In this hyper competitive era, youngsters need all the help they can get in order to excel academically. However, for youth in struggling families, even getting something as commonplace as breakfast can be a challenge.
“If you didn’t have breakfast this morning, how can you be expected to do well on your math test?” asks Stephanie Silberman, Development and Communications Manager for Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA). The 30-year-old nonprofit gives underserved kids an equal chance to succeed through a comprehensive array of after-school academic, arts, athletics, and wellness programs.
The charity’s work resonates deeply with Barneys New York’s Beverly Hills location, which hosted its eighth annual fundraising shopping event this past week. Silberman estimated that last year’s Barneys shopping event, where a percentage of proceeds went to HOLA, translated to an approximately $100,000 donation.
“Some of Barneys’ values are similar to what Heart of Los Angeles stands for, so it’s been a great opportunity for our students to participate on a much larger scale,” Silberman says, noting the wealth of performance opportunities offered to the students in conjunction with Barneys partnership support. “It’s a great opportunity for kids to see how their artistic talents can then lead to a future career possibility.”
From creating large-scale window installations on Wilshire in previous years to offering in-store jazz concerts, HOLA students have been particularly adroit about sharing their talents. At this year’s kick-off fundraiser dinner, which was held last Friday at the Montage Beverly Hills, two HOLA student cellists performed for attendees.
Serving more than 2,200 students each year, ranging in age from six to 24, HOLA strives to empower the youth it services to become productive, caring and responsible citizens. Based in the Rampart district where the median household income is just above the federal poverty threshold and the neighborhood is L.A. County’s second highest densely populated area HOLA is slated to open a newly constructed building on Saturday, Dec. 7 in Lafayette Park. The new building, made from a combination of repurposed shipping freight containers and traditional architecture, is expected to increase the number of students HOLA helps annually to almost 4,000, according to Silberman.
All of HOLA’s programs, which are offered at no cost to the families served, are heavy on academics, in addition to offering a plethora of enrichment programs, including a dynamic music and youth orchestra program, a sophisticated visual arts department, sport leagues and clinics, counseling services, and alumni support and scholarships, as well as parent and family resources. More than 95 percent of HOLA’s high school seniors graduate and go on to post-secondary education.
Indeed, with HOLA’s wealth of programs and counseling services, students are taught the core tools of how to not just empower themselves, but to also empower others.
“We’re here to serve the community [and] we really believe in representing the whole child,” Silberman says. “They learn healthy cooking and then they become advocates.”
“[HOLA] does affect the family and then it affects the community as a whole,” she adds. “Every child deserves a chance to reach their dreams.”