At a college send-off celebration last month, we honored the people who helped us get to where we are, and the connections we all share.
A few weeks ago, I attended our annual college send-off party for HOLA’s most recent alums. Before heading off to their college campuses, HOLA staff and alumni formed a circle and tossed a ball of yarn from person to person, each naming someone who changed our lives and helped us get to where we are now. By the end, everyone’s name had been honored, and the yarn crisscrossed the entire circle, connecting us all. Though these accomplished young people are now embarking on their own paths, taking them to 24 different colleges across the United States, we are forever connected via the impacts we’ve experienced and created together. At HOLA, our impacts to our youth go beyond academic and they are, without a doubt, long-term.
In a recent story on CNN, Jennifer Lee, professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine argued that “Increasing funding for guidance counselors, coaches and college-bound classes is a start, but creating affordable after-school academies and tutoring programs in neighborhoods, for example, Los Angeles’ Koreatown — which is home to Angelenos from diverse background — could give children of immigrants across racial, ethnic and class lines the resources they need to succeed.” While we agree that this is a piece of the puzzle, we also know that it is not enough to just get our students into college.
We have found that continued support for first generation college students is just as essential. Thanks to our College Success Program and strong alumni network, the majority of our students graduate from college, at rates that are much higher than the national average for first generation students. It is our students’ achievements that are a testament to what programs like ours can do to end cycles of poverty.
In order for after-school programs to properly supplement neglected needs of underserved youth, their impacts need to be multi-faceted; our College Success program is just one example of how HOLA goes beyond the academic impact. Health and wellness, community involvement, and collective partnerships, are all key impacts in shaping a well-rounded student, for not just school but life as well. As HOLA strives to be the best organization it can be, I believe it is important to identify and reflect on the expansiveness of HOLA’s impacts. This is the first of my “Impact Series”, where monthly I will explore one key impact and cite examples of how HOLA’s programming ensures those impacts. I will leave you with a few of those highlights:
This summer, 96% of our alumni scholars studied, worked, or interned reflecting how HOLA’s leadership impact has encouraged the development of hardworking, engaged members of the community. HOLA begins its second year of hosting security council meetings to address crime, violence, gang activity and substance abuse impacting safety within our community. These monthly meetings involve local school principals, park rangers, Gang Reduction & Youth Development staff, the LAPD, the District Attorney’s office, the Department of Recreation and Parks, and various other youth serving partners. The LA Rakers, a community-engaged group of our PAT students have also put in countless community service hours over the past year, practicing leadership, direction action, and neighborhood beautification.
HOLA is strengthened by our partnerships which include the LA Phil, Los Angeles Lakers, Bard College, Longy School of Music, Loyola Marymount University (LMU), the University of Southern California (USC), the LA Department of Recreation & Parks, and the Ghetto Film School. These alliances allow us to expand opportunities, broaden our reach, and mutually benefit our students without lowering our high standards.
Health and Wellness Impact
We offer healthy eating and cooking classes to our students as well as parents. We also provide counseling services, college guidance, and community resources to ensure mental healthiness and support our students’ cognitive and non-cognitive social and emotional development. Our robust year-round athletic programming and myriad fitness opportunities also support our students’ personal and academic wellness.
In the past year, HOLA has implemented parent-teacher conferences that occur before the school year begins, this way parents and the administration can develop connections that benefit the students’ overall growth. It is also mandatory for HOLA students to keep their HOLA teachers informed with their report cards and progress with their daytime educational life. Our College Success Program and strong alumni network continue to support the personal, academic and professional development of our alumni.