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Beneath the Surface Art Residency

HOLA visual arts students have been learning about the drought and its impact on their city, and have been creating art to explore their findings.  Beneath the Surface is a public art workshop organized by Jonas Becker, artist-in-residence at HOLA and interdisciplinary visual artist who uses art to explore our cultural hopes, fears and beliefs. Bringing together guests with valuable expertise, including Lisa Bechtold (archivist), Caitlin Craggs (animationist), and Avishay Artsy (KCRW radio journalist), Jonas asked his students to use photography, animation, journalism and filmmaking as […]

To Saturn, Heaven, A Black Hole and Beyond

By Nadene Rasmussen, YOLA at HOLA Teaching Artist I became a teaching artist at HOLA almost two years ago. I’d been volunteering for a few months, and was constantly inspired by the incredible students who walked through the doors each day. I knew that HOLA was the place for me, so when I was asked to join this amazing faculty, naturally I was thrilled. Today, as one of HOLA’s string specialists, my main goals are to improve technique, instill the value of persistence and consistent […]

Doing the Right Thing

By YOLA at HOLA teaching artist Emily Kubitskey, who has been a clarinetist and keyboardist for over two decades, and is the Wind Ensemble Director and Woodwind Specialist for YOLA at HOLA. Every day I walk into a classroom or rehearsal — whether it’s with hopeful college students, angsty teenagers, or crazy kindergarteners — I have to remind myself that I am there to build human relationships and provide them with lifelong tools and skills. And the rest? You know, that whole musical excellence part? Well, that’s […]

Volunteer Spotlight: Julia Parris AKA Future

When bi-coastal photographer and art director Julia Parris was first being introduced to our students in August, one student called out: “Future! You’re from the future! Hi, future girl!” Ever since then, students have called her all variations of Future, Ms. Future, Future Girl. “It’s hilarious! I’m pretty sure many of them don’t know my real name,” she chuckles. An HOLA volunteer superstar, Julia aka Future tells me she has been an artist as far back into her past as she can remember. When I ask her about her life […]

10 revolutionary women you need to know

Today is International Women’s Day! Though its origins are hazy, many trace today’s beginnings to March 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding voting rights, better pay, and shorter hours. Over a century later, full gender equality for women across the world has still not been realised. IWD is an opportunity to discuss current manifestations of these inequalities, and to celebrate women who have overcome odds and barriers. In America, the faces and names that fill our middle school and high school […]

Tocar y Luchar (To Play and to Fight)

By Nikki Shorts, YOLA at HOLA Teaching Artist In 2010, the day after my teaching audition for the YOLA at HOLA string teacher position, I sent an email to the director of the music program at the time that said I would love to hear any feedback she had about my audition, and that I was really excited about the fledgling El Sistema-inspired program that I knew would soon be doing so much good for the community.  I told her that as a kid growing up in […]

Taking A Stand & Switching it Up: Reflections from the Music Department

By Emie George, YOLA at HOLA Music Coordinator Hi Everyone! There is so much happening over in the music department. For one, our students have had the opportunity to apply to a national festival organized by Take a Stand. To give some context, the National Take a Stand Festival is a three-year project that began in 2015 with the creation of an International Teaching Faculty, who will serve as master teachers at two regional youth orchestra camps in 2016, culminating in a 7-day national youth orchestra camp in […]

Spotlight on Bard College’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Program

We are fortunate to have a number of campus partners whose presence at HOLA is mutually beneficial.  The immersive 14- or 24-month teaching residency and graduate Bard MAT program is one of them, offering an interdisciplinary opportunity to enter a valuable profession and help transform public schooling. Each semester, the group of passionate teachers-in-training frequent HOLA’s campus, where they tutor and mentor HOLA youth — while earning a Master’s in Teaching (MAT) in Literature, History or Mathematics, a California teaching credential, or both. Designed for teachers at every level of experience, […]

Creating Change: Reflections of an AmeriCorps VISTA

By Annie Berman, AmeriCorps VISTA, Communications Until all of us are free, none of us are. Our liberation is linked to each other’s. This month, I was able to attend Creating Change, a conference in Chicago organized by the LGBTQ task force and attended by 4,000 social justice-minded people. I spent five days attending workshops and panels addressing the state of the LGBTQ movement and solutions for liberation beyond marriage equality. Approaching the conference with HOLA in mind, I asked myself how, as an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at […]

Alum Returns to HOLA as Scholar in Residence

After a successful internship with Walt Disney Studios in Burbank already under his belt, HOLA alumni Daniel Lopez is well on his way to achieving his goals of graduating college and using media skills to empower his community. A native Angeleno, Daniel attends California State University of Los Angeles where he studies Communications and Marketing. He is excited to return to his roots as the current Scholar in Residence, a yearlong position offered to an exceptional alum enrolled in college who has demonstrated a desire to give […]

Staff Spotlight: Mark Tyson Rocks

Born in Los Angeles in 1959 into a family of musicians, Mark Tyson, HOLA music instructor and founder of our rock band, is living proof that music changes lives. Mark has been an artist his whole life, a performer for 30 years, and a teacher at HOLA since 2004. He has nurtured the talent of many budding musicians. Recently, when we caught up with him, Mark shared his thoughts on teaching, as well as a playlist of the music that has influenced him as a person and artist. Inspirations by a Music Teacher from HeartofLosAngeles on 8tracks […]

Alumni Spotlight: Maricela Sanchez-Garcia

HOLA alumna and senior at Whitman College in Washington Maricela Sanchez-Garcia is grateful that college has provided her a strong support network that includes professors who continue to challenge her in critical thinking. As a first-generation, working class (FGWC) college student, Maricela has had to face other challenges that aren’t necessarily academically based. One in particular, that many HOLA alumni experience at liberal arts colleges, is being surrounded by peers who come from privileged backgrounds. “Sometimes these individuals aren’t always aware about systemic issues. This may cause some frustration but I think one shouldn’t get discouraged. Times […]

“Persisting with Courage” Lesson Taught Via Social Media

Even though struggle is a part of life — and something that usually makes us more resilient — it’s easy as a young person to perceive hardships as failure, threatening the feeling of shame. An important lesson while growing up is to understand that just because you fail or struggle that doesn’t mean you give up. Ideally, one is given guidance and tools that will help in their journey of persistence. Part of HOLA’s mission includes the phrase “nurturing environment” and while our alumni aren’t here anymore, we attempt to continue that […]

Miguel’s Letter

Hello Friends of Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA)! My name is Miguel Guendolay and I am a recent Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) alum and college student at Pasadena City College. As I reflect on this past year and where I’ve come from, my heart is filled with gratitude for HOLA and the generosity of people like you. I am proud to say that I myself will be making a donation to help continue the positive impact that HOLA’s academic, arts and athletic programs have […]

College Road Trip Motivates High School Seniors

In recent years, HOLA has been building a college success program geared towards high school students who become the first in their family to attend college. We’ve built a mentoring program focused on college applications and essay writing, college-ready workshops, and a college tour road trip. This semester, sixteen PAT High School seniors hit the road for a four day trip, visiting nine college campuses in Northern California. The group (which included four staff members) bonded during hours of van time, miles of gorgeous scenery, and inspiring outings with HOLA alumni at their campuses. That our students were […]

Blending Cultures via Basketball

Last week, the Lafayette Multipurpose Community Center  was the venue for a very special basketball game. As a stop on their U.S. tour, The Saint Peters Lutheran College from Brisbane, Australia came to compete against HOLA’s high school boys’ and girls’ teams in two friendly games. The first game’s victory went to the Aussie girls, yet the HOLA’s boy’s team bested their opponents in the second. Afterwords, the teams had time to bond over stories and laughter while eating some good ol’ American pizza. We’re grateful to have been included in their […]

The Kitchen: Chef Alex’s Healthy Breakfast Quesadillas

By themselves, quesadillas are not the healthiest food. But add in chopped vegetables and whole wheat tortillas and remove the butter and you have a delicious breakfast that will please even the pickiest of eaters. Best served with a side of fruit and guacamole or salsa on top! Ingredients: Whole wheat tortillas Shredded cheese (cheddar is best) 1 red onion, diced 1 green pepper, diced 1 red pepper, diced 1 package of mushrooms, diced 4 eggs 1 can of refried beans Olive oil Instructions: Heat […]

Alumni Return, This Time As Leaders

In honor of HOLA Alum turned Bridges Middle School Director Silvia Velazquez being named one of JCPenney’s “Leaders of Tomorrow,” we would like to honor two other alumnae who are also full-time staff members here on campus. Sonia Salazar – Class of ’05 Back in 2005, the year PAT High School Director Sonia Salazar graduated from HOLA, there wasn’t an alumni program in place.  However, that didn’t keep Sonia away.  Upon graduating from University of California Santa Barbara in 2009 with a B.A., she was ready to give back to the […]

Oldest HOLA Alum Writes Memoir

  Twenty-six years ago, HOLA began as five kids, one volunteer and a basketball in a church basement. This month, Jonathan Orozco, one of HOLA’s original five, returned to HOLA to share his thoughts and new book with the parents of our Bridges middle school students.  “No matter how busy you are, make time for you kids,” he advised a packed room. “Talk to your kids about who they are and where they come from. A strong sense of identity and belonging could save their lives.” Born in […]

Blending Cultures via Dia De Los Muertos

In some American families, it’s common to want to shield our young ones from the bleakness of death and grief. In an attempt to soften pain and fear, children are told privately and delicately when unavoidable tragedies occur. But in varying Latin American cultures, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), brings light and a sense of comfort to the realities of mortality — and an opportunity to celebrate the lives of loved ones who’ve died. This holiday’s history is not limited to one particular nation or […]

Barneys New York Shops for HOLA

Three years ago, HOLA and Barneys New York — a brand with a strong commitment to social awareness — began a blossoming partnership. EVP of Marketing and Communications for Barneys NY , Charlotte Blechman attests, “From early on, we recognized and appreciated all Tony and the HOLA team have done to drastically improve the lives of so many children. HOLA is such an important organization that means so much to the Los Angeles community, and we strive to support them in any way that we can.” Most recently, […]

