Verizon Supports Los Angeles Mayor's Educational Initiative With $1 Million Grant

SYLMAR, Calif. - To support Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's efforts to improve the quality of education in Los Angeles schools in underprivileged areas, Verizon today announced it will provide a $1 million grant to expand a major after-school education program.

The grant to LA's BEST (Better Educated Students for Tomorrow), a key component of the mayor's Community Partnership for School Excellence, will enable the after-school program to expand to additional elementary schools. The program will also create best-practices sites, where staff will be trained for similar programs at other schools. 

"Verizon applauds Mayor Villaraigosa for championing quality education in Los Angeles' schools," said Tim McCallion, Verizon West region president. "Verizon is investing in the network of the future, and today we are investing in the education of the children who will be the leaders of the future."

McCallion, Villaraigosa and LA's BEST President and CEO Carla Sanger made the announcement at Sylmar Elementary School, one of the 10 original LA's BEST schools when the program began in 1988.

"This grant will apply the knowledge, experience and research-proven programs of LA's BEST to expand after-school enrichment opportunities for children throughout the Mayor's Community Partnership," said Villaraigosa. "Extending the school day and giving our children the extra help they need will be key to improving their achievement."

Currently more than 25,000 children aged 5-12 take part in LA's BEST at no cost to their parents. The program reaches children in some of the city's lowest-performing and most-distressed areas.  The additional schools that will be part of the expanded program will be announced later.

"LA's BEST does not apply a one-size-fits-all approach," said Sanger. "Students have unique needs, and that's where LA's BEST really shines. These sites will demonstrate how an after-school program can connect with the regular school day but not be more of the same. We are confident that sharing these model programs will bring added value to all after-school providers in the clusters, as they seek to enhance students' learning beyond the classroom."

Each LA's BEST learning center will provide professional development and program support to expand the proven teaching techniques of LA's BEST in after-school programs throughout the Mayor's Community Partnership Schools. LA's BEST staff will offer unique opportunities for teachers and after-school providers to observe and learn, and will provide the practices and policies that have made LA's BEST such a successful partnership.

In the 2001-02 school year, researchers from the Developmental Studies Center in Oakland, Calif., conducted an evaluation of KidzLit in eight LA's BEST sites. Children in second and fourth grades showed a significant increase in the amount of reading overall and in their positive feelings about their reading ability.  Spanish-speaking students showed significant increases in the proportion of correct words that were answered in English.

Key to the success of these after-school learning centers will be high standards and measures of accountability. Evaluation of the learning centers will include an independent study by UCLA's National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing (CRESST).  The study will look at increase in school attendance during the regular school day, students' willingness to read as a result of the literacy program, and survey the staff to assess the value of the teacher training in the learning centers.

LA's BEST was created by Mayor Tom Bradley to address an alarming rise in the lack of adequate adult supervision of children during the critical hours of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. From its inception, LA's BEST has maintained a balance of high-quality standards for education, enrichment and recreation guided by a mission of providing a safe and supervised after-school education, enrichment and recreation program for elementary school children ages 5-12 in Los Angeles.

Sylmar is part of the Southern California region served by Verizon, and the LA's BEST program at Sylmar Elementary School plays an important role in the lives of Verizon customers and their children.

Verizon works closely with a variety of advisory groups and nonprofit organizations to identify local needs and to develop and nurture programs that address those needs through the philanthropic support of the Verizon Foundation.

Verizon delivers technology that touches life. The Verizon Foundation uses that technology and its financial resources to improve literacy and K-12 education; help families victimized by domestic violence; and improve the delivery of health care. In 2005, the foundation awarded more than $74 million in grants to charitable and nonprofit agencies in the United States and abroad. The foundation also supports Verizon Volunteers, which is one of the largest employee volunteer programs in the United States and responsible for 2 million hours of community service since 2000 and $35.6 million in combined contributions to nonprofits in 2005 alone.

For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation.

LA's BEST - Better Educated Students for Tomorrow - is a nationally recognized after-school education, enrichment and recreation program serving more than 25,000 children with the greatest needs and fewest resources throughout the City of Los Angeles. LA's BEST After School Enrichment Program provides a safe haven for children, ages 5 to 12, at 153 elementary school sites each day during the critical hours after school - at no cost to parents. Established in 1988, LA's BEST is a partnership including the city of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the private sector.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), a New York-based Dow 30 company, is a leader in delivering broadband and other wireline and wireless communication innovations to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers.  Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving nearly 57 million customers nationwide.  Verizon's Wireline operations include Verizon Business, which operates one of the most expansive wholly-owned global IP networks, and Verizon Telecom, which is deploying the nation's most advanced fiber-optic network to deliver the benefits of converged communications, information and entertainment services to customers.  For more information, visit www.verizon.com.