The ongoing partnership between the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and The Friends has enabled EXPO Center to successfully continue its programs and services. The private sector support provided through The Friends is strategically directed to specific programs.
Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA@EXPO)
One of our most impactful programs is YOLA @ EXPO, the first of Gustavo Dudamel’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) initiative. This extraordinary free program provides 300 economically disadvantaged youth with access to exceptional instrumental and orchestral education, with a focus on excellence and creativity designed to instill self-discipline, teamwork and leadership, as well as a life-long love of music. In addition to these vital character traits, YOLA members also gain the tremendous poise and confidence that comes from performing at local venues including the Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall, and from the life-changing and broadening impact of travel to places including Boston, New York, London and Tokyo. Most recently, our advanced orchestra performed with the world-famous band Coldplay during the Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show and as part of the National Gallery of Art dinner honoring the National Medal of Arts and National Medal of Humanities in Washington, D.C. Since the program began 10 years ago, it has been managed as a collaboration between EXPO Center and The Friends, Harmony Project and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.
The Clubhouse @ EXPO
The Clubhouse @ EXPO is a flagship program in an international network of 100 Clubhouses located in 20 countries, providing youth with life-changing opportunities. The Clubhouse provides a creative and secure out-of-school learning environment where young people aged 11-17 work with mentors to explore their ideas, develop new skills and build confidence in themselves through the use of technology. EXPO Center has been a member of The Clubhouse Network since 2004, and annually provides more than 250 young people with meaningful learning opportunities that encourage them to express themselves through technology to create original artwork, animation, robots, multimedia presentations and graphic designs. In an effort to expand and enhance The Clubhouse, staff has developed the Youth FX Urban Media Program, a film and music program that introduces teens to the artistic and technical process of digital filmmaking and music production and explores the areas where technology and music intersect. Focusing on visual storytelling, artistic expression and performance, participants create digital video projects in various genres, including documentary, narrative short fiction, and public service announcements. Members expand their horizons through hands-on experiences in order to gain a first-hand understanding of innovations that exist in the music technology realm.
Our Teen Leadership Program motivates and prepares teens for work readiness, career development, and entrepreneurship through hands-on experiences and vocational life skills development. The program offers high school teens critical skills such as writing a resume, executing a job search, completing an application, and interviewing. Once they complete the program, youth are then eligible to apply for summer jobs at EXPO and our program partner, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) through the Summer Youth Job Corps, an award-winning program that provides a deeper level of preparation and on-the-job training for workplace success. The SYJC includes weekly luncheons that feature volunteer guest speakers from business, government and the non-profit sector who serve as inspiring role models and provide information and insight about college and career opportunities, also enabling the youth to develop that very critical resource for success – a professional network. Field trips supplement the weekly workshops, engaging the interns in meaningful activities outside of EXPO Center’s footprint. We also fund academic tutors to assist our struggling middle and high school students.
Afterschool Enrichment for Elementary Youth
The Afterschool Enrichment Program for Elementary Youth offers children ages 5-11 that live or attend school in the Exposition Park area a rich, interactive and safe environment in the critical afterschool hours. Offered Monday-Friday, 2-6 p.m., the program provides academic and recreational activities including homework assistance, computer lab instruction, chess, science, drama and music, arts and crafts, games, cooking, swimming lessons, cultural activities, and field trips. In order to ensure safety for the young participants whose parents cannot drop them off, The Friends funds the Walk Crew, which is led by EXPO staff and meets children at nearby schools to walk with them to the facility, as well as EXPO vans, which pick up children at elementary schools that are not within walking distance. With The Friends’ support, EXPO has increased the number of children served from 16 to 100 weekly.
The Summer Campership Program gives economically disadvantaged children the opportunity to attend EXPO’s exciting camp, where they experience a wide variety of activities such as swimming, soccer, football, baseball, arts and crafts, and a computer lab. Weekly field trips take young campers to venues such as the California Science Center, Venice Beach and Disneyland – all places they would likely never experience otherwise.
Each year, The Friends provides 50-80% camp scholarships to approximately 400 families who cannot afford the weekly $120 fee. Despite the assistance, paying the $24-$60 per week for camp is a hardship for many of our families. Most can only afford to send their child to one or two weeks of summer camp, leaving their child at home for the remainder of the summer. The number of children we can help is limited by the amount of scholarships we have to give away. The Friends has a dire need to increase summer camp scholarships so every child who wants to attend camp has the opportunity.
Learn to Swim Program
Our Learn to Swim Program is a series of ten one-hour classes that provide life-saving water skills and progressively advancing swimming lessons to children (Kindergarten through Grade 12) enrolled in local schools that do not have funding for physical education classes. Local schools bus or walk their students to EXPO Center for group lessons one or several days weekly.
Nationally, 70% of African-American and 60% of Latino children cannot swim and tragically, more than 700 children are victims of drowning accidents each year. These skills not only save lives, they help children gain mastery over a basic life skill, thus gaining the confidence and self-esteem that result and avoiding the life-long fear and insecurity that would otherwise linger.
Funded by the LA84 Foundation, the Learn to Swim Program makes it possible for more than 3,000 children to learn to swim each year, teaching over 40,000 students since the program’s inception.Some youth continue to develop their aquatics skills through EXPO Center’s competitive swimming, water polo, diving, Junior Lifeguard, and synchronized swimming programs.
Kids In Sports @ EXPO
Over 6,000 children and teens participate each year in affordable, high-quality volleyball, basketball, soccer, and t-ball programs. Throughout the year EXPO Center offers multiple seasons of league play giving local girls and boys the opportunity to be part of a supportive team, build self-confidence and sportsmanship, and stay physically active. Free sports clinics are held throughout the year to help local youth learn new sports and develop their athletic skills.
Cyber Seniors, Mambo Mania & Yoga Suave
Cyber Seniors offers free computer training and Internet access. Taught by Frederick Johnson, a retired multi-lingual teacher, the program is divided into four levels of computer instruction: Introductory, Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Each level meets one day per week for a total of 15 weeks. Since the program began in 2005, over 1,600 seniors have graduated, better connecting them to friends, family and the world.
Mambo Mania is a comprehensive full-body workout designed for active seniors that features dancing, light weights, abdominal work and stretching to Latin rhythms. Taught by Lois Thornburg, a passionate longtime dance instructor, the class is offered two mornings per week. The hour-long Mambo Mania class is followed by Yoga Suave, which combines basic yoga poses, breathing exercises, and light meditation to soft Latin music. Our seniors report weight loss, lowered blood pressure, reduced medications, diminished joint pain and the joy of friendship and community with their peers.