Meet Our AmeriCorps VISTA’s (2015-16)

Founded in 1965, Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) originated to combat poverty and in 1993 it officially became an AmeriCorps program. Today, over 7,000 AmeriCorps VISTA’s annually serve not only by working in an underserved community but living as a neighbor in that community as well. The AmeriCorps VISTA initiative has been compared to similar organizations such as Peace Corps and Teach for America. HOLA’s very own VISTA Anitra Deavors-Ely explains it best, “AmeriCorps is the perfect opportunity for people who think they have a passion to work in the […]

Coach of the Month: Omar Campos

Omar Campos has been with HOLA for almost five years, as a student and now as a tutor and soccer coach. As he works towards his Bachelor of Science in computer engineering, Omar continues to keep close ties to HOLA. Giving back to his community and teaching youth life skills has become an impacting part of Omar’s life since graduating HOLA in 2011. Omar explains, “A lot of kids kids tend to give up if they don’t think they’re good enough. But I wasn’t good at first, […]

Google Takes Students on Virtual Field Trip

On Wednesday, a friend from Google paid Bridges and SmartStart students a visit and brought some funny looking glasses along. Students soon learned that these weren’t just any cardboard glasses but Google cardboard glasses. Ryan, the Google representative, explained that the futuristic eyewear were in fact virtual. Students had the world at their fingertips and were able to take a 3D ride around the world. HOLA teachers asked, “Where do you want to go?” as they held iPads that controlled the location to which the kids could visit. “Spain! Greece! Hogwarts!” were a few destinations that the students eagerly […]

Spotlight on STEM Teacher Emma Cunningham

“What do I love about teaching? The challenge of, ‘How can I create a trail of breadcrumbs to help a student going from unknowing to knowing?’ Figuring out what I can do from the sidelines to help a student reach that ‘aha!’ moment independently — I love that.” -Emma Cunningham, HOLA teacher of Scientific Arts Born and raised between Los Angeles, Japan and San Diego, Emma Cunningham has traveled a path filled with tech, creativity, and a passion for social justice that has led her most recently […]

Alumna and Crew Lend Some Advice Via Film Series

HOLA alumna Priscilla Rios (Class 2011) and recent college grad was studying with the Everett Program at UC Santa Cruz when she had the idea to create what would become a five-part series of college advice videos for current HOLA school students.  The Everett program, which trains students to perform service projects for community organizations while incorporating technology, asked Priscilla and others in the program to propose a topic and an organization where they can make an impact. “Early on, I decided I wanted HOLA to be the organization that […]

PAT Students Organize to Make a Difference

The LA Rakers was founded in the same way most social movements are formed: as an informal collective of young people determined to address social problems. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” HOLA senior, Emanuel Honorato, is one such individual — thoughtful, committed, and determined to change the world. Currently interning at City Council where he is working to address local homelessness, Emanuel attributes the conversations he’s had […]

Honoring The Junior League of Los Angeles

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 […]

HOLA’s Best: Increasing Our Capacity to Serve

From the desk of Brittany Mejia, SmartStart Elementary Director: Every year, Bridges Middle School and SmartStart Elementary staff have to make the tough decision of selecting students to participate in the regular 4-day per week programming. Unfortunately, this also means having to turn students away due to lack of space. In an attempt to remedy that, we’ve decided to try something new this year with a pilot extension program called HOLA’s Best. After reviewing applications and accepting students for the main programming, we then selected an additional number of […]

Tony Brown Named to Town & Country’s List of the World’s Top 50 Philanthropists

We are thrilled to announce that Tony Brown was recently named to Town & Country’s second annual list of the World’s Top 50 Philanthropists. The list includes influential donors, nonprofit heavyweights and thought leaders, including Eli & Edythe Broad, Bill & Melinda Gates and Diane von Furstenberg & Barry Diller. Tony was recognized for giving more options to underserved kids in LA. Click here to read the entire list, or better yet, the magazine is now available at your local newsstand. Congratulations, Tony!

Mentors Guide Seniors Along the Path to College

Highly motivated and focused, our high school students are persistently college-bound. Despite their determination, they are met with a bit of shock as the moment they have been waiting for arrives: college application season.  While this process is thrilling, it can also feel quite overwhelming, especially for students who will be the first of their family to go to college. Yet here at HOLA, we know what it takes to fulfill our mission to our students, at every stage. For our high school seniors, we’ve learned that the most effective way to guide them through the higher education portal […]

HOLA Alum Daniel Lopez Interns at Disney

Every summer for the past three years, HOLA alum Daniel Lopez has been interning at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. For Daniel, the face-to-face aspects of his internship and the opportunity to work with kind and humble people are the most meaningful. The experience has also helped to inspire his pursuit of a career in Communications or Business. We asked Daniel to share some wisdom with young people who have similar career interests and he said, “Never be afraid to ask mentors and connections if they know of any internship […]

Postcard from Bangladesh

Catherine Baltazar, HOLA Class of 2012, is spending the summer in Dhaka, Bangladesh! She is working on a self-designed photojournalism/digital storytelling project that is focusing on documenting the various impacts of climate change and sea level rise adaptation methods from various communities in Bangladesh. She is traveling around the country, most recently taking photos in the coastal city of Barisal. She will soon be heading out on a 5-day long trip to the 3rd largest city in Bangladesh, Khulna, to work with Rupantar, an ngo […]

She’s Heading East

Jessica Ambrosio had some difficult choices to make when it came time to deciding where she wanted to go to college. She had lots of incredible options, including Brown and Yale Universities. She ultimately decided on Yale where she will be majoring in Electrical Engineering and Earth Science. When she graduates from Yale, Jessica hopes to enter the field of cyber security. Jessica’s decision was made a bit easier when she was notified that she had been chosen as a Gates Millenium Scholar!!! She is […]

SmartStart Travels the World

The SmartStart kids started off their summer with a bang! The theme of week one was World Travelers – Culture and Geography and their learning and exploring was capped off with a field trip to the Plaza de Cultura y Artes museum and cultural center. While they were there, the students had the opportunity to explore the edible teaching garden, which celebrates the Mexican and Mexican American cultures by creating sustainable urban agriculture. The students learned about different plants and flowers and even created their […]

HOLA in Pictures

For the past six months, Ben Simpson has been volunteering his time documenting the goings on at HOLA. Whether, it’s an art show opening or the annual Community Graduation, Ben can be found on campus with his gear on his back and a smile on his face. Over the past several months, he has really captured the true essence of HOLA and the kids that we serve. Ben call himself a “street photographer.” He loves to wander the streets, documenting the people and places he […]

Home for the Summer

As the school year winds down, we’re so thrilled to welcome home so many of our alumni. Many have been stopping by and it’s great to catch up. Melvin Sanchez (lower left) just completed his second year at the University of Richmond. That’s right, Richmond, Virginia. How did he end up there you might ask? Thanks to the encouragement of Barbara, his mentor, Melvin traveled to Virginia on a “fly in” program and hasn’t looked back since. He is majoring in Political Science and is […]

Leading to Serve

HOLA seniors Wilson Vaquerano, Romana Maralit, and Shushoma Sravostee recently had the opportunity to present at the Paulo Freire Institute‘s 2015 CAFE Conference at the University of California Los Angeles. The focus of this year’s conference was “Education and Immigration” and the students spoke about their efforts working in the community as part of the high school service group, the LA Rakers. They were thrilled to have the opportunity to share the work they have been doing and to meet leaders in the forefront of […]

Teaching Critical Skills

Volunteer Jody Hauber first began her work with HOLA by developing a Creative Writing Workshop to engage students after being introduced to the organization through friends. That workshop evolved into a Creative Writing Program for the high school students, which Jody has been running for the last two years. In it’s earliest stages, the program focused on short stories. After the students read the stories, they engaged in writing exercises that related both to the short stories that they had read, but also exercises that […]

Youth Crusader

Jeannette Rosales graduated from Cal State Dominguez Hills last May. Majoring in Psychology, she aspired to work with kids in the mental health field or kids who were victims of sexual abuse. She wanted to be an advocate for kids’ safety and provide a safe place for youth to address whatever problems they were facing. Since graduation, she has found a new path. After starting her professional career as a receptionist at a personal injury law firm, she quickly moved up to become the main […]

Leadership Ambassador

Remi Mateo has been volunteering with HOLA for almost a year as a Mentor to PAT high school seniors. As a mentor, Remi is paired with seniors, helping them with college essays and college and financial aid applications. As an alumnus of Virgil Middle School and Belmont High School, Remi values the importance of giving back to local youth. Remi has had a great experience as a mentor and is excited to see them grow as leaders and make an impact on their community in […]

Giving Back and Beyond

Marisol Cuong is in her third year at UC Berkeley and boy is she keeping busy. As the Academic Retention Coordinator of the Raza Recruitment and Retention Center (part of Bridges Multicultural Center), she works alongside a cohort of eight other students, spearheading a variety of efforts for current and future Berkeley students of color. students on campus. Not only is she responsible for providing resources for students on campus, but last year she was responsible for planning Familia Orientation, an orientation for 400 prospective […]

Gifted Mentor

Manuel has been coming to HOLA for as long as he can remember, starting way back when in the SmartStart Elementary School Program. Now, as an 11th Grader, he participates in both the PAT High School Program, taking SAT Prep Classes and getting involved within the community through the LA Rakers, and in the Leadership Program as a youth facilitator. Manuel has been a youth facilitator for the past three years, becoming involved with the program the first chance he got. He has really enjoyed […]

Education Advocate

Long-time HOLA supporter and volunteer Bob Terry first came to HOLA with the Rotary Club of Beverly Hills when they came to deliver dictionaries to our elementary students. He was taken by that experience and years later, he is still actively involved in the organization. He has been mentoring high school seniors for the past three years and can often be seen around the halls offering advice and support to the students. Bob’s goal is to help the students achieve both their education and life […]

