Los Angeles is the second largest city in the nation, covering nearly 500 square miles of southern California. The metropolitan area, dominated by cars and freeways, is home to more than nine million people. The vast workforce ranges from Hollywood media production and high-tech to oil distribution and fishing industries. The city also attracts a large number of recent immigrants in low-wage jobs.
Esperanza Elementary School sits in downtown Los Angeles, surrounded by skyscrapers and busy streets. Ninety-six percent of the students at Esperanza are recent Hispanic immigrants from non-English speaking homes. Two percent are African American, and another two percent are Caucasian. Most of the students come from single-parent homes and share two-bedroom apartments with several other families.
LA's BEST was established at Esperanza Elementary School to give students a safe and productive after-school environment and to improve literacy skills through enrichment activities. The program has made a real difference. Regular school-day teachers have noticed that students who participate in LA's BEST have stronger literacy skills and better grades and test scores than students who don't.