Samantha Gonzalez started attending LA’s BEST in 3rd grade when her mom started working. Since a young age, Samantha had a curious mind. When we asked about her time in the program, Samantha mentioned exploring the different enrichment activities offered at LA’s BEST, including Dance & Drill, art club, soccer, and science club. To her, afterschool was an opportunity to explore new things. She wanted a taste of everything so she could find what most interested her.
More than anything, Samantha valued the independence and autonomy she gained in the program. Samantha remembered that the staff encouraged students to create their own clubs if they wanted to. She wanted to learn sign language and also wanted to learn how to code, so the staff helped her start an American Sign Language (ASL) Club and a Coding Club. According to Samantha, “Being in LA’s BEST taught me that if I want to do something, I could explore more. If I want to learn more about a certain topic, I could take the initiative to learn more about it. If I want something really badly, I can make it happen. That was really instilled in me because of LA’s BEST.”
After culminating from LA’s BEST, Samantha wanted to continue the activities she enjoyed most in the program. In middle school and high school, she joined cheerleading as a way to continue doing Dance & Drill; she joined track and cross country after discovering her love for running in the sports clubs; and she extended her interest in science beyond STEM clubs to pursue a career in medicine.
“LA’s BEST helped me navigate my learning and tap into my potential by letting students build our own clubs and lead our learning. I was used to taking initiative in LA’s BEST and that stuck with me throughout my life.”
Whether it was making clubs or joining sports, Samantha emphasized that the program allowed her to communicate her thoughts with adults, learn different concepts, and gain autonomy for her learning and for herself.