Youth Ally Returns

HOLA is thrilled to welcome Geancarlo Salazar back to HOLA as this year’s Scholar in Residence. Geancarlo is very excited to return to HOLA. He credits HOLA with giving him the tools to go to college and become a better person. Through the Scholar in Residence program, HOLA alumni work as paid interns, assisting with College Success/Alumni Department. Geancarlo’s first tasks are to find ways to connect with recent HOLA alumni and to put together some care packages for HOLA alums who are currently in […]

Student Leader

YOLA at HOLA musician Devin Aguilar has been attending HOLA since 1st Grade. When he first started in the program, he played the viola. But after his first year, he transitioned to the cello. Although he didn’t pick the cello, he loves playing it and hopes to continue through high school. Devin’s favorite thing about coming to HOLA is learning new pieces of music and making new friends. Besides playing music, Devin is also involved with YOLA at HOLA’s leadership program. Through this program, the […]

Paying It Forward

Last summer, HOLA alumna Heidy Garcia was awarded an HOLA “Pay It Forward” scholarship. She was awarded the scholarship for developing a volunteer project that demonstrated a clear way to give back to HOLA’s community. Because Heidy attends Barnard College in New York City, she needed to come up with a project that would be quick and effective. She decided to organize a canned food drive because of the huge need in the community and because she could promote it through email and social media. […]

Savvy Designer

For the past several months, Pablo Diego has been volunteering with HOLA, providing invaluable assistance with graphic design projects. Pablo finds design intriguing, with its capacity to simplify large ideas and communicate them in a simple and effective format. With his work at HOLA, he has been able to produce a wide variety of projects, but his favorite was to showcase programs within HOLA by placing photos of students within HOLA’s new logo, creating a customized logo for each department. As he culled through hundreds […]

Returning Advocate

Alumna Crystal Zamora recently returned to HOLA to join the staff as the College Retention Advisor. Drawing from her own experience at HOLA, Crystal will be helping seniors make the transition into their first year of college saying. Crystal is excited about her new position, stating “[T]heir struggles were my struggles and because I was able to overcome them, I am eager to share my experiences with them and validate their emotions. As an alumna, I hope they will be able to live cathartically through […]

Mental Health Ally

Social work intern Illiana Villarreal is excited to be working with HOLA students on deeper issues. With a background in education and as a former teacher, Illiana wasn’t able to be as involved with her students due to school policies. She faced many roadblocks in the school setting, only being able to help students with academics and not deeper emotional issues. Because of these reasons, Illiana decided to get into social work. At HOLA, she gets to help students feel empowered and help them learn […]

Legal Eagle

Job Leo Herrera started coming to HOLA in the late 1990’s when he was in middle school and took advantage of just about everything HOLA had to offer. He took art and computer classes and was particularly fond of the athletic programs. He played on HOLA’s basketball teams and credits former alum and current Athletics Coordinator Haymen Gebru with teaching him how to play the game. Job has many great memories of his time at HOLA, but some of his fondest memories include learning how […]

He’s Tokyo Bound

Miguel Guendolay has been a part of YOLA at HOLA for the past three years and he was recently given the opportunity to audition for a chance to travel to Tokyo

Exemplary Scholar

Alumna Anjelica Alarcon has been a standout student from the moment she walked through HOLA’s doors. She was born and raised in the Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. three years ago. She was a very engaged high school student, graduating with a 4.0 GPA and representing her class as valedictorian. Throughout high school, she was involved in leadership and sports activities, serving as Vice President of her class and team captain for both varsity soccer and varsity track and field. In her senior year, […]

Passionate Mentor

Yusuf Bautista has been tutoring HOLA students twice a week through Bard College’s Masters of Arts in Teaching Program (MAT). As an MAT mentor, Yusuf is paired with three students from the PAT High School Program and not only helps them with academics, but also mentors them and helps them with goal setting. Yusuf thinks it’s very important to connect with students on a personal level about shared interests in order to build a trusting relationship. He loves talking to students about music, one of […]

Chef Alex Participates on ASA Panel

Alex Nataren, HOLA’s Director of Healthy Cooking, recently served on a panel during the American Studies Association‘s annual meeting. The panel, Reimagining Agriculture and Accessibility within and against L.A.’s Cityscape, highlighted a number of local initiatives that are doing innovative work in the food space. Alex’s talk focused on the Healthy Lifestyles Program Alex has been running at HOLA for the past 8 years. Since the program first began with a grant from Kraft Foods, thousands of kids and their families have benefited. Each year, […]

Master Chef

During the summer, Olimpia Aguillon participated in a weeklong pilot program with Culinary Arts Kids Eat (C.A.K.E.). During the program, students were tasked with creating and selling a product, focused on healthy foods. After visiting local gardens, Olimpia became interested in tomatoes and while visiting the farmer’s market, she became inspired by discussing mushrooms with a vendor. These experiences led her to make a healthy pasta salad. While Olimpia initially struggled to sell her pasta salad during a culminating event, she didn’t give up. After […]

Dynamic Musical Mentor

MAT student Jennifer Johnson has been working with YOLA at HOLA music students for the past few months, providing guidance and musical training. Jennifer joins HOLA through the Longy School of Music of Bard College Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Program. Through the program, MAT students observe teaching practices and work hands-on with YOLA at HOLA music students. Jennifer loves working with the kids, saying “they are so bright and pure.” She feels like she is able to learn more from them every day. […]

Transfer Phenom

After facing many obstacles, HOLA alumna Donna Lopez is set to graduate from college in 2015. Donna will be graduating in four years after attending three different schools. Although she originally enrolled in an out-of-state small liberal arts college in Maryland, Donna left after one semester because it wasn’t the experience she thought it would be. While it was a short experience, it is one she is definitely grateful for. Donna decided to move back home from Maryland and although she wanted to attend a […]

Outstanding Leader

During the last weeks of summer, Ailen Salazar took an incredible journey with Outward Bound. Ailen was awarded a scholarship to take part in a 14 day backpacking course in the Sierra National Forest. The course was a true survival experience, with no electricity, no bathrooms and camping under the stars. Ailen participated in the course with a group of girls she had never met before, coming from all over California and the U.S. and one girl coming all the way from Hong Kong. While […]

She’s Found Her Passion

Jessica Guendolay is no stranger to HOLA. She started coming to HOLA when she was six years old, back when we were located in Emmanuel Presbyterian Church. She has fond memories of here time here and is grateful for all of the support she received over the years. She wasn’t able to come as often as she wanted to during high school, but she stopped by any time she found herself in the neighborhood. This summer she found the pull too strong and she decided […]

World Traveler Lands in LA

Heart of Los Angeles was very lucky this summer that we turned up in Noaf Al-Shanbary’s google search. Noaf has lived and worked all over the world and after finishing her Master’s in Counseling at Webster University in Geneva, she decided she wanted to spend some time in LA this summer and work with kids. Noaf spent 10-15 hours each week during our summer programming counseling a number of HOLA youth. She found the experience to be very rewarding and made deep connections with the […]

Environmental Hero

Alumna Catherine Baltazar has been enjoying an amazing adventure in the South this summer! Catherine received a departmental grant from Wellesley College to participate in an internship in Brunswick, Georgia. She is interning for a coastal advocacy environmental group called One Hundred Miles. This opportunity has allowed her to do research on shoreline hardening policies, a major problem in the area. She has also been able to see the islands off the coast of Georgia and was able to participate in a behind-the-scenes tour at […]

Conquering Challenges

Pedro Tale will be heading into 11th grade this fall with a new found confidence in his leadership ability thanks to Outward Bound. This summer, Pedro participated in a 14 day program, that included six days of rock-climbing and six days of backpacking through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Pedro said the program was the experience of a lifetime and that at first, it was a challenge to be in such an intense experience with strangers from all different cultures and backgrounds. But as the days […]

Musical Maven

Sarah Perkins joins HOLA’s music program as a summer intern. Sarah draws on her experience as a bassoon player to teach private bassoon lessons, along with helping to lead the brass sectional and transitions classes. Sarah says working with the kids is so much fun, but exhausting! She loves working with the kids because they have so much energy to feed off of and the younger kids are such a fun age group to teach. She is excited to be able to get experience in […]

Valley of the Undocumented

Heart of Los Angeles alumna Cristina and Eunice are featured in a short film by Guillermo Diaz (Huck from “Scandal”) titled “Valley of the Undocumented.” The soundtrack to the film is a poem written and narrated by Lemon Andersen. The film is presented by Welcome.us and is inspired by the millions of people who live in the United States with the very real fear that an undocumented family member could be deported at any moment. This video captures the profound desire of these people to live in […]

Future Leader

Alumna Adelina Aguillon has always been a firm believer that education is the key to success. Growing up in Los Angeles, she didn’t have much. While it was a major accomplishment for her to graduate from high school, that didn’t even compare to her being the first in her family to attend college. As a third year student at the University of California-Riverside, Adelina is studying Political Science with a focus on education policy. Adelina’s hard work has paid off in major ways. She was […]

HS Students Pitch In

During this year’s Big Sunday weekend, 20 students from HOLA’s PAT high school got up early to volunteer their time, finding a new passion for planting trees! The students volunteered with Hollywood Schoolhouse and Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts. They spent the day painting, gardening, sweeping, and completing beautiful art projects. The students had a blast volunteering and hope to continue to do similar projects around HOLA. On Big Sunday weekend, thousands of people from California, of all ages and all […]

All Star Tutor

Although Mary has only been volunteering with HOLA for a short time, she already loves coming in every week to work with the kids in the Bridges Middle School program. With her math background in tow, she works with the kids to help them grasp concepts they are struggling with and when everything clicks into place, she and the kids feel a huge sense of accomplishment. Mary loves the flexibility that volunteering at HOLA allows and she finds it very rewarding to work one-on-one with […]

The Dream Team

For the past several months, Ruth, Gabrielle and Chauney have been interning at HOLA under the supervision of Nancy Dodge, HOLA’s Counselor and Licensed Clinical Social Worker. All three are graduate students providing vital therapeutic support to several of our students. Ruth and Gabrielle are students at USC, working towards their Masters Degrees in Social Work. They have been coming to HOLA for 16 hours each week for the entire year. Chauney is a student at Loyola Marymount University and is pursuing a Masters in Marriage […]

Guardian Angel

Bridges student Angel Carreo has been participating in the LAPD’s Junior Cadet Program since he was 9 years old. Now that he’s 13, he’s practically a veteran. His mom heard about the program when the Olympic Community Police Station was built near his house and now he and his older brother are both cadets. The cadets learn the ins and outs of being a police officer, including how a police station functions, how to work as a cohesive unit, the importance of obeying parents and […]

Welcome Back!

