Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA): Steering Youth Towards Success

September 11, 2013

By Tony Brown

In person, Heart of Los Angeles is an inspiring and lively community of students. Walking around our campus in the afternoon, you hear laughter. You see students practicing their clarinets outside, and you might even smell the “College Cooking on a Budget” class put on by our Operations Director/moonlighting chef. On paper it is one of the most successful college-success organizations in Los Angeles, helping underserved youth prepare for and apply to college.

Study Time

We provide after-school programs that serve hundreds of students on a daily basis, giving valuable access to academic, artistic and musical education, as well as athletic programs. Unfamiliarity with the college application process is one of the largest obstacles facing underserved youths applying to college. That’s why we provide our students with essential information for the college application process. We make sure they understand concepts like the A-G requirements, teacher recommendations, deadlines and application fees. We even give our second-semester seniors a financial literacy class so they understand how to budget their way through college.

As our organization has grown we have been able to accommodate more and more students, while still giving them the attention they need and deserve. They are “locomotive kids”: the engine pulling their families out of poverty, and often the first one in their families to attend college. A lot of the high schools they attend have graduation rates below 50%, and all of our students come from low-income backgrounds. Of the 76 students in HOLA’s 2013 graduating class, 95% are college-bound, attending colleges that range from community colleges to the Ivy Leagues. Students with 4.0’s are respectful of those with lower GPA’s, fostering a community and developing the cooperative relationships that allows HOLA to be effective.

HOLA alum and staff member art

Our partners also play a crucial role. We have an incredible Visual Arts Program lead by well-known local artists, monthly basketball clinics with the Lakers, and YOLA (Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles) with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This last program is the signature program of Gustavo Dudamel, and is directly inspired by his formative experience with Venezuela’s youth orchestra movement, El Sistema.

It takes a village to raise a child, and HOLA is that village.

Tony Brown is the Executive Director of Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA).

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