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L.A.'S BEST, GETTING BETTER AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAM MARKS 16 YEARS.

Byline: Rick Orlov Staff Writer

L.A.'s BEST celebrated its 16th anniversary Friday as a nationwide model for after-school programs with its expansion to seven more schools, including three in the San Fernando Valley.

California Secretary of Education Richard Riordan, the city's former mayor, and current Mayor James Hahn joined in a ceremony with parents, students and L.A.'s BEST graduates to honor the program, launched in 1988 by then-Mayor Tom Bradley.

Riordan, who spent millions trying to reform the city's school system, recalled Bradley asking him to serve on the board that created L.A.'s BEST, Better Educated Students for Today.

``He taught me an important lesson: to get the best people for the job and let them do their work,'' Riordan said. ``That's what we did with L.A.'s BEST and why it became one of the most important programs we have.''

Hahn announced the program will now be in 123 elementary schools serving more than 21,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

``When you have a good program, you don't try to re-invent the wheel, you just keep it going,'' he said.

``My hope is to see every kid in Los Angeles, every child in the nation, in a program like L.A.'s BEST. L.A.'s BEST is a win-win. It helps the students and it helps the community. When I was city attorney, we saw a drop in juvenile crime around schools where L.A.'s BEST was operating.''

L.A.'s BEST, operated by the LAUSD, is funded by the city and through private grants. It provides homework assistance, nutritious snacks and a variety of programs including arts, drill team and dance, reading and literacy activities, science club, and field trips.

The program will be expanded to Gledhill Elementary in Van Nuys, Osciola Elementary in Sylmar and Rio Vista Elementary in North Hollywood.

Other new schools on the L.A.'s BEST roster include Buckingham Elementary in Highland Park, 42nd Street Elementary in the Crenshaw District, Toland Way Elementary in Highland Park and Wilshire Crest Elementary in the Mid-city area.

Rick Orlov, (213) 978-0390

rick.orlov(at)dailynews.com

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The ``L.A.'s BEST Singers'' from 66th Street Elementary School are led by their teacher, Granville M. Oldham Jr., during ``Sweet Sixteen'' celebrations Friday.

Matthew Simmons/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 16, 2004
Words:399
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