Heart of Los Angeles is thrilled to welcome back Cristina Vasquez and Marco Sanchez as this year’s Scholars in Residence. Both alumni are currently attending Cal State Northridge. Christina is in her fourth year, majoring in Child Development, Applied Sciences and Pre-Med and Marco is a freshman, thinking about majoring in Political Science. Cristina and Marco were both very involved in HOLA’s high school programming and credit the experiences they had here with helping them get to where they are today. As Scholars in Residence, […]

Gleeza’s Passion

HOLA is lucky to have volunteer Gleeza Fuentes applying her passion for community involvement all across our campus. Gleeza attends Wildwood School, where she began volunteering at the elementary campus in 10th grade as part of her Community Involvement class. She was intrigued by the idea of volunteering because it offered a chance to experience something new, but later discovered that it also offered the opportunity to work in a leadership role, to develop a work ethic and to meet adult mentors. She enjoyed working […]

Teaching For America

Not only is Lucia Beltran graduating from Franklin & Marshall College this May, but upon graduation she will be joining Teach for America! Lucia recently took time out of her incredibly busy schedule to share a little bit about what she’s been up to and how Heart of Los Angeles helped her get there. She started coming to HOLA the summer before her senior year, looking for support as she began to think about applying to college. She was attending a pilot school and there […]

HOLA Leaders Take a Stand

As part of the recent Take a Stand Symposium hosted by the LA Philharmonic, Bard College and Longy School of Music of Bard College, two YOLA at HOLA student musicians were selected to represent HOLA in the Leadership Forum for Young Musicians. The three-day event brought together 24 students from 13 El Sistema inspired programs in 9 states to take part in an intensive leadership seminar. Deanne and Macy are both in the 7th grade and have been participating in the YOLA at HOLA program […]

A Designer of Dragons

Bridges middle school student Lizeth Bautista appears to have a promising career in design ahead of her! Her school, Young Oak Kim Academy, held a contest among 8th grade students to design a t-shirt that would be distributed to the entire class. The students in each Advisory voted on their favorite design, and the top four were voted on by the entire school. Lizeth’s design won! The shirts were recently printed, with Lizeth’s stylized dragon on the front. Her inspiration comes from the school mascot, […]

Yair Keeps Coming Back

Although Yair didn’t start coming to HOLA’s Visual Arts program until his senior year of high school, it didn’t take long for him to form a deep connection to the staff and the program. Yair grew up in the neighborhood and used to pass by the HOLA Royale often before finally being pulled in by a friend. He soon found himself completely immersed in all that the Visual Arts Department has to offer. He’s a very talented young artist and when he started to explore […]

Learning by Giving

Melina Sutton and Taylor Wolfson are students at the USC Price School of Public Policy and last semester they were enrolled in “The Nonprofit Sector and the Public Interest,” a course taught by Professor Emeritus Richard Sundeen. The goal of the course is to give students hands on experience with philanthropy by giving away a total of $10,000 to up to five non-profits. The class began in 2003 and is funded by the Learning by Giving Foundation. Taylor and Melina contacted Vero Matos, Heart of […]

Badger Returns Home

Alumni Kevin Solis recently joined the ranks of Heart of Los Angeles college graduates! On a very cold Sunday in late December, Kevin graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Kevin had a formative experience at the University. He double-majored in Sociology and Social Welfare and it is safe to say, once a Badger, always a Badger. After the graduation ceremony, attended by his mother and former high school director Jose Acosta, Kevin returned to Los Angeles where he wants to pursue a career […]

‘Leading Ladies’ Visits Bridges

A hearty welcome to new Bridges Middle School Program volunteer Ivana Savic. Ivana works as an assistant in the film industry and is an outdoors enthusiast and avid runner. Growing up among very independent and driven female role models, Ivana strives to find ways to help younger generations of girls to follow their passions and never stop learning. Ivana is the founder of Leading Ladies, a group of emerging female entertainment assistants and executives who want to encourage and teach young girls the importance of […]

Christmas Batman

This past holiday season, high school senior Lauro Pilar and his younger brother George donned their Batman costumes to become Christmas superheroes and distribute food, water and blankets to the homeless men, women and children living in MacArthur Park. Lauro was inspired by YouTube star Ryan Higa’s “Christmas Ninja” video. In the video, Ryan randomly donated gifts to people on the street and encouraged his viewers to go out and do the same. Lauro initially wanted to donate sandwiches and water, but after a cold […]

Voice of an Angel

Ten year old Julie Chae was chosen out of hundreds of applicants to sing on the soundtrack of The Monkey King, a Chinese/Hong Kong film to be released at the end of January, 2014. Julie was identified as a possible choice by Emma Joleen, the Singing and Solfege Specialist for YOLA at HOLA. Julie has been participating in the YOLA at HOLA choir since she joined the program three years ago. When Emma was asked by her friend, film composer Christopher Young, she was thrilled […]

Alumnae in Donor Newsletter

In 2007, Heart of Los Angeles was awarded a $1 million grant from the Everychild Foundation to contribute to the renovation of the Lafayette Park Recreation Center. Every spring, the members of the Foundation gather to celebrate current and past winners of the grant. Two HOLA alumnae, Samantha and Julia, were invited to attend last spring’s luncheon with Elizabeth Curtis, HOLA’s Development Director, and they clearly made quite an impression on the members. The fall issue of the Everychild Foundation’s Newsletter features an interview with […]

Lucky Match/Lucky HOLA

Louise Tutelian discovered HOLA over three years ago on VolunteerMatch.org when she was searching for organizations that combined her interests in literacy, writing and students. She had never been a mentor and hadn’t intended to be one! But she was intrigued when she found out that HOLA was looking for people with writing skills who might want to help college-bound students with their personal statements. Louise had been a journalist for many years, and had recently watched as her three kids struggled with their essays. She knew what the kids […]

Words of Wisdom

For the past five years, Andrea Cova has been Heart of Los Angeles’ Alumni Director. She has done an amazing job building out the program and today, she keeps track of over 225 active alumni. She recently published the Fall Alumni Newsletter and imparted these words of wisdom: I love days when I get special visits from alumni or students I used to teach. When they stop by to tell me about their day, to give me a hug, or just to say hello. I […]

Students Going the Distance

Students at HOLA know and appreciate the importance of staying active and healthy. A contingent of young runners in the Bridges middle school and PAT high school programs are currently in the midst of training for the grueling ASICS LA Marathon next March. Lizbeth, Aileen, Olympia, Itayu, Chastidy, Thomas, Pedro, and Lauro have joined Students Run LA (SRLA) after learning about the program from HOLA staff and their teachers at school. They were all inspired by the opportunity to complete such a difficult challenge, and […]

Raising Voices

High school senior Rachel Newhall has been a Girl Scout for as long as she can remember and this year she has been working towards her Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Rachel is passionate about the democratic process and feels strongly about exercising the right to vote. For her Gold Award project, she wanted to raise awareness about registering to vote in an ethnic, underserved community. Rachel volunteered at HOLA as a junior and immediately thought of HOLA when she began to […]

From HOLA to Politics

Darius Leevy (or Tiny or Peanut, as HOLA staff and volunteers called him back in the 90’s) recently came back to HOLA to deliver the keynote address at HOLA’s Summer Alumni Conference. The students listened to him intently as he shared his story. Darius first came to HOLA with his brother Gee when they were in their early teens and both men have stayed in close touch with staff, volunteers and fellow alums ever since. He joined HOLA’s basketball and flag football teams, with Jon […]

She’s a Leader

Daniela Ojeda is one of three HOLA students who were awarded full scholarships to the LEAP Foundation’s week-long leadership program held during the summer on the campus of UCLA. She started coming to HOLA at the beginning of her junior year as a shy, reserved young woman. Talking to her today, that’s hard to believe. She is now confident and poised, ready to take on the world. She credits HOLA and the LEAP leadership program for the transformation. Towards the end of last year, she […]

He’s Changing Lives

Bob Terry has only been volunteering at HOLA for a year, but his support can be felt throughout the organization. Bob’s first experience with HOLA was as a member of the Wilshire Rotary Club. Each year they collect and distribute dictionaries throughout Los Angeles. Bob was part of the group that came to deliver the dictionaries to HOLA and he was truly amazed by what he witnessed. He couldn’t get over how engaged and enthusiastic the kids at HOLA were about learning. He was given a […]

Maria’s the Coach Now

Heart of Los Angeles is thrilled to welcome back alumna Maria Cabrera as a soccer coach and the instructor of HOLA’s Play Soccer club. Maria comes to HOLA through Coach Across America, a program of Up2Us. Maria first started coming to HOLA in the 9th grade and continued coming throughout high school, taking advantage of the free SAT preparation classes and getting help with her college applications. During high school, Maria also played in HOLA’s soccer league with other young women from her high school. Upon […]

Star Student!

While our kids are getting ready to go back to school, we wanted to take a moment to congratulate Daniela Salazar-Santos. Over the summer Daniela was presented with the President’s Education Award and she stopped by HOLA to show us her award and the letter she received from President Obama! Daniela is a 5th grade student at Commonwealth Elementary School and she received the award for her academic excellence during this past school year. Daniela loves to write and who knows, she might even have […]

Paving the Way

Kwesi Essilfie is getting ready to start his junior year at Cal State Northridge (CSUN), but he’s already preparing for what will be a very busy year ahead. He currently works as an ambassador for CSUN’s Building Connections for Success Program, which sends college students into high school classrooms to address questions and fears about going to college. This coming fall, he will add two more jobs to his busy schedule, serving as a Peer Mentor for 10 incoming freshman and a Career Peer Mentor, […]

Reshma Gets Kids Moving

This summer, volunteer Reshma Gajjar has been teaching fun and exciting dance classes to SmartStart elementary and PAT high school summer campers. She was first introduced to HOLA through former Volunteer Director Kristeen Singh. When she met Kristeen, they bonded over their experience volunteering at Manav Sadhna in India, a NGO dedicated to the elevation of underprivileged women and children. Reshma was looking for a way to serve her community here in Los Angeles and when she heard about a place offering similar services to […]

Adventurous Kids!

