Megan, Peter Chernin celebrate $4 mil grant

Donated by Amgen to Mentor Los Angeles

Megan and Peter Chernin held a celebration dinner Sunday night in Beverly Hills, celebrating the biotech firm Amgen's $4 million dollar grant to Mentor Los Angeles Partner Schools.

The evening was hosted by Joachim Splichal at his new restaurant Paperfish where guests were treated to a four-course meal with testimonials and speeches in-between explaining the crucial need for investment in public education, namely Los Angeles public schools. MLA Partner Schools already has had great success with "hybrid" school West Adams Prep in Los Angeles, a clear example of what public schools can achieve as hybrid schools are neither charter or private schools. The Amgen grant, spanning three years, will help MLA Partner Schools continue their mission of improving schools and empowering neighborhoods.

The need for such investment was made clear throughout the evening as stark statistics were cited: The L.A. public school system ranks 21st in the nation; one-third of Los Angeles children in public schools are in foster care and dealing with severe problems.

Mike McGalliard, president and executive director of MLA Partner schools said, "Schools are overrun by the social problems in the neighborhoods and the schools aren't resourced to handle them."

McGalliard also noted that West Adams Prep is a milestone example of a school where any child can enroll, there's no lottery for admission and the courses are college preparatory. The theme was clear: continued investment and belief leads to opportunity for students and a better public school system, currently enrolled with 700,000 children in the Los Angeles Unified School District, will lessen the pitfalls of crime, drugs and childhood obesity.

Megan and Peter Chernin gave the floor to many speakers including Superintendent David Brewer who said, "You cannot hide behind your gates because it will catch up to you. It'll catch up to you in your taxes or it'll catch up with you on the streets of L.A."

His message is that everyone needs to be a part of a solution to improving education to keep the U.S. a leader in work industries as well as locally in Los Angeles as today's students are the city's future workforce. He also stressed that there is plenty that the private and public sectors can do to help a school system that on the surface may seem bureaucratically complex at best and impenetrable at worst. There are many ways people can help.

"People ask 'What can I do?' and it doesn't have to just be money, " MLA Board member Teresa Nathanson said, citing the need for career mentoring and volunteerism, just as parents are helping in areas of supervision and other on-campus roles.

One example is MLA's Power Lunch program, providing students with field trips to network with Los Angeles businesses. Past lunches have included sessions with Governor Gray Davis's office, chief justices of the L.A. Superior court and The Hollywood Reporter . Guests at the three-hour event (with not one early departure in the house) included Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, Jim & Ann Gianopulos, Amgen's Kevin Sharer and actress Jami Gertz. MLA Partner Schools board members also include CAA's Rick Hess, Fox's Alison Rein, Disney's Bob Iger, Frank Marshall, and Univision's Ivelisse Estrada. Megan Chernin is chair of the MLA Board representing the Chernin Family Foundation.