|   Featured Grantee, News

“Our Herbert Zipper Scholars thrive as they are supported with 100% free tuition which provides them weekly with a 60-minute lesson, theory class, and ensemble and in many cases ensembles! Due to the comprehensiveness of their scholarship they often stand out as some of the most dedicated and talented students. On our Honors Recital last spring, four out of the five finalists for piano were Herbert Zipper Scholars – it was really truly amazing.”

-Susan Cook, Dean, Community School of Performing Arts

For over 70 years, the Colburn School has provided the highest quality in-person performing arts education to passionate and dedicated young students of music and dance in Los Angeles. Notable alumni include accomplished performers David Fung, Eric Reed, Leila Josefowicz, Tamaki Kawakubo, and Anne Akiko Meyers.

Driven by the belief that all who desire to study the performing arts should have access to top-level instruction, the school offers robust scholarship support for students of all ages and skill levels. The Herbert Zipper Scholars Program offers highly motivated students from low-income families the opportunity to enroll, tuition-free, and receive a comprehensive music education in the Community School for Performing Arts.

During the pandemic issues arose: how does one teach dance, music, and performance at a professional level remotely and/or distanced, without sacrificing quality of education? The Colburn School soon learned that the challenge presented by the pandemic could be reframed as opportunity to discover new ways to enhance students’ skills. The school pivoted quickly to online classes, implementing high tech to reach its 2,000 students, including 40 Herbert Zipper Scholars, installing new technology in classrooms, distributing high quality audio software, and hosting small group and private lessons for its students.

The pivots were met with great success. The online classes allowed students who previously experienced shyness or anxiety towards performing to gain more confidence behind the screen. Online master classes gave students access to high profile artists that would not normally be available due to conflicting performance schedules and travel. Student retention remained high and, perhaps most surprisingly, the private lessons proved highly successful as students often progressed more rapidly due to one-on-one instruction. To build upon this success, the Colburn School has been working with Amy Kirkland (previously, Carnegie Hall, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lincoln Center) to further develop new innovative curriculum for students, created specifically for an online environment.

The Colburn School also launched Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives during the pandemic, which continue to expand. The school is creating new partnerships with local and national organizations established in the EDI space including the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, the largest majority Black orchestra in America, and Sphinx, a Detroit-based national organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Among other EDI initiatives, the school has also launched the Amplify Series, which celebrates the careers of artists of color through a number of on-campus, short-term residencies that include performances, master classes, and panel discussions.

Other exciting news from Colburn in recent months includes the hiring of ballet rockstars Silas Farley (previously with New York City Ballet) and Darleen Callaghan (former director of Miami City Ballet School and North Carolina Dance Theatre School of Dance), as the Dean and Associate Dean of Colburn’s Trudl Zipper Dance Institute.

L.L. Foundation for Youth is proud to contribute to the Colburn School’s success, and looks forward to participating in its growth!

I am wholeheartedly grateful for the Herbert Zipper Scholarship because it gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in my craft from multiple angles of theory, dance, voice, and theater.”

-Liesel Arauz, voice

  |   Featured Grantee, News

“With the funds from L.L. Foundation for Youth, we have funded the Ava Grace Counselor Scholarship Fund, which was created in memory of our past Camp Harmony Counselor who lost her battle with brain cancer. This scholarship fund will be used, solely, to cover the cost of camp for counselors that cannot afford the counselor fees or any costs associated with camp. The vast majority of these counselors that are requesting financial aid are former campers. There is nothing more meaningful to Harmony then watching former campers come back as counselors!”

-Lindsay Schwartz, Executive Director, United in Harmony, Camp Harmony

Since 1989, United in Harmony’s Camp Harmony has brought loving and safe experiences to children experiencing poverty and homelessness in the Greater Los Angeles area. An overnight camp in Malibu, it is designed to give each child hope, opportunities, all the love they can take and all the food they need. By creating a safe space where campers can play freely, Camp Harmony helps campers grow new talents, learn to trust, and develop self-esteem.

COVID-19 proved to be a great challenge to the overnight camp model. “In June [2021] we were very hopeful [we would be able to host Camp Harmony] but [the] Delta [strain of the Coronavirus] happened. We did not want to cancel camp. We believe Camp Harmony is an important experience to serve campers,” explains Executive Director Lindsay Schwartz. Rather than cancel the camp, the program shifted to a day-only model, loading kids into buses at 6:45 am to reach the new location: a park in Ojai. This new model was able to serve over 200 children in a three-day period. According to Schwartz,

“We found a way to still have every one of our programs. It didn’t matter where we were…we were in a brand new park and setting but you could still feel the heart of Camp Harmony. You could see the bonds created and counselors giving the attention the kids really need. You could still feel the love and spirit.”

Despite the drastic changes, Camp Harmony found a way to connect with their campers, and was able to deliver such a great experience, in great part due to their internal participant and staffing model, which fits perfectly within the organization’s vision and mission statement, and in turn, creates a very close and supportive community that builds upon itself.