Viri and Christian, two recent graduates of HOLA’s Visual Arts program, just returned from a two-week visual arts workshop at Penland School of Crafts in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. This is the eighth summer that HOLA has sent students to Penland and the experiences continue to be life changing for these young artists. Viri and Christian both signed up for a black and white film class. With only five students in the class, an instructor and an assistant, they came home with […]

Expanding Horizons

This summer HOLA is lucky to have two high school interns from the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s Expanding Horizons program. Abigail Rodas and Estefani Contreras were selected for the five-week paid summer internship after successfuly competing in the rigorous application process. While neither student knew much about HOLA before getting placed, both are thrilled that they were introduced to such a special organization. Estefani is working with YOLA at HOLA students, learning the instruments alongside the kids in order to better help with the program. So […]

Beauty Unbound!

Yolanda Corzo started coming to HOLA in the early ’90’s when she was in middle school. She was living in foster care, separated from her brothers, and coming to HOLA gave her a chance to spend time with them. Over the years, Yolanda has faced so many difficult challenges, but with the guidance and support of HOLA’s Founder, Mitch Moore and two incredible women, Wendy Weisenberg and Sally Spencer, she recently added her aesthetician’s license to her cosmetology license, both earned from Citrus College. Sally […]

Vivian’s Going to Colburn!

Vivian Trejo is an outstanding 12 year old YOLA at HOLA french horn player who was recently awarded a full scholarship to the prestigious Colburn School of Music! After seeing a flyer at HOLA advertising the scholarship, she entered a competition that pitted her against students from elementary through high school. Vivian, an avid humanities as well as music student, got through the essay portion and outplayed much older and more experienced students in the audition. The scholarship provides private lessons at the Colburn School […]

Eduardo, Building the Future

This fall, HOLA alumni Eduardo Andino will be transferring to Cal Poly Pomona, his dream college since high school. He started at East LA College and studied hard for three years to get great grades. He’s so thrilled that he has achieved his goal. He will be studying Civil Engineering and would like to give back to the community by building affordable housing, and maybe someday designing the next addition to HOLA. Although Eduardo did not become involved with HOLA until his senior year of […]

So Sad to Say Goodbye

After over a year of volunteering at HOLA, it’s time to say goodbye to Alan Suwito, an amazing volunteer in the Bridges program. Alan spent his time at HOLA tutoring our middle school students and creating special bonds with many of them. Alan first came to HOLA as part of a UCLA Hillel service day last spring and felt such a strong connection to the program that he started coming back on his own. In the fall, he started volunteering at HOLA regularly, two to […]

Olimpia, Future Olympian?

Bridges student Olimpia Aguillon is a budding track and cross country star who is already competing at the national level. She is currently in 7th grade but because of a late birthday competes against, and regularly beats, 8th graders. She recently participated in the Cross Country National Championship in New Mexico where she placed 4th in the nation and is looking forward to competing in the 1500 meter and 3000 meter races at the Track and Field Championship. She was inspired to get into running […]

YOLA’s Rockstar Intern

Hailing all the way from Seoul, South Korea, Jin Woo is a rock star YOLA at HOLA intern who is around to help out nearly every day. He recently moved to America and as a result has a very personal perspective on the challenges facing Korean immigrants in the HOLA community.  Jin discovered YOLA at HOLA on Facebook while searching for educational programs involving kids. He has a background in education and enjoys working with Korean children and parents on improving their English vocabulary and […]

Master in the House!

Congratulations to Sonia Salazar, Bridges Coordinator AND HOLA alum! Sonia recently received her Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pacific Oaks College. She managed to do this while working at HOLA and interning at Sandra Cisneros Learning Academy #4, part of the Camino Nuevo Charter schools. Her internship has been giving her real world experience. For the past several months she has been doing individual dynamic play therapy with elementary and middle school students, as well as running an all girls therapy group. […]

Alums Join HOLA Staff!

HOLA welcomes three alumni to our staff. Samantha, Maritza and Daniel are the newest additions to the HOLA staff. Samantha and Maritza have been chosen as this year’s Scholars in Residence and Daniel is manning the Front Desk while Dellia is on maternity leave. Upon Dellia’s return, he will be a tutor in the Bridges Middle School Program. All three alumni are currently attending college in the Los Angeles area and they are thrilled to be back at HOLA. In separate interviews, each student expressed […]

HOLA Gets a New Intern!

Hailing from the east coast, Meredith Sager is a junior at Ithaca College spending her spring semester in Los Angeles. Twice a week, Meredith is interning with HOLA providing support to Lee Schube, HOLA’s Communications Director. As a communications student and advocate for equal opportunity housing and education, interning at HOLA proved to be a great fit. “HOLA is an amazing organization that provides support for so many kids that need it the most,” Meredith said. “I’m really excited to be here for this semester […]

The Next Donna Karan?

Even though Lady has only been coming to HOLA since the fall, she has quickly become a fixture in the Visual Arts Department. Lady is 16 and a sophomore at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools and wants to be in the fashion industry when she graduates from college. Her younger brother has been coming to HOLA for a couple of years and when she found out that HOLA offered fashion design classes, she decided to tag along. Now she comes usually four days a week […]

Providing Vital Resources

For 15 hours every week, Emily provides vital counseling services to HOLA youth. In her first year at USC’s School of Social Work, Emily is working towards her Master’s Degree. She has been interning at HOLA since September and each week she works with seven HOLA youth under the supervision of Nancy Dodge, HOLA’s Counselor and Licensed Clinical Social Worker. This session, Emily is very excited to also be working with the high school program staff leading a weekly workshop for HOLA’s ninth and tenth […]

Photos of HOLA Board Member Featured at Staples Center

The photographs of long-time HOLA Board member, Andrew Bernstein, are featured in a new exhibit: “Los Angeles Kings Road to the Stanley Cup.” The photo exhibit relives the Los Angeles Kings’ 2012 journey to the Stanley Cup, featuring over 50 original framed 2011-2012 Los Angeles Kings photos. The free exhibit is located on the Main Concourse of the Staples Center, across from Aisle 22 and adjacent to the TEAM LA Store. The exhibit will be on view through June 30 and fans with tickets to […]

An Indomitable Team

Kimberly left Guatamela with her sisters less than a year ago to join her mom here in Los Angeles. When she arrived, she did not know a word of English and she speaks only Spanish at home. She joined the Bridges Middle School Program in September when she also entered the 8th grade at Virgil Middle School. She was placed in all ESL classes and it soon became clear that Kimberly needed extra help. In comes Mary, an LAUSD Adult Education teacher, who spent more […]

There’s a Badger in Our Midst

Kevin has been coming to HOLA for as long as he can remember. In his early years his focus was on soccer (still his favorite sport), but when he reached high school, HOLA staff encouraged him to participate in the high school program and to start thinking about college. Up until then, college wasn’t even on Kevin’s radar. Kevin soon became very involved in HOLA’s high school program and in his senior year, he applied for a Posse Foundation Scholarship. He made it to the […]

Making Lasting Change

Two days every week during the entire Fall session, volunteer Albert Loya worked with two SmartStart boys who were struggling in reading and math. Albert came to HOLA through an internship program that is part of his Social Services Certificate Program at Los Angeles City College. While at HOLA, he worked with both boys together one day a week and then he spent a second afternoon working one-on-one with each student. The hours he spent at HOLA far exceeded what he was required to do […]

Giving AND Getting

Erica is one of HOLA’s Artist Mentors in Residence – an internship designed to provide students with the opportunity to continue to create art, apprentice with HOLA’s professional art instructors and mentor young artists. In her senior year of high school, Erica thought she wanted to go into the fashion industry. In search of a fashion design class, she stumbled upon HOLA and she hasn’t looked back since. Once she found her way to HOLA, Erica started taking all of the art classes she could […]

Volunteer from Down Under

Fiona has been volunteering at HOLA since last June. She started in the Visual Arts Department and for the past several months, she has been providing indispensable support to Kristeen Singh, HOLA’s Volunteer Director. Having volunteered for many years, when she came to Los Angeles she wanted to find a place to dedicate her time and lucky for us, she decided on HOLA. Fiona loves coming to HOLA and she is wowed by the results we achieve. She is constantly amazed by the world-class opportunities […]

They’re Getting Ready

Kudos go out to the HOLA high school class of 2013. Nearly 70 young men and women have been working feverishly to finish their personal statements in time to submit their UC applications at the end of November. Even when school was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, many of the students spent their days (and nights) at HOLA, writing, revising and proofreading their essays. This group of amazing and talented students have set their sights on colleges and universities all over the country. Whether they […]

52 Stories: Josue

Josue, 7th Grader, Trumpet How did you find out about HOLA? My mom found out that my cousin was going to HOLA. Since I was already playing the trumpet, she talked to my aunt and they decided that it would be good for me to join the program. What do you like about the program? I like that YOLA at HOLA prepares you for a career. They also provide tutoring when I need help with my homework. Who is your favorite composer? I like Mahler […]

Alums Are on the Move

Not only do HOLA alums graduate high school and attend colleges and universities around the country, but many of our alums are enhancing their educational experiences through study abroad programs. Alums have traveled to Japan, China, Spain, Italy, Peru, Australia, England, Africa and El Salvador, to name just a few. For many of the students, when they left Los Angeles to go to college, that was the first time that they left home and/or flew on an airplane and now look at where they are […]

She’s Dedicated and Committed

Megumi Smith has been volunteering with YOLA at HOLA since the day the program started in the fall of 2010. She fills in wherever she is needed most, subbing when a teacher is out, helping at break time and supporting the teachers in their classrooms. Megumi is also the reason that HOLA was lucky enough to have the Fukushima TV Junior Orchestra visit YOLA at HOLA this summer. Always with a big smile on her face, Megumi has become a regular fixture at YOLA at […]

52 Stories: Ali

Ali, 3rd Grader, Violin What song do you like to play with the orchestra? “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” by Mozart What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be a police officer. Why? Because police officers protect people, so we have a safe community. What kind of food do you like? Hamburgers “52 Stories” profiles HOLA students in the Youth Orchestra LA program, a partnership with the LA Phil to bring orchestral music to inner-city youth. Read more about YOLA at […]

College Will Happen!

