to explore.

Engagement through Health & Wellness

Engagement at LA’s BEST is about creating opportunities for children to form positive connections with their peers, coaches, community and themselves. When a child chooses for themselves what they want to explore, they are more likely to engage. When children are engaged and feel safe, they try new things, lead with compassion and make sound decisions.

LA’s BEST nurtures these qualities and inspires our students to create healthy lives for themselves and those around them. Last year, 5,280 students chose to participate in the Small Bites and Happy Healthy Me programs which taught them how to identify and make nutritious food and the importance of a balanced diet and exercise. Also, 600 students planted native and edible gardens, where they learned to make meals from the produce, which incorporated lessons in science and math. The gardens also created relaxing and green spaces on campus – often rare in urban schools. These programs were implemented through the lens of engagement, encouraging students to feel connected to their health and to share what they have learned with their families and thus creating lifelong healthy habits.

Our partnership with YogaClub highlights an example of deep engagement with our students. In September 2017, thanks to funding from YogaClub through the Pledgeling platform, we formally launched the pilot program Relax, Refocus, Re-Energize (3Rs). 3Rs was created specifically for our students to help them cope with the challenges they face. 3Rs provided more than 30 staff and over 800 students with the skills to integrate mindfulness and yoga into their daily routine. The trained staff taught students three breathing exercises and 10 yoga poses to help them calm their body and mind during stressful moments and how to reflect on uncomfortable situations. The 3Rs were developed to be applied when needed – in the classroom, on the playground and at home.

Engagement is the foundation of all LA’s BEST programming. As we embark on our 30th year, we will continue to provide programming that engages students’ socially and physically.

Expansion through the Arts

Each LA’s BEST student has the opportunity to choose from an array of activities. From chess to ultimate frisbee, from Coder Time to Nutrition Club and from Dance and Drill Team to financial literacy. Our goal is to expand a student’s mind, inspiring them to chart their own path and actualize their dreams. To achieve this, we need to provide children with the freedom and access to discover new things.

Last year, this was evident through partnerships in the arts. We supported 60, 10-week residencies including traditional dances of Brasil, digital photography, chorus, violin, puppetry, Afro-Latin percussion, print-making and drama – just to name a few. And, 2,000 students participated in Arts for All, where students developed their creativity and gained an appreciation for the creativity of others. Last year we again placed importance on music education. When children engage in music education they experience enhancements in language development, improved test scores, and reduced stress levels. Yet, there is a lack of access to music education within LA’s BEST schools.

Our collaboration last year with Los Angeles Virtuosi Orchestra (LAV) provided 40 LA’s BEST students with classical music education and instrument instruction by LAV musicians. Students took their instruments home – something that furthered their dedication, excitement and confidence.

Last year we expanded the Mariachi Club to include 83 students. The students were introduced to the fundamentals of Mariachi music and related traditions through instruction in violin, guitar, guitarron, vihuela, trumpet, and singing. The Strings Project engaged 200 students from five schools in violin, viola, and cello instruction, and classical music education. Students attend two or three sessions per week and learned the history of orchestral instruments, how to read and interpret music notation, and how to play their instrument independently, as well as in concert with their peers.

Expanding students’ horizons through the arts is one of LA’s BEST greatest accomplishments.

Thank you for supporting LA’s BEST