The Los Angeles Challenge’s mission: Take on the obstacles facing economically disadvantaged children head-on by helping them to succeed.
The nonprofit funds education at 13 private elementary and high schools for children in grades 4-12. Volunteers work one-on-one with students, teachers and parents to mentor and monitor bright students who typically live in housing projects and often come from single-parent homes.
“Through our partnerships with our donors and schools, we are providing life-changing education for students who will achieve their goals and improve our world,” said LAC board president Greg Alessandra, who founded the nonprofit with Gordana Swanson in 2002.
So far LAC has provided more than 285 scholarships and currently has 30 students enrolled in South Bay and Los Angeles schools. This year, 63 percent of the students are in high school.
And the nonprofit’s impact was tangible in the students who shared their stories at the group’s annual benefit for scholarships at the Palos Verdes Estates home of Carolyn Elliott Dec. 2.
Sophia Gurrola is an eighth grader at Mary Star of the Sea Elementary School in San Pedro with a 4.0 GPA.
“I won’t be lying if I said that Mary Star is different from other schools,” Sophia said. “It allows me to explore my future with sports and student government, and I plan to go into the military when I graduate from high school and then graduate from college and work in the FBI.”
Tyler Roach, a 12th grader at St. Bernard High School in Playa del Rey, proved Nelson Mandela’s conviction that “education is the most powerful weapon in changing the world.”
She maintains a 4.2 GPA and with mentoring from LAC volunteers who helped with her college applications to Stanford, Duke, USC, Brown and the University of Connecticut, she plans to major in biology and attend medical school.
“This scholarship has been a chance of a lifetime,” Roach said. “I was able to have a wonderful education at a private school.”
Kobe Navarro, a fifth-grader at Saints Peter and Paul School in Wilmington, spoke from the heart: “When I was 3, I wanted to be Kobe Bryant. Now I want to be a mechanical engineer… and a professional basketball player,” he said. “I am here to thank you for the gift of education. My Mom believes in me. She has to, but you don’t. So thank you for believing in me. Ten or 15 years from now, I hope you will open the newspaper or turn on TV and see me looking back at you. No matter what I choose (to do in life) you will know, it is because of you.”
LAC actually provided support for two members of Kobe’s family, when – inspired by LAC volunteers – his mother, Maryela Pimental, a single mom, went to college and received her AA degree, which facilitated her being accepted in the nursing program at American University of Health Sciences in Signal Hill.
“Because of your support and my ability to study nursing, our family will break the cycle of poverty, thanks to this gift of education,” she said.
Board member Karen Maguy is one of the volunteers responsible for choosing which students will be part of LAC’s program.
“When we do the interview, we always include the whole family,” she said. “We want to make sure we have everyone on the same page. We communicate with the students and the parents and the schools so we know exactly how things are going in order to troubleshoot when needed. There are a lot of checks and balances,” she added. “We want to make sure our students and their families know we are behind them every step of the way.”
“We are providing opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise happen,” Alessandra said. “One student in our program graduated from high school and received his AA degree from Harbor College with a B average. He is now just a millimeter from getting into the LAPD. He would be in a gang if it had not been for your support.”
For information on LAC visit www.losangeleschallange.org or call 310-377-2412.
Harbor Interfaith Gift
Harbor Interfaith Services will always remember 2018. It was the year they received the largest gift from a private individual since the nonprofit began in 1975. The $1 million gift came from Kurt Oetiker in honor of his late wife, Ilse Oetiker, an agency volunteer.
She introduced him to the agency 40 years ago when she dedicated herself to serving the homeless and working poor in San Pedro. She died in 2008.
Harbor Interfaith Services empowers the homeless and working poor to achieve self-sufficiency by providing support services including shelter, transitional housing, food, job placement, advocacy, childcare, education and life skills training.
Oetiker’s gift will endow the Accelerated Learning & Living program. For information, visit HarborInterfaith.org.
Meredith Grenier worked for 19 years as a Daily Breeze features writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: “Los Angeles” – Google News