When Brian first started coming to HOLA in the 6th grade, college wasn’t anything he had ever considered. Now in his senior year, he can think of nothing else than what college he will go to next year. Brian credits HOLA for this transformation. “HOLA has shaped who I am. I see things differently now. Without HOLA, I wouldn’t be getting out.” HOLA has taught Brian that he should care about his life and the world around him. Even though he wants to leave Los […]

Photographer in Our Midst

Jonathan Cuong is a member of the HOLA 2009 graduating class and is now a senior at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Jonathan’s photos have recently been featured in a number of UCSB publications, including the Daily Nexus and a calendar created by the Associated Students of the Isla Vista Community Relations Committee. Before going back to school, Jonathan had a chance to sit down and talk about what he’s been up to: How long have you been taking pictures? I have been […]

Volunteer Extraordinaire

Analilia Barajas is now in her fourth year of mentoring HOLA high school seniors. Her boundless energy and spirit is so infectious, it’s no wonder that each year the kids clamor to be paired with her. Now mentoring students 8 and 9, Analilia keeps coming back because, in her own words, “[the kids are] constantly challenging me to live my life with integrity.” When she’s not busy at HOLA as a member of the Associate Board, mentoring kids and helping out at events, Analilia is […]

They’re Ready for Take Off

Meet three members of the HOLA Class of 2012 ~ Catherine, Yandery and Ivania. These remarkable young women are the proud recipients of four-year scholarships to the schools of their choice. Catherine and Yandery are both Questbridge Scholars. Catherine is a freshman at Wellesley College where she is focusing on Environmental Studies. Yandery is at Columbia University and is enrolled in the Engineering School. Ivania is a Gates Millenium Scholar and just headed off to Brown University to study Political Science. All three women have […]

Outward Bound and Back

In August, Thomas Vasconez was one of two HOLA ROPE students who traveled to the wilds of Oregon to participate in a three-week Outward Bound adventure. While Thomas has ventured out of LA before, this was definitely the longest he has been away from home. While in Oregon, he spent one week river rafting and the next two weeks camping. His group hiked an average of 7 miles a day with 50 pounds of gear on their backs. He faced many personal challenges, including jumping […]

Meet HOLA’s Summer Interns

What an incredible summer! It was our busiest summer ever, with action packed programs running every day. From field trips to museums and the Hollywood Bowl, to visits from Olympic Athletes and a pro football player, from cooking adventures (don’t tell – it really was a math class) to chess club, more than 500 kids had a fun and safe summer. But none of this could have happened without our summer interns. Twenty-one college students provided vital support to HOLA staff, committing at least 15 […]

Constitutional Rights Foundation Interns

This summer, HOLA is very lucky to have two interns with us from the Constitutional Rights Foundation. The really great thing is that Mercedes and Alexa are both enrolled in our ROPE high school program and when they applied for the internship positions, they had no idea that they would would be placed at HOLA. After passing through a very competitive interview process, Mercedes and Alexa were accepted into the Foundation’s Expanding Horizons Internship Program. The Program places qualified urban students from the Los Angeles […]

Distinguished Alumni Receive Special Recognition at HOLA Graduation

At this year’s Community Graduation, HOLA began what we hope will now be an annual tradition – acknowledging HOLA alumni who recently graduated college! As the number of graduates continues to grow, it is HOLA’s goal to present to each graduate a token that celebrates the significance of the accomplishments of the students. This year five HOLA alumni joined the other distinguished guests on the dais. Each alumnus/a wore a graduation robe and had a very special medallions draped around his/her neck. The inscription on […]

Local Girl Scout Plants Musical Garden

Working towards her Girl Scout Gold Award, Charlotte Leddie recently designed and planted a musical garden in HOLA’s new outdoor classroom. Charlotte is volunteering this summer in HOLA’s Music Department and she’s really excited to see the fruits of her labor. Together with two other members of Troop 702-1, Charlotte cleared the weeds, prepared the soil and then planted gourds and bamboo that the music students will eventually use as instruments. To earn her Gold Award, Charlotte must put in 80 hours of service towards […]

A Volunteer and So Much More

Orly has been volunteering at HOLA for over three years. She came to HOLA after meeting professional photographer and HOLA Board member, Andy Bernstein, in a photo lab. When she met Andy, she had been photographing life on Skid Row, often riding along with LAPD officers. After three years she needed a change, but wanted to stay connected to the community. Andy steered her in our direction and she hasn’t looked back. Over the years, Orly has taught photography classes in Still Life and Portraiture. […]

She’s a LACMA Intern!

Congratulations to Virileyma Reyes on being accepted into the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s High School Internship program. After undergoing a rigorous application and interview process, Viri was chosen to be part of a small group of students from LA-area public schools to participate in the program. She is just finishing up her junior year in high school and is so excited to begin her year-long internship in the Fall. She has been coming to HOLA since she started high school and in addition […]

HOLA Alumna Joins Music Staff

Leslie Chinchilla first came to HOLA back in 2006 when she was a junior in high school. A budding musician and artist, she became a regular face in HOLA’s Visual Arts Department. Upon graduation from high school, Leslie went on to Cal State Northridge and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Music Industry Studies last May. Throughout college, she came back to HOLA and volunteered in the Visual Arts Department. Last summer, she found herself gravitating to the Music Department, her first love, and became thoroughly […]

Two Incredible Interns Spend the Year at HOLA

HOLA’s Counseling Department got a huge boost this year with the support of two interns, Daniel Lyman and Lauren Seo. Working under the guidance of HOLA’s Counselor and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Nancy Dodge, Daniel and Lauren spent upwards of 15 hours each week at HOLA working with the students. Both worked one-on-one with students and Daniel lead one group with several students in HOLA’s art program. As HOLA continues to grow, the needs of our students grow with us and it is often difficult […]

52 Stories: Jafeth

Jafeth, 5th grader, flute How did you find out about YOLA at HOLA? I went with my cousin to the Expo Center where there is another YOLA orchestra. I saw the orchestra play and decided I wanted to do that to. I applied to HOLA and I got in! How did you decide to play the flute? I started like everyone else with the violin. Then we were given the choice to try new instruments. First I tried the trumpet, but when I tried the […]

SmartStart Volunteer Captures the Hearts of the Kids

Teddie is a relatively new volunteer at HOLA, but she has already captivated the SmartStart elementary school students. She recently relocated to Los Angeles and found out about HOLA through our very own Rebecca Clark, HOLA’s Administrative Director and designated HOLA Mom. Teddie comes once a week and loves working with the kids. When she is working with a student on his/her homework, she gets really excited when they figure things out. Her most exciting moment yet was when she taught one student how to […]

Making Some Tough Choices (Updated)

It hasn’t been easy for Ivania. Growing up she has faced obstacles that others might view as insurmountable. Not only has she dealt with these issues head on, but she has dealt with them with strength, humility and courage. Now she is facing some very difficult choices, but these choices are enviable ones. Ivania will be going to the east coast for college, but where she will go is another question. Recently accepted to almost every school she applied to, she now has to decide […]

52 Stories: Bryanna

Bryanna, 2nd Grader, Violin How does music make you feel? I love getting to play in a big group and going to concerts. When I get to do those things, I feel happy and excited. What else do you like to do? I love reading imagination books – books about fairies and princesses. I like to paint and color and to make new friends. But best of all, I love YOLA at HOLA! “52 Stories” profiles HOLA students in the Youth Orchestra LA program, a partnership […]

Friends for Life

Lois and Sharon first met more than three years ago when they both started volunteering in HOLA’s Visual Arts Department. Both women found their way to HOLA through friends who thought they might want to get involved. Boy, were their friends right. Not only have they been consistently volunteering at HOLA since then, but they have struck up a friendship that extends well beyond volunteering together at HOLA. Lois is an art lover and former teacher. She was the head of Education Therapy Services at […]

She’s Graduating Soon!

Ana has been a fixture in HOLA’s Visual Arts Department since she first started coming to HOLA in the summer of 2006. Since then, she has been a student, an Artist in Residence and an intern. While she is very busy writing her senior thesis at Warren Wilson College, she recently took the time to sit down and answer some questions: How has HOLA impacted your life? HOLA offered me my first job – an assistant position in the Visual Arts Department. That job allowed […]

There’s a Future Lawyer in our Midst

Sandie graduated from high school and from HOLA in 2010. She is currently in her second year at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and is working towards a degree in political science and chicana/o studies. What is life like for you at LMU? I am really enjoying life at college, but I have picked two very difficult majors and I have a significant amount of work to complete every night. As I get further along in both of my majors, the course work has become a […]

Never too Young to Volunteer

Isabel is an 11th grade student at South Pasadena High School. She has been volunteering at HOLA for more than a year: How did you find your way to HOLA? Last year in my history class we spent a unit focusing on Unresolved World Issues. My group explored underserved youth populations in the inner-city and at the end of the unit we had to find a local organization that addressed the world issue we studied. Other kids from my high school have volunteered at HOLA […]

Against All Odds, She’s Off to Wellesley!

