2018 - 2019

Lives Full of Choices

Chris Dusseault, Chair of the Board of Directors

LA’s BEST has a unique position in Los Angeles because of our incredible scale and impact. Since inception in 1988, over 400,000 students and their families have benefitted from LA’s BEST – and many of them were enrolled in our program for five or six years.

Last year we invested in an evaluation conducted by UCLA that found, elementary school children who attend LA’s BEST were

significantly less likely to drop out and more likely to graduate high school on time than students who did not participate in the program. Not only do we help students while enrolled, we have a lasting impact on their lives.

The influence of LA’s BEST is felt throughout Los Angeles thanks to dedicated supporters who value living in an equitable city. I am grateful to LA84 Foundation and Kaiser Permanente who have generously supported LA’s BEST for over 25 years. I also want to thank our Board Members who dedicate their time, energy and resources to help our kids thrive.

Together, we are giving kids from the most economically distressed neighborhoods of our city the foundation to lead lives full of choices.

+ more

Eric Gurna, President and CEO

At LA’s BEST, we give children many opportunities to choose, to learn how to choose and to see they have the power to choose, because we want them to grow up to have lives full of choices.

Last year, we focused our programming and fundraising efforts on giving students access to as many enriching activities as possible. They chose to play basketball, learned about Aztec dance and coding and built their perfect city. These activities

and the many mentioned below helped our students discover their passions and sparked their interest to learn more.

Given the power of choice and the tools to help navigate the decision making process, our students are more invested in their education and inspired to have dreams for their future.

Thanks to you, our family of supporters, we helped provide children with opportunity and access to discover new things and enrich their lives.

+ more


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.

Impact = Enrichment

Nutritious Meal & Academic Support

In partnership with Los Angeles Unified School District Beyond The Bell, we provided each student with a substantial nutritious meal to help them focus on their homework, academic support and enrichment programs.

“I love that my son Mathew gets help with his reading and doesn’t feel bad about it. It helps his vocabulary flourish and complete his homework. When he comes home, I know that he’s had a healthy meal so he’s not starving and we have more time to just have fun together.”

Brenda Vasquez 
  1. 4.5 million healthy meals served 
  2. 95 students and 25 volunteers participated in the AARP Foundation Experience Corps that helped kids boost their reading comprehension  
  3. Countless hours spent with family not stressing about homework 


Every LA’s BEST site received quality music, dance, theatre and visual arts programming and students had the opportunity to participate in an array of multi-week, professional artist residencies.

“My experiences with
LA’s BEST have been nothing short of enriching, the immediate reciprocity between teacher and student, and sharing the idea that art making is about possibilities rather than a finite answer is exciting and transferable to other disciplines, is something I cherish.”

Joseph Lee, Artist in Residence
  1. 4,256 children participated in 112 artist residencies  
  2. 300 students performed their own songs, skits and dances in the Community Jam for Peace in front of their peers and families 
  3. 975 students went on at least one arts-related field trip


All of our 25,000 students received the opportunity to play basketball, softball, flag football, soccer and select sites were also able to offer tennis, Ultimate Frisbee and swimming. More than ever, girls were represented in all sports.

“Playing my favorite sport soccer at LA’s BEST teaches me to play hard, but also accept the loss because it’s just for fun.”

Mason, 4th grade 


Our programmatic focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) enhances students’ learning and skills so they establish a strong foundation to excel on par with their more affluent peers. 

3,500 students participated in the Celebrate Science & Engineering Program which culminated with a competition where 18 teams (83 students) presented their experiments before a panel of judges and their families. 

225 students participated in KidBot where they explored technology through the collaborative process of programming, designing, and building robots.

60 students participated in KidPress a program that integrates media tools to empower students to create meaningful interviews and online content while developing their critical thinking and communication skills.

  1. 1140 Inventors to the Rescue teams created and prototyped their own inventions using SOHO bricks.
  2. 451 Students participated in CoderTime where students learned binary code, sequencing, loops, functions, algorithms, debugging, patterns, and abstraction. 
  3. 800 participated in Our Perfect City where teams of students used SOHO bricks and activities to build communities.

Health & Wellness

Every student learned the importance of a consistent nutritious diet and exercising every day. We also focused on building partnerships with organizations and companies that offer health care services to our families in their neighborhoods.

  1. 1306 kindergarten students 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. 
  2. 1800 students and their family members attended the annual Family Health Festival where they sampled health snacks, played fitness games and participated in live cooking demonstrations and engaged in hands-on activities designed to promote an awareness of healthy lifestyles.
  3. 8,000 students participated in Common Threads’ Small Bites program and learned how to read nutrition labels, the benefits of eating a balanced meal, and the importance of healthy hydration.
  4. [can we easily add a 4th?] 

Field Trips

We strive to send each LA’s BEST student on a field trip. We’ve learned that one day,
one experience can transform their vision for themselves.

“LA’s BEST field trips such as cultural fairs and college football games expanded my horizons and understanding of what life had to offer. One field trip to Cal State Northridge evolved my perspective on higher education to the extend that it became my Alma mater for both my undergrad and graduate studies.”

Jose L. Ramirez, LA’s BEST Alumni
  1. 177 Field Trips 
  2. 6,991 students
  3. 59 Cultural hubs throughout Los Angeles  

Workforce Development

I am really proud that our department helped over 2,000
LA’s BEST program staff learn how to approach students with empathy. As most staff come from the same neighborhoods where they work and are often reminded of their own challenges while engaging with students, it’s been crucial to provide self-care tools that support building resilience.

Over the year we approached each training to inspire and motivate our program staff to be leaders. The response was overwhelmingly positive and we saw an increase in content retention, an interest in growing with LA’s BEST and eventually transitioning to careers in education and social services.

  1. 340 hours of staff development training, including topics such as Understanding Children: Emotional Regulation, Youth Development Principles & LA’s BEST Values and Adventures in Peacemaking
  2. 600+ LA’s BEST staff were trained in trauma-informed self care
  3. 800 new staff attended a special 6-half day orientation

Daniel Monterroso, Staff Development Coordinator
Next Gen Leaders Award Recipient –
National Afterschool Association, March 2019


Students in our summer learning program were engaged in experiential learning opportunities around language arts, sports and student wellness – and had lots of fun!

This year, thanks to an investment from Mayor Eric Garcetti, we were able to enroll an additional 2,000 students in our Summer Learning Program and extend the program hours for our sites in the Promise Zones.


Last year, we played a leading role in a coalition that advocated for an increase in state afterschool funding to keep up with rising costs. And I’m thrilled to report that we were successful!

As a result of our efforts, this year’s state budget includes a $50 million increase for afterschool programs. This victory was hard fought – Eric Gurna, alumni, staff and I met with nearly all the members of the state legislature from Los Angeles, hosted staff on an overnight bus ride to Sacramento to join advocates from throughout California, and organized a rally at Los Angeles City Hall with hundreds of supporters.

Although the fight continues, this funding increase is a critical step towards ensuring that LA’s BEST and afterschool programs across the state are able to help children lead lives full of choices. Together with our partners, LA’s BEST will continue to fight for increased government funding to support our program. Thank you for joining our efforts. For more information visit the Advocacy page of our website.

Laura Beebe, Director of Public Partnerships

LA’s BEST 2018 – 2019
Annual Report Executive Summary