Instead of spending their nights hanging out with friends or watching TV, high school students from the Los Angeles Youth Leadership Council (LAYLC) are learning what it takes to get to college and how they can make a difference in their neighborhoods, schools and cities.
The high school students from six urban youth centers are immersed in team-building and leadership activities through their involvement with the LAYLC, a program funded by the Majestic Realty Foundation. With the mission of creating a new generation of active citizens, the Foundation and LAYLC invited Elizabeth Robles, program associate for the Campaign for College Opportunity, to lead the students through a series of activities on the importance of higher education access and success.
“The students began by discussing why it is important that they go to college,” said Meghan Loper, program director of the Majestic Realty Foundation. “Soon after, Elizabeth had them brainstorming what they would tell California’s leaders about the importance of investing in college access.”
The students’ were encouraged to participate in the annual “Save Me a Spot in College” Youth Scholarship Contest. This scholarship contest provides middle and high school students with an opportunity to learn about college, promote the value of college participation, and ensure that California provides a spot for every student who seeks it.
The value of scholarship support was further reinforced as students heard from four LAYLC Alumni who were also in attendance. Antonio Castaneda, a freshman at Boston University stressed the importance of seeking scholarships early, “After arriving in Boston and buying sheets and a pillow for my dorm room, I realized I was left with only $200 for four months! Books and supplies are very expensive and it all adds up fast; extra scholarship dollars would have made my first semester much easier.”
Kevin Solis, a freshman attending the University of Wisconsin at Madison discussed adapting to being far from home and the absence of diversity on his college campus, “In a class of 350 students, I was the only Hispanic – it has been culture shock leaving L.A. for Wisconsin.” Younger LAYLC members peppered their peers with questions about choosing a major, determining how many units to take and strategies for managing their free time.
LAYLC participants are selected from six local youth centers: The Bresee Foundation, El Centro del Pueblo, HOLA, Para los Niños, Salesian Boys & Girls Club of L.A., and the Salvation Army/Red Shield. The students take part in a variety of leadership and team-building activities, from college tours, to lessons on public speaking, economic literacy and civic affairs. LAYLC hosts regular meetings with high-profile guest speakers, such as public officials, business leaders and other decision makers. Additionally, LAYLC members are encouraged to take part in public meetings to voice their concerns about the important issues of the day.
“Through the LAYLC, we are hoping to create a future generation that is active in the community,” Loper said. “We want these students to know that their voice matters, that the issues that concern them concern us all. We are proud that our alumni have stayed engaged and are willing to share their college experiences and advice with their peers.”
A flagship program of the Majestic Realty Foundation, the Los Angeles Youth Leadership Council was created with the goal of turning at-risk teens into community leaders. The program is now in its seventh year.
Established in 2002, the Majestic Realty Foundation provides grants and other support to various charitable community partners that work the areas of youth, family, education, and health and violence prevention in the communities where Majestic Realty Co., one of the nation’s leading private commercial real estate developers, does business.