Walking down the hall in a bright blue Wellesley sweatshirt (given to her by her high school principal), Catherine stopped by to talk about HOLA and what’s next. In her own words: My mentor from HOLA’s mentorship program once told me that behind every person, there is a network of loving and caring people willing to do anything to help you. I always knew that I wanted to go to college and I did what I could, participating in extra curricular activities and in the […]

There’s a Politician in the Making at HOLA

Sixth grader Anna Sanchez was recently elected Vice President of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy’s Middle School. She might be soft spoken, but she is determined and focused: What made you decide to run? We had a student council at my old school and I thought it would be really cool to be on it, but I wasn’t old enough. What did you have to do to get elected? I had to write a one page explanation of my plans and once I made it past […]

A Tribute to Azucena

HOLA students, staff and all who knew and loved her said a tearful goodbye to Azucena Benitez at a tribute held at HOLA in early January. Azucena passed away during the Christmas break at the tender age of 14. She started coming to HOLA in the 6th grade and everyone who met her was entranced by her upbeat manner and positive outlook. She truly was a shining star and she will be forever missed. Our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to her family. Rest […]

Musical Michelle

Eighth grade Bridges student Michelle Kweon has been coming to HOLA since she was in 2nd grade, but she started playing piano way before that. She started playing at the age of five and she has been taking piano lessons at HOLA since the 3rd grade. She also studies the guitar and drums with HOLA’s music staff and she is a founding member of HOLA’s rock band, Project 11. If that wasn’t enough, Michelle also plays the violin and in her spare time she plays […]

Three Incredible Young Women

Meet Cristina, Julia and Eunice, all members of the HOLA class of 2010. Cristina and Eunice (yes, they are twins) are sophomores at Cal State University, Northridge and Julia (center), is a sophomore at Occidental College. All three students have fought incredible obstacles to get where they are today and they are each so grateful to HOLA for the support and guidance they have received. Julia is the youngest of EIGHT children and she is the first in her family to go to a four […]

HOLA’s Leadership and Summer Programs are Flourishing Under the Direction of Loren Rubin

Loren has been a dedicated member of the HOLA staff for more than 11 years and for the past year and a half, he has taken on the role of Director of Leadership and Summer Programs. In this unique position, he has worked tirelessly to provide quality summer programming and to develop meaningful leadership programs at every grade level. As the Los Angeles Unified School District continues to battle significant budget short falls, most summer programs have been eliminated. Under Loren’s leadership, HOLA has stepped […]

52 Stories: Mina

Mina, 2nd Grader, Violin You’d never know that Mina has only been playing the violin for a year. She has made incredible progress since she joined HOLA’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, but she’s ready to move on. The next conquest – the cello! She loves coming to YOLA at HOLA, especially to see all of her friends – Andrea, Aubrey, Diane, Julia…Mina loves performing with the orchestra, especially The Blue Danube. When she’s not at HOLA, Mina loves to read and cook in her pretend kitchen. […]

52 Stories: Myles

Myles, 6th Grader, Trombone What is your favorite song? “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner. How did that happen? It’s exciting and they play it on cartoon shows. What do you like to do when you are not at HOLA? When I am not busy riding my bike or playing football or basketball, I like being at HOLA. I love having the responsibility of taking care of my own instrument. “52 Stories” profiles HOLA students in the Youth Orchestra LA program, a partnership with […]

52 Stories: Manny

Manny, 6th Grader, Trombone What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be a conductor, or perhaps a lawyer like my dad. What grade are you in? I’m in the 6th grade at LAAAE, so I don’t have far to go to get to HOLA. What do you like most about HOLA? There are so many things I really like, but at the top of my list are Mr. Robert, who helps me with my homework, and learning how to […]

HOLA and American Jewish University Partner

This year, HOLA is very fortunate to have partnered with the American Jewish University to provide an internship for Paul Wassaba-Ouattara Yeoshua, a student working towards his Masters of Business Administration in Non-Profit Management. As part of his degree program, Paul is interning at HOLA, working closely with Tony Brown, Anna Phillips, HOLA’s Grants Administrator, and Christine Witkowski, HOLA’s Music and YOLA at HOLA Director. Having lived a full and challenging life, Paul has put aside his career in music to pursue his dream of […]

Actress Roselyn Sanchez Spends the Afternoon Teaching at HOLA

Actress Roselyn Sanchez visited HOLA’s Elementary and Middle School students yesterday to impart some life-lessons and acting advice to HOLA students. Roselyn joined our SmartStart Elementary club “Go Girl Go!,” which encourages a wholesome lifestyle, a happy outlook, self respect and self-confidence. She spoke about her personal life experiences and encouraged the girls to work hard for their dreams. Roselyn Sanchez also visited our Bridges Middle School class, “Creative Drama Workshop” in which students dramatize using the concepts of textual and non-textual improvisation. After a […]

52 Stories: Deanne

Deanne, 5th Grader, Oboe Deanne is one of YOLA at HOLA’s oboe players and she loves it when she gets to perform. She has lots of friends in the program and she now feels like the orchestra members and staff are her second family. Having tried a number of instruments, she is thrilled to have settled on the oboe and would like to be a professional oboist when she grows up. “52 Stories” profiles HOLA students in the Youth Orchestra LA program, a partnership with […]

Alumni Director Invited to Join USC Advisory Board

We are very proud to announce that Andrea Cova, HOLA’s Alumni Director, has been asked to join the Advisory Board of the Educational Counseling Master’s Program at USC. This is a fairly new program and the Advisory Board has been formed to help guide the development of the Program. HOLA is the only non-profit represented on the Board and she will be working with representatives of many highly respected colleges and universities, including Pitzer, Berkeley, USC, and Santa Monica College. We are very proud of […]

Meet Vero: HOLA’s Parent & Community Resource Director

Veronica Matos, or Vero to those who know her, has been working at HOLA for the past five years and has been in her current position for two years. “How do you describe what you do?” I bridge the gap between the educational and cultural world the HOLA kids are living in and what their parents know or are aware of. “How do you do that?” In a variety of ways: I provide workshops on different topics or issues of concern to the parents. During […]


Since she started coming to HOLA in the second grade, Melissa’s grades have steadily gotten better. Now in 6th grade, she credits HOLA for all the help she has gotten with her homework, especially in history. Melissa proudly tells that last spring, she even brought home 2 A+’s – making her family, including her HOLA extended family very proud. Melissa is in her first year in the Bridges Program and has every intention to stay with HOLA until she graduates from high school and beyond. […]

The Always Happy Gilman

Gilman always has a smile on his face. This second grader is now in his second year at HOLA and his teachers say that he is quite outgoing and talkative. Shy doesn’t appear to be in his vocabulary. Gilman is a regular fixture on the soccer field, participating in HOLA’s leagues every fall and spring. No wonder Cristiano Rinaldo is his idol. In addition to soccer, Gilman likes to play basketball and swim. When at HOLA, his favorite activities are p.e. and cooking. When asked […]

52 Stories: April

April,  5th Grader, Clarinet Even though it takes her an hour to get to HOLA and almost two hours to get home, April wouldn’t think of not being a part of YOLA at HOLA. April plays the clarinet and her favorite song to play is the Barber of Seville, especially the fast parts of it. How does music make you feel? Music makes me want to dance. My Dad is a drummer, so I guess it’s in the family. “52 Stories” profiles HOLA students in […]

HOLA Board Member Debra Gentz Gives In So Many Ways

Debra Gentz joined HOLAʼs Board of Directors over three years ago and she has been giving of her time, resources and financial expertise ever since. In addition to her role as a member of the Investment, Advisory and PR/Marketing Committees, Debra has mentored two HOLA high school seniors through the college application process. Her first mentee, Antonio, is now a junior at Boston University. Debra found this experience to be one of the most rewarding things she has done in her life. “I think I […]

Jessica Biel Volunteers at HOLA!

Jessica Biel and her family volunteered at HOLA and have highlighted us on her nonprofit website, Make the Difference Network, to raise awareness about the work we’re doing! HOLA honored her efforts with the first annual 2008 National Impact Award and is so grateful for all that the Biel family is doing to help us continue to serve LA’s youth.

Blaine Mallory is HOLA’s Yoga Teacher Extraordinaire

Almost four years ago, Blaine Mallory met Tony Brown at an HOLA art show and she has been a steadfast volunteer since then. Upon hearing that Blaine was a yoga enthusiast, he asked her if she would be interested in teaching a Yoga class at HOLA. Every Monday, Blaine arrives at HOLA, moves tables and chairs, puts up with often being displaced and patiently deals with the mood swings and many excuses that middle and high school students often come up with. “I just love […]

Mayely Castillo

Mayely has been a regular figure on the basketball court since the Recreation Center re-opened last February. Since then, she has played on HOLA’s girls’ basketball team and volunteered her time coaching teams in HOLA’s Pee Wee leagues and the Summer Night Lights leagues. Mayely is personable and warm and when talking to this athlete you would have no idea that she struggles on a daily basis with anemia and asthma. But, that doesn’t keep her down, she makes every effort to run every day. […]

HOLA Forges Service Learning Partnership with University of Tennessee

As part of a unique partnership between the University of Tennessee (UT) and Heart of Los Angeles, for eight weeks this summer, HOLA was extremely lucky to have Veronica Mays interning at HOLA. Veronica is the first intern to come to HOLA under a Field Placement Partnership between HOLA and UT’s College of Education, Health and Human Services – Department of Public Health. Veronica is currently a student at UT, working towards her Master’s in Public Health. The focus of Veronica’s work at HOLA was […]

Professional Photographer Comes to HOLA

Last month, HOLA was incredibly fortunate to have renowned professional photographer, Kyle Christy, come to HOLA to photograph some or our students. Kyle is known for his work in the entertainment, sports, and music industries, among other projects. Tony Brown, a distinguished alumnus from Loyola Marymount University, met Kyle when he photographed Tony for a special project he is working on for Loyola Marymount University. Tony and Kyle hit it off and at the end of the shoot, Kyle offered to come to HOLA to […]

HOLA Staff Honored

Elizabeth Curtis, HOLA’s Director of Development, recently received much deserved recognition. In May, Elizabeth was honored by the Junior League of Los Angeles with the prestigious President’s Cup Award. We also wanted to update you on Tony Brown’s Local Heroes Award from the Bank of America. The Junior League’s President’s Cup Award recognizes a member’s dedication and commitment to volunteerism and civic leadership. Elizabeth has been an active member of the Junior League since 2002 and has served in many areas, including Board Vice President, […]

2011 HOLA Adelman Scholarship Recipient

This coming July, Kwesi will be boarding a plane and leaving California for the first time. Although both of Kwesi’s parents were born in Ghana, he has lived in Los Angles all his life. Kwesi will be heading to the Appalachian Mountains to attend Penland School of Crafts. He is this year’s HOLA Adelman Scholarship recipient. He will be taking a black and white film photography class that aims at exploring oneself through the images captured in photographs. The class is taught by Thomas Neff, […]

Tony Brown Wins Local Hero Award by Creating a Safe Haven

Bank of America names HOLA’s Executive Director a “Local Hero” for his work in providing a safe haven for thousands of at-risk kids. A SAFE HAVEN Tony Brown decided to choose a path that would help troubled kids in his tough Los Angeles neighborhood. “I wanted something more fulfilling in my life. And I felt like if I could get to kids before they made… bad choices …, then that would be pretty fulfilling.” —Tony Brown Brown decided to quit his job in the private […]

Big Sunday’s Big Helpers!

