How Hollywood is Helping L.A.'s Schools

All around town, the industry is doing its part to help L.A. kids. But the ailing school system is still in crisis. Less than half of L.A.'s public school kids graduate, and 70 percent are unable to read at grade level by age 13. "I think entertainment companies need to do even more. Our youth is the anchor of the city," says Marshall Tuck, CEO of the city's nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. Here's who is working to keep the ball rolling.

 

THE STUDIOS [Yellow map numbers]

1. Sony
Since adopting the Culver City school district in 1993, Sony started and is a major funder of Culver High's Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, serving 200 students and offering 50 classes (in everything from film scoring and script analysis to acting workshops).

2. Fox
Fox Music execs mentor at Alexander Hamilton High. The studio supports L.A.'s Promise (see below left for more info), which runs three L.A. schools. The nonprofit's board includes Fox execs Emma Watts, Vanessa Morrison and Alison Temple.

3. Paramount
The studio, which released education doc Waiting for Superman, adopted three nearby schools (elementary, middle and high school). Employee volunteers read to kids, and Paramount brings 40 high school students to the lot every other week for mentoring.

4. Disney
Disney Channel premiered its TV movie Lemonade Mouth at Stevenson Middle School in Boyle Heights in April; the event benefited the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. With the group Los Angeles Team Mentoring, employees mentor at local schools.

5. NBCUniversal
Next month, the NBCUniversal Foundation will award $200,000 in local grants to six groups, including City Year, Communities in Schools and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. It also supports programs at North Hollywood High and Rio Vista Elementary.

6. Warner Bros.
Its Reach Scholar program has provided internships at the studio and $10,000 scholarships to 29 students since 2006. Through a reuse program, it gives everything from costumes for theater productions to furniture to neighboring Burbank schools.

 

THE AGENCIES [Purple numbers]

1. UTA
In 2005, it adopted University High, a Title I school (40% of students come from low-income families). UTA runs a mentor program, awards scholarships, planted an environmental-studies garden and provides grants (on a day in which kids pitch agents to fund such things as books and guitar amps).

2. CAA
At Coeur d'Alene Elementary, it helps fund arts and technology programs, as well as a grant for a teacher from nonprofit group P.S. Arts to be on staff. On the 8th floor of its building, CAA houses dropout-prevention org Communities in Schools Los Angeles West and raised more than $200,000 for it last year.

3. ICM
To complete a renovation of Dorsey High's auditorium in 2008, the agency pledged $500,000 for the project, an amount that was matched by LAUSD. The facility was renamed the ICM Foundation Performing Arts Center and is used for student performances and by the community.

4. WME
At Compton's Foster Elementary, it provides tutoring, funds campus beautification and sponsors arts performances. Last year, the agency started Camp Summer Eagle after summer school was cut. Each Saturday in July, nearly 200 students take part in games and arts activities at a local park.

 

THE NONPROFITS [Red numbers]

1. L.A.'s Promise
Through a performance-based non-charter contract with LAUSD, this group has created what it calls an inner-city "Promise Neighborhood." The nonprofit, chaired by Megan Chernin, runs Manual Arts and West Adams Prep high schools in the area, plus a middle school.

2. City Year
This national organization installs full-time mentors/tutors to work inside schools. In L.A., Sony underwrites a team at John H. Liechty Middle School, where 78% of students now pass math, up from just 30% a year ago. Other supporters include Disney, DreamWorks, NBCUniversal and Warners.

3 Partnership for Los Angeles Schools
A collaboration between Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAUSD, the partnership manages 22 city schools. DirecTV has renovated parent centers, while Fox Sports West adopted Santee High, giving school uniforms to every student and even running partnership PSAs during Dodger games.

4 L.A.'s Best
Why was Elizabeth Banks doing Wii dance exercises with kids at North Hollywood's Fair Avenue Elementary in June? The actress got Nintendo to donate Wiis to afterschool programs run by L.A.'s Best. The group serves 28,000 children at 180 elementary school sites. Nigel Lythgoe is a board member.

 

THE PEOPLE [Green numbers]

1. Matthew Mcconaughey and Camila Alves
At schools including Venice High, the couple supports afterschool fitness and wellness programs through their j.k. livin foundation. The goal: to help students understand the mind/body connection and build life skills.

2. Mark Feuerstein
Along with UTA agent Dan Erlij, the Royal Pains actor is one of the founding parents of the diverse Larchmont Charter School -- West Hollywood (K-5). "I went to public school in New York, so this is exciting," he says.

3. Gabrielle Union
The actress became a supporter of Inglewood's Kelso Elementary after a friend who taught there told her about the lack of funding. Union co-founded the nonprofit A Step for Success in 2004 to raise money for such items as books and computers.

4. Herb and Lani Alpert
The Herb Alpert Foundation -- which has donated more than $100 million to arts education in the U.S. -- funds visual and performing arts classes for nearly 4,000 students and provides professional development for teachers at nine Lawndale schools.

5. Mark Gordon
In 2010, the Criminal Minds and Grey's Anatomy exec producer founded the innovative Citizens of the World Charter School (K-2), which focuses on experiential, project-based learning. The average class size is about 20 students.

6. Hilary Duff
The national Blessings in a Backpack nonprofit gives students from low-income families a backpack filled with nonperishable food on weekends. Duff is the sole supporter of Normandie Avenue Elementary's program.

7 Quincy Jones
In December, Jones cut the ribbon at the opening of his namesake elementary school, which alleviates overcrowding at two nearby schools and includes jazz music in its curriculum. The Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium donated music equipment.

8. Casey Wasserman
Among his citywide contributions to education, Wasserman has donated $6 million to help Green Dot Public Schools turn around some of L.A.'s worst schools. One of Green Dot's newest public charters, Animo Pat Brown High, is the state's highest-performing Latino-majority school.

9. Davis Guggenheim
Spotlighted in his doc Waiting for Superman, tuition-free charter KIPP LA Preparatory was ranked LAUSD's second-best middle school in 2010. The director and wife Elisabeth Shue are donors, as are Paramount's Brad Grey and his wife, Cassandra Huysentruyt.

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