Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has named The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program (a joint venture with Big Brothers Big Sisters) as the first grant recipient to benefit from a new fund that supports diversity in the entertainment industry.
The newly created Evolve Entertainment Fund, which was scheduled to be unveiled at a Monday morning press conference, has pledged $172,000 to create scholarships and cover operational costs for the WIE Mentorship Program, launched by THR in December 2009 in conjunction with its annual Women in Entertainment gala.
“The first grant recipient of the EEF is the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles’s and The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program,” Garcetti announced in a press release. “WIE selects [young] women from low-income communities to work directly with some of the most influential professional women in entertainment.”
In addition, the Mayor said the fund, a public-private partnership, will create 250 paid internships with entertainment industry companies, all open to the WIE mentees as well as young men and women who have been supported by BBBS.
“EEF will also partner with BBBSLA to train and prepare the 250 EEF interns, and ensure their success in face-paced industry environments,” the press release noted.
“This Mentorship Program is literally changing the lives of young women in some of the neediest communities of Los Angeles,” said Matthew Belloni, editorial director of THR. “We are thrilled to receive the support and endorsement of the Mayor’s office to fulfill this goal.”
The financial support from the fund is a ringing endorsement of the Mentorship Program, which pairs teenage girls from disadvantaged backgrounds at schools in South and East Los Angeles with top-level producers, executives, agents, lawyers and publicists in a one-on-one mentor/mentee relationship, each lasting a full year.
Since the program’s creation, such high-ranking executives as Jennifer Salke (soon to become the head of Amazon Studios), Fox TV’s Dana Walden, Paramount’s Megan Colligan, Universal’s Donna Langley, TriStar’s Hannah Minghella, WME’s Nancy Josephson and Searchlight’s Nancy Utley have all taken part as mentors and have built long-lasting relationships with their mentees that have seen them through college and beyond.
THR has helped fund more than $5 million in scholarships to date, with the support of donors including Warner Bros., WME and ICM Partners, along with such individuals as producer Chuck Lorre and Shark Tank entrepreneur Lori Greiner.
It has also received annual funding from Lifetime and Entertainment Industry Foundation, which recently pledged to continue supporting scholarships with a $100,000 grant per year.
Graduates of the WIE program (who also benefit from SAT tutoring, university prep courses and a series of seminars hosted by Universal’s Langley) are now attending four-year universities across the country, including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Berkeley and Northwestern. Seventeen of the girls have also been awarded full-ride scholarships to Loyola Marymount University, another of the financial partners in the program. Some 150 mentors and 150 mentees have taken part in WIE since its inception.
“Receiving this vote of support and the financial grant from the mayor will enable us to serve more young girls in their efforts to gain a higher education and to achieve success,” said BBBSLA board chairman Laura Lizer. “I am thrilled for BBBS to receive this grant.”
“The Entertainment Industry Foundation applauds The Hollywood Reporter for its Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program, which has become a true example of how powerful the entertainment community can be when it bands together behind a united cause,” said EIF president and CEO Nicole Sexton. “The WIE Mentorship Program has provided so many young women with the skills they need to succeed and pursue the careers of their dreams.”