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On their 90th anniversary, we will honor the extraordinary women of The Junior League of Los Angeles, Inc. (JLLA) at HOLA’s annual Holiday of the Heart in November. The JLLA has understood the barriers preventing neighborhood youth from attending college, thus they provided esteemed volunteers to serve as mentors and offered a series of workshops called “College 101” for HOLA’s high school seniors. These workshops included sessions on the college and financial aid application processes. Reflecting HOLA’s mission to support our students through college, the JLLA took the discussions a step further by discussing the realities of college life. How can students best access campus resources? What are good budgeting and conflict management strategies? What are the unique challenges freshman year brings, and how does one best communicate with a roommate? The JLLA volunteers facilitated conversations related to these questions among many.

All these workshops and mentors couldn’t have been possible had it not been for JLLA’s commitment to the project, says Ricci Ramos, 8-year member of the JLLA and former chair of the HOLA project.

Zqm1GcMzHwQ4xEUh0p9BVCcL12xQpOJpeZqnV-XXpFE,EKi67fx_E4wdKRGebID5XiWlXwDA9ncjdlhAz21O6-8“[The HOLA project] is near and dear to my heart,” Ricci says. “I’m sad to see HOLA is no longer an active JLLA project and will miss spending time with the high school students.  We at JL work hard to expand our community reach  by not staying at a single project for too long and leaving when it’s clear we’ve made an impact.  HOLA really embraced the project and our volunteers and by the end of the eight years it was a full-functioning sustainable program.  HOLA is truly a JL darling project.  Over the years, we’ve seen community partners struggle to maintain JL programming after its been transitioned back to them.  HOLA is unique in that is has so many partners and mentors who are willing to provide support.”

Denise Snider Perlstein, current president of the JLLA, credits HOLA’s flexibility and growth as great assets. “When we first started our program with HOLA, there was a strong need for mentors to help guide students through their application process, financial aid, etc. But over the years HOLA has been fortunate to have grown and their needs shifted, so our project adapted to HOLA’s needs.”

She adds, “My experience when volunteering at HOLA has been nothing but rewarding. The kids at HOLA are truly amazing; they put a smile on my face every time I’m there. I leave knowing they have given me more than I could ever give back to them. Their excitement and energy is contagious.”

Ricci, who spent 2 years working with HOLA, is grateful for the time spent on HOLA’s campus and with the students. “I’ve never left HOLA feeling anything less than inspired by the passion, Tony, Elizabeth and HOLA’s staff’s have for their students.  And the students, they’re amazing.  They make the most of every opportunity they are given, and are so thankful for what HOLA has giving them. As a volunteer, that made me realize the work I was putting forward was really having an impact, and it made me want to give back more.”

Ricci’s parallel passion has been guiding the women of the JLLA as well. Ricci explains that what everyone in the League has in common is a “recognition of an unmet need in the community, and a desire to give back… We welcome any woman who’s passionate about creating positive change.”

Even though the JLLA has completed their active project at HOLA — leaving a lasting legacy of what is now a strong College Success program — they’ve remained active partners. Currently, they are in the process of planning an hour-long training for our high school students centered around advocacy.

Ricci advises, “It’s so important for youth to understand the power of their voice, what it means to advocate as a constituent, and how to advocate for oneself — in college and beyond.”

Just as the JLLA is grateful to HOLA, HOLA is humbly in awe of the generosity, knowledge and time given by the JLLA. A very special thanks to Ricci and Denise, for sharing their reflections on progress, accomplishments, and goals for the future.

For information about attending our annual gala, Holiday of the Heart, where we will be honoring the Junior League of Los Angeles, please visit here.



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