HOLA would like to thank the volunteers of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple for coming out this past Sunday, May 15, and dedicating their time and hard work toward the beautification of HOLA. The volunteers came in to HOLA to paint hallways and spruce up the SmartStart Elementary Herb Garden by planting new herbs, mulching, and cleaning up. Another big thank you to Wilson Muller who donated his time to build the new planter for the Wilshire Boulevard Temple volunteers to use for the garden. If […]

SmartStart Student is Awarded Special Medals for Performance on California Standardized Test

On Wednesday, May 11th, one SmartStart student was recognized and awarded at Frank del Olmo Elementary School. Kimberly received two special medals for her performance on the California Standardized Test (CST) in the advanced areas of math and language arts. Our SmartStart and HOLA family are extremely proud of our Kimberly’s accomplishments. On Friday, June 17th, two more of our students were recognized and awarded at Ramona Elementary School. Both siblings Victor and Anahi received two medals for their perfomance in the areas math and […]

HOLA Executive Director, Tony Brown, Named Local Hero by Bank of America

HOLA’s Tony Brown was awarded the “Local Hero” award by Bank of America for offering a safe, nurturing environment to 2,300 at-risk kids.

Michael Ziering: Like a Father, Big Brother and Guidance Counselor

Michael Ziering is a volunteer, high-school mentor and donor. He shares his passion for HOLA and why he believes HOLA’s after-school program is changing lives. “My mentor Michael Ziering has been more like a father, big brother and guidance counselor all in one,” says Esmeralda, HOLA alumna and sophomore at Dickinson College. “Over the past two years Michael Ziering has provided me with the support needed to be emotionally stable and continue going to college. Along with the support he has provided me with, he […]

Pepperdine University Track Team Visits HOLA

On March 18th, Pepperdine University Women’s Track team along with their Coach, Maurice Hilliard, visited HOLA middle and high school students to teach them the importance of being physically active. Fifteen of Pepperdine’s track team gave instruction on everything from passing the baton to how to start in the blocks (a sprinters ready position to run) and various tips to build their strength and speed. Thank you Pepperdine Track Team for inspiring HOLA students to live a healthy and active life!

Another HOLA student receives a full ride!

HOLA Student Sean Liu brought in chocolate cake today, plopped it on my desk and began handing out slices. “What’s the cake for? Is it your birthday?” I asked Sean. His response: “No, I just got an email from UCLA that I’ve been offered a full ride all four years. I wanted to come celebrate with you guys.” Today is certainly Sean’s lucky day. When he went home to tell his mom the good news, she handed him a letter. It congratulated him on receiving […]

Old Dominion University Visits HOLA

On Monday, March 7th 2011, ODU students from Virginia came to HOLA for an afternoon of fun filled programming. Heart of LA’s programs such as, YOLA at HOLA, SmartStart, Bridges and ROPE enjoyed an afternoon of foosball, board games, puzzles and best of all academic support. Many of our students will one day be the very first in their families to go to college so this gave our youth the chance to start building relationships with college students and dream even bigger. Thank you ODU […]

March: Student Athlete of the Month

Congratulations Jonathan Gomez, March Athlete-of-the-Month! Jonathan is currently playing in the Anthem Blue Cross/Lakers Youth Foundation Basketball League. Jonathan loves to play basketball and other sports such as tennis and soccer because they are fun to play and exciting when you make a shot or point for your team. He thinks the Basketball League is cool and he likes being on a team and playing against other teams. He is learning a lot playing in the league and has learned lots of new plays from […]

January “Athlete of the Month”

6 year old Ashley Lopez is our January 2011 Star Athlete-of-the-Month! Ashley was chosen because she was an awesome student during Fall PE class. She was always ready to participate, eager to learn, and showed a lot of enthusiasm. Ashley said PE class was good and she learned different sports like Soccer, Basketball, and Tennis. She especially liked Soccer and Tennis. In Soccer she learned how to kick the ball, stop it, and make shots. During Tennis lessons she learned how to return the tennis […]

HOLA Remembers a Dear Friend, Jim Robie

Heart of Los Angeles remembers the impact made by Jim Robie our longtime friend and supporter across two decades. Jim passed away on January 16, 2011 but his spirit and legacy will live on here at Heart of Los Angeles. Jim was the consummate trial lawyer. Although he was a fierce adversary in the courtroom, Jim was ethical, gracious and fair to his opponents. He valued his profession and led by example. However, what we will most remember about Jim was his charisma, humor and […]

52 Stories: Macy

Macy, 4th Grader, Trombone What is music? Relaxing What is your favorite part of music? When I’m performing Gustavo. How does music make you feel? Good. Relaxed. What is your favorite instrument? Trombone. Who is your favorite teacher? Ms. Christine. Do you like coming to YOLA at HOLA? Yes, it is my favorite activity. Why do you make music? My Dad said that if I’m good at it (pause)…becasue I like music. What is your favorite food? Crab, shrimp, fish…seafood! What do you want to […]

Andrew Bernstein, Mentor & Edward Banks, HOLA Graduate

Edward Banks started coming to HOLA when he was 7 years old. He is now 18. He describes himself as an “HOLA child” and sees his mentor, Andy Bernstein, as a father figure. Through HOLA, Edward has traveled to Israel, attended NYU and Penland School of Craft summer programs, and has visited universities across the country. Andrew Bernstein, a NBA Photographer, met Edward in a photography class. They instantly  “clicked” and Andy became a mentor and helped Edward change his life. Edward will attend Humboldt […]

HOLA Profile: Esmeralda

Esmeralda, Age 18 HOLA Alumna and Dickinson Freshman My name is Esmeralda. I am Mexican-American and I am currently attending a private, residential liberal arts college in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, called Dickinson College. At Dickinson I feel as though I represent the new generation of Latinas emerging in search of higher education. How did you find out about HOLA? Jose Acosta walked into my English class announcing the Princeton Review SAT Prep classes at HOLA had begun. I remember he made a compelling speech about how […]

HOLA Profile: Camila & Kamila

Camila and Kamila both attend HOLA’s after school Bridges program. They have similar names, but different likes and dislikes. Camila wants to be a scientist and Kamila, a doctor. Camila loves the band Evanescence, while Kamila prefers Ray Charles. Here are profiles of two young women. Camila, Age 13 Why do you come to HOLA? I come to HOLA because I want to learn and get tutoring. I also come because I want to have more opportunities and friends. What is your greatest skill? My […]

HOLA Profile: Christian

Christian, Age 18 HOLA Alumnus and UCLA Freshman Hi, my name is Christian and I am a freshman at UCLA. I am a Physiological Science major with hopes of becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy. I love working with people, especially with children. I grew up with two parents but my mother raised me, she has been the backbone of the family and has shown me the meaning of hard work and dedication. I have absorbed her skills and use them in my life — […]

Victor Baca

R.I.P. our beloved HOLA Volunteer Victor Baca. Vicor Baca started volunteering for HOLA in the summer 2008 Music Program. We called him the “pied piper” of HOLA because all the kids would follow him. Victor was a role model for our kids. The kids enjoyed his company and talents. He became very attached to Jesse whom he taught each week to play the trumpet. Victor was tragically deceased in an automobile accident on Friday, May 29, 2009 in Colton County, California. He was born in […]

Kelvin Yu, SmartStart Elementary Volunteer Tutor

I originally began volunteering at HOLA almost ten years ago as a college student at UCLA. I helped a 13 year-old boy with his homework and once a week we would read a book together. He was inconsolably shy, extremely disinterested in homework (obviously!), and seemingly aloof. A few years ago, I came back to HOLA after finding some time in my schedule. It seemed like an eternity since I’d been there (even the building had changed). I was strolling down the hall when a […]

Nikki Shaw, Chef

Dear Heart of Los Angeles, It was a pleasure to come to HOLA! I was so impressed by your facility, but the kids blew me away! They were awesome… great manners, great behavior & wonderful little personalities. Thanks for having me. Nikki Shaw

Randy Mell, Volunteer Speech Coach

I met with Javier Carrillo as he was preparing for his first art show at HOLA. He was a talented artist, as one could see from his paintings, but not comfortable in conversation or speaking to groups of people. I had been asked to try and help him get over his shyness so he could talk about his work to visitors at the gallery. We had one hour together. Javier spoke timidly but openly about the people, objects, and experiences that had moved him to […]

Gail Cayetano, Middle School Program Volunteer

What a place full of pride. The moment I walked through HOLA’s doors I was greeted by numerous HOLA staff who all expressed their gratitude to me for volunteering my time, when I should have been the one thanking them! And the smiles and appreciation didn’t stop there. During our 12-week Mentoring Matters program I was able to interact with a classroom full of kids who were proud to be at HOLA (on numerous occasions the kids gave me a tour of the center without […]

Lisa Orrantia, Volunteer Photographer

I was so taken aback by the level of talent displayed by the kids that I felt it was my responsibility to photograph each piece of art in order to document their beautiful work. I’m glad to know that those images now live in the HOLA archives. My son is fortunate that his school district still offers art, music, and sports. Until I began volunteering with HOLA I took this for granted. To come to HOLA and see new worlds opened to young minds hungry […]


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