Palisades-Founded Level Up LA Continues to Provide Support for Under-Resourced Elementary Schools as it Approaches its Fourth Year
By SIMONE MCCLARY | and SIENA FERRARO
Sounds of laughter and screams of joy filled the air as children darted around the playground. It was the last day of school for students at Coliseum Street Elementary, and the end of year celebration—hosted by Palisades-founded and student-run organization Level Up LA on June 9—was in full swing.
“LULA is a group of students helping students who wish to ‘level up’ their education in the Los Angeles area,” according to the organization, which is heading into its fourth year of operations. “Throughout the past year they have expanded their resources and grown the LULA community, which has set them up for future success. With each LULA event, they are further reaching their goals and becoming more successful in meeting the individual needs of each school they partner with.”
A number of different stations were set up around the schoolyard during the celebration, with a wide range of activities for the students to participate in, from dancing and rock painting to kickball and soccer.
During the end of year celebration, Level Up LA President Tess Hubbard operated the book distribution station, guiding students through Coliseum Elementary’s library and helping them select up to seven books to take home for summer reading. Hubbard said seeing the clear impact working with Level Up LA has on under-resourced schools is a highlight of being involved with the organization.
“I love LULA because it’s not quite like other organizations that I’ve gotten involved in,” Hubbard said. “On days like today, you can so clearly see your impact, [especially] when you show up in your LULA gear and everyone is like, ‘Level Up is here!’ So it’s such a fun way to [make] an impact and see that your actions make a difference.”
Over the past year, Level Up LA has begun hosting extracurricular activities at their partner school to further help the students. Two members of the organization came to Coliseum before their own school day to host art classes, since in the past, students haven’t had access to art programs at school.
Vice President of Public Relations for Level Up LA and Palisades Charter High School student Alex DiGennaro explained that “multiple students who participate in sports themselves come and play sports with the kids,” using their own talents to help the kids even further.
Since the organization was founded in 2020 by Claire Haas, along with her son Zach Haas, Level Up LA is now nearing 100 student and parent members who are committed to its mission of providing financial support for under-resourced public schools in the LA area.
“COVID put a light on … the inequalities across these under-resourced schools, and how different [they are] from the environment that we [are used to seeing],” Claire said. “We wanted to do something different. Talking to Zach, I asked him, ‘What made you love learning?’ And he said, ‘I loved my experience in elementary school.’ And so I said, ‘Well, that’s where our impact needs to be.’”
According to Claire, Level Up LA students have used their own passions to drive the success of the organization—whether it be by leading a 13-week-long arts workshop or a six-week-long science program for students to attend and explore their own budding interests and passions.
She said the coupling of Level Up LA students’ passions combined with the business skills volunteering has taught them continuously reaps positive benefits—not only for the organization as a whole, but for each individual Level Up LA student and the schools they serve.
Since partnering with Level Up LA, Coliseum Elementary has seen large, beneficial changes from the support this organization provides. In the past year specifically, DiGennaro revealed that she has noticed an increase of Coliseum teachers reaching out to them to ask for things they would like to happen and voice their specific needs.
Bridgette Donald-Blue, the winner of the Teacher of the Year Award in 2022, discussed the impact she has seen since Level Up LA’s partnership with Coliseum a few years ago. She recalled how after being at home for almost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Level Up LA provided students with the important social and emotional aspects of school that they had been lacking for so long.
“The positiveness of Level Up is not just for the students, but the way they value the teachers,” Donald-Blue said. “They demonstrate the understanding that if you want success for education, you have to start with the teachers.”
In the past year, Level Up LA has hosted a number of events, including at Christmas. Level Up LA shared plans to continue providing these experiences for students as they continue to grow as an organization, adding additional community engagement events at Halloween and Valentine’s Day. The organization has also worked on campus beautification projects.
“Another important aspect of the Level Up community is their fundraising events,” according to LULA. “To be able to help their partner schools [including Coliseum Street Elementary, Maple Primary Center and Black Student Achievement Plan] in the most effective way possible, they need to fundraise to ensure they have the resources to make their goals possible.”
Efforts include setting up a table at Pacific Palisades Farmers Market, as well as partnering with area businesses, like BOCA, Obsessed Jewelry and Pearl Dragon, to raise awareness and funds. The team will partner again with BOCA on October 12 for its annual shopping event.
“In the last year Level Up has landed new sponsors in Capital Group, Cohen Asset Management and PrefCaf,” the organization reported. “The funds raised by all of these events and sponsors has allowed LULA to buy bridge the summer learning gap gifts for both Coliseum and Maple students, which helps them bridge the educational gap that occurs over summer break. They have also been able to buy back-to-school supplies for the students, new books, smart boards and other items that teachers have specifically requested from the LULA community.”
For more information, visit leveluplosangeles.org.
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