Campers

Camp Harmony is a nexus of cultural and socio-economic communities. Pre-Covid, the operation was large, with over 350 counselors and 200 adult support staff. In the past, constituents from over 12 shelters, agencies and schools sent their children to Camp Harmony, totaling over 600 underserved children each year, with all tuition covered by United in Harmony. Campers enjoy a wide assortment of activities along with three hot meals served each day, and over 300 sleeping bags distributed to campers during the summer overnight sessions. Campers are also offered ample support and supervision, as each cabin hosting three to four counselors for every eight to ten campers. Campers have such an exciting experience that many of them come back to serve as counselors when they have aged out of the camper experience. Marissa Guadarrama, a former camper turned volunteer Camp Harmony counselor, shares:

“When I was very young, I came to this camp as a camper…Ever since [then] I told myself I wanted to be a counselor… I wanted to do the same thing that those counselors a long time ago did for me. They provided me with one of the most fun things I have ever experienced…I want the experience…from a different point of view. The view of a counselor. “

Counselors and Staff

While the campers are all underserved children, counselors are recruited from 35 different local high schools and are expected to pay for their own camp experience (room and board). This becomes tricky when applicants are former campers who cannot afford the fees. Camp Harmony does everything possible to help with these fees, as is evidenced by the Ava Grace Counselor Scholarship Fund, created to cover fees for former campers who wish to return as counselors. The counselor experience turns young high school students into community leaders who serve as role models for the young campers as they closely guide campers’ experiences. Former camper, now counselor, Jasmine Martinez explains:

“I have returned back to the place that taught me that there are people out there in the world rooting for me. This summer Camp Harmony gave me the best gift and allowed met to return back as a counselor to young girls in the same position I once was.”

At the highest level, Camp Harmony staffs its groups with Unit Heads: college students from across the country who volunteer in a more managerial capacity and lead the leaders of the camp.

L.L. Foundation for Youth is proud to support Camp Harmony’s mission to create leadership opportunities to high school aged youth, regardless of socio-economic status, through the funding of Camp Harmony’s Ava Grace Scholarship Fund. This fund will provide scholarships for high school students, such as Marissa Guadarrama, Jasmine Martinez and Keila Merida (below) who would otherwise be unable to pay for their own expenses to volunteer as Camp Harmony counselors.

“I used to be a camper at Camp Harmony… My favorite thing …was meeting new people and having a dance party after dinner…I remember …we used to do [activities] with our counselors like yoga, candle making, and the amazing race. [As a new Camp Harmony counselor] I hope to gain… leadership and better communication skills. Camp Harmony can help me get leadership skills because as a counselor you have to be a role model for campers and other counselors. Not only will I learn to be a role model but I would also learn to team build with other people… I hope to gain better communication skills because it can help me stand up for people and be able to express my opinions in a positive way. I know this is achievable because I looked up to my counselors when they would always be so confident when speaking and they made the other campers and I feel welcomed there. “

-Keila Merida, Former Camp Harmony Camper Turned Volunteer Camp Harmony Counselor

 

 

  |   Featured Grantee, News

“We look forward to breaking ground on a new Teen Village, thanks to the generous support of the L.L. Foundation for Youth. It will be a beautiful home for our teens to grow, build community and participate in immersive nature-based Jewish experiences. This enhancement to our campsite could not come at a better time for our teens.”

-Jamie Simon, Chief Executive Officer, Camp Tawonga 

A Focus on Diversity and Mental Health During the Pandemic

For 95 years, Camp Tawonga has served as a leader in Jewish camping with a mission that fosters positive self-esteem, cooperative community and enduring connections to nature and Judaism. Tawonga’s campsite spans 160 acres just outside of Yosemite National Park. Each summer, children arrive at Camp ready to stretch their comfort zones and return home more compassionate, self-confident and curious. Resonant, innovative programming for children, teens, young adults and families continues in the San Francisco Bay Area throughout the year. 

In recent years, Tawonga has prioritized organizational change, with a keen focus on Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) initiatives. The agency is committed to bringing more Jews of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people with physical and mental disabilities into the fold. To that end, Tawonga has provided multiple diversity trainings to staff and board, recruited more Jews of color to the board and is partnering with Project Shamash to host its first ever Jewish Families of Color Weekend on September 9-12, 2021. Additionally, the agency has offered the country’s first all-gender cabin option to children who identify as non-binary, retrofitted the campsite with ADA-compliant facilities and invested in mental health support. 

While Tawonga hires licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) and Inclusion Specialists to work with campers and staff during the summer sessions, they significantly  expanded their mental health services this past summer. After a year of social isolation, screen fatigue and the cancellation of Tawonga’s 2020 season, the need for more mental health resources was pressing. One Tawonga director notes, “This summer, especially, kids and counselors came to Camp with so many issues. When you hold a community like that, you need to be prepared with the right resources in place.” 

Tawonga’s new Teen Village will provide a dedicated space on the Tuolumne County campsite for their teens. This new area will provide opportunities for curated programming and community building away from the younger campers. The ability to cultivate tight-knit relationships will strengthen their sense of belonging that is so critical at this stage of life.  

L.L. Foundation for Youth is proud to support Camp Tawonga’s leadership in JEDI and mental health work.

“I have been attending Camp Tawonga each summer as a camper since I was 8 years old. I am now 16, and I recently completed my final session as a camper. For me, Tawonga is a sanctuary that provides some escape from the stress of the real world. At Tawonga, there is no pressure to turn in assignments on time or keep up with social trends. Everyone is free to be themselves, without fear of judgement…Not having camp to return to last summer was hard, and coming back in the summer of 2021 was very healing. I’ve been home for almost a week now, and I miss camp so much already. I am confident that the friendships I made will last my lifetime and I will be a part of the Tawonga community forever.”

-Solly Lezin-Schmidt, Camp Tawonga Camper

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