Erik Estrada, Oscar De La Hoya, Carlos Mencia & Others Support Tony Plana’s Nonprofit…
Most widely recognized for his character as Father Ignacio Suarez in Ugly Betty, Tony Plana has also played a Father to not only his two children, but over 20,000 underprivileged children, who over the last 15 years, have had the fortune to participate in the East L.A. Classic Theatre after-school program.Â East L.A. Classic Theatre is the nationâs only Latino based Theater Company that partners with school districts within underserved communities to develop literacy skills in English language learners and cultivate minority readers, writers and audiences through exposure to classic plays and literature.
In 1995, Tony Plana founded the non-profit East L.A. Classic Theatre with three other Latino artists to address the sociological, economical, and academic problems faced by underperforming children.Â Having emigrated to the U.S. from Havana, Cuba with his parents at the age of eight, Tony Plana understands the challenges faced by children of immigrants who may not speak English well or maybe not at all.
In a nation where 58% of Latinos drop out of college after the first year, East L.A. Classic Theatre has become increasingly vital for the educational growth and economic prosperity of Los Angeles and further, this country.Â In studying the devastating state of the education system, Tony Plana declared, âWe have to do something to help these kids.Â There is a huge pool of actors and actresses in Los Angeles who donât have stable careers.Â They are bright, dynamic, motivated leaders who can inspire youth and cultivate a love and appreciation of the theatre arts.Â Acting teaches literacy, speaking, writing and listening.Â If you are proficient in these core communication skills, you will be successful in school and better prepared for the real world.â
The LA Unified School District (LAUSD) is the largest (in terms of number of students) public school system in California.Â Further, it is the 2nd largest public school district in the United States only behind the New York City Department of Education. According to the âFingertip Facts 2009-2010â, the LAUSDâs ethnic enrollment breaks down as follows: 73% Hispanic origin, 11% African American, 9% European American (also known as a Euro-American, Caucasian American, and/or sometimes White American), 4% Asian American, 2% Filipino, and 1% were Native Americans and Pacific Islanders together.
Are you as surprised by these numbers as I am??Â I knew Latinos made up a large percentage of the public school population in Los Angeles but did not realize the number was this high.Â Latinos ARE our public school population.Â The Education Research Center calculates that LAUSD has the second worst graduation rate in the nation at 40.6%.Â Â This is a small part of the bigger national education crisis.Â How does the U.S. intend to remain competitive in the global society when 3/4 of Latinos drop out of high school after the first year and of the remaining only 43% go on to college?
Tony explains, âThese kids who have grown up constantly looking over their shoulders, instinctually on defense making sure they donât get mugged or shot, donât learn the same as kids who have grown up in higher-class households.Â They are tactical learners.Â They donât learn by sitting in the classroom and hearing someone lecture to them.Â We see kids come into our programs who donât speak at all and end up taking leads in plays.â
This tactical learning experience is exactly what East L.A. Classic Theatre offers to impoverished kids facing bilingual and bicultural issues.Â The curriculum is aligned to literacy standards of the state of California.Â Sadly, due to extreme budget cuts by the Department of Education, elementary, middle and high schools that have supported the East L.A. Classic Theatre after-school program have been painstakingly forced to cut it.Â Tony Plana says, âWe can no longer rely on the government to support our programs; we have to turn our focus to the private sector.Â We need help.â
On Friday, October 8th Tony Plana, and comedian Carlos Mencia hosted the first annual Charity Golf Tournament and Comedy Show âTo Be, Or Not To Be âŚ Carlos Mencia,â ACT II, Meet Me At The Golf Course! at the Montebello Country Club to raise funds for the East L.A. Classic Theatre.Â It was a star-studded club.Â Celebrities in attendance were Erik Estrada, famous for his Ponch character in CHiPs; “The Golden Boy”Â Oscar De La Hoya; Grammy Award-nominated singer and actress Maria Conchita Alonso; Producer/Writer/Director Dennis Leoni; Riccardo Dalmacci; Esai Morales; Mexican film icon Jorge Rivero; Ezequiel Stremiz; Raul Rodriguez; and comedians Rick Najera, Momo Rodriguez, and Richard Villa.
Latin in LA TV arrived bright and early at 7:00 AM for the VIP breakfast reception with Carlos Mencia.Â The crowd was ecstatic to have Oscar De La Hoya make a surprise appearance!Â He grew up in Montebello and told us that he âplays at Montebello Country Club often so was excited to come down to partake in the festivities and support a good cause.âÂ At 9:00 AM the 150 golfers teed off in a scramble soaking in the glorious sunny day, stopping between holes for tastings of Alma De Agave tequila and Conjure Cognac.Â At the 11th hole Taco Nazo taco truck awaited ravenous golfers with the âWorldâs Best Fish Tacos.â Oscar De La Hoya seemed to love the tacos better than the golf.Â He waltzed behind the grill and began flipping his own tortillas.Â Apparently, he is a long-time regular at the 32-year-old iconic taco joint â a business that has now grown to consist of six locations in LA.
At 2:00 PM, celebrities and golfers hit the red carpet, comedy show and silent auction while sipping on cocktails and munching on Mexican appetizers.Â Event partners included: Tina Maria Salinas, President of Hispanic Touch Talent, Latina Golfers Association, MS&A Marketing, Trader Vicâs, L.A. Dodgers, AEG, The Coca-Cola Company, AT&T and Memorial HealthCare IPA.
All in all East L.A. Classic Theatreâs first charity golf tournament was a gran ĂŠxito.Â It was so successful that they have already set a date for the second annual tournament to take place next October.Â Stay tuned for details.Â You donât have to wait until then to get involved.Â East L.A. Classic Theatre needs your support. Tony Plana and Angela Weimer, Executive Director reiterate, âWe are looking for committed individuals to help guide us by joining our Board of Directors and/or becoming a donor to the organization.âÂ For more information, visit: http://www.eastlaclassic.org/.
East L.A. Classic Theatre: 761 Terminal St.â¨Building 1, 2nd Floorâ¨Los Angeles, CA 90021, (213) 572-0121â¨http://www.eastlaclassic.org/
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