Multiple Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist Soledad O'Brien and Screen Actors Guild Award-winning star of This Is Us, Jon Huertas were both honored at the Los Angeles Team Mentoring (LATM) 21st Annual Soiree celebration with the annual Humanitarian Award and Dream Big Award, respectively.

Maria Melton, Kim Bondy, Jon Huertas, Soledad O'Brien, William Figueroa.

Twenty-seven years after the eruption of the L.A. riots, LATM, Los Angeles’ pioneering non-profit organization guiding middle school students from challenging urban neighborhoods to reach their full potential and develop their leadership skills, celebrated its anniversary at the gala, which was held on the evening of Thursday, October 3rd at The Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills.

The evening raised over $850,000.

Also honored at the Soiree this year was The Aerospace Corporation, receiving the “Outstanding Service to the Community Award” for its proven commitment to social responsibility, with employees contributing resources, time and money to educational, social and environmental programs.

“We are so thrilled to have Jon Huertas and Soledad O’Brien here this evening,” said Maria Melton, Executive Director of LATM. “Many of the middle school students in the LATM program do not have the family security and support every boy and girl must have in order to become confident adults who can pursue their dreams. Jon and Soledad both exemplify the spirit and dedications that so perfectly illustrate how the LATM program successfully directs thousands of challenged youngsters to Dream Big. They are true examples of dreaming big, and are a big inspiration for our students.”

“Thank you Los Angeles Team Mentoring for this incredible honor,” said honoree Jon Huertas. “I didn’t have LATM, but… I found my team of mentors. To mentor a child empowers them. Indoctrinates them with confidence, resilience, perseverance and determination. So that they can attain the valuable education needed to fulfill their own big dreams. I accept this in honor of all the mentors who have helped a kid dream big,” added Huertas.

Soledad O’Brien, who was introduced by Kim Bondy, her best friend and the Executive Producer/Showrunner of TBS’ and TNT’ Chasing the Cure, spoke about the strong influence her parent’s had on her growing up. She explained that both her parents instilled in her the philosophy of helping others and fostered her humanitarianism. Soledad’s passion for community outreach and social impact, lead her to create The PowerHERful Foundation, which provides mentorship, wraparound support and financial assistance to get young women to and through college.

LATM’s annual Soiree is the organization’s signature fundraising event, which ensures over 330 volunteer mentors are able to provide critical mentoring services to over 1,300 at-risk youth for an entire school year. This year’s presenting sponsors Live Nation, TPG Real Estate, Latham & Watkins were joined by Keenan & Associates, Dolby, Banc of California, Goldman Sachs, Greenspoon Marder, Ernst & Young, Nickelodeon, Deluxe, Row8, Kirkland & Ellis and many more.

Immediately in the wake of the 1992 civil unrest, Los Angeles Team Mentoring (LATM) launched its first after-school mentoring program at Horace Mann Middle School, located just three miles from the epicenter of the Los Angeles Riots. Its team-based mentoring model, developed by the Princeton Center for Leadership, was instituted to train and encourage that leadership, the benefits of which have long been helping to modify the effects of gang activity, violence, poverty and high drop-out rates of young people.

Since its inception, the organization has impacted the lives of 27,000 young people through over two and a half million hours of after school mentoring. The organization focuses on the critical non-school hours – after-school, weekends and summers – to ensure that students have a safe and structured programming and access to trusted adult role models. Youth enroll in LATM’s program in 6th, 7th and 8th grade. Although LATM does not provide tutoring, students in the program not only earn higher grades—but go on 4 years later to graduate at a 22% higher rate — in spite of 29% of those same students coming from homes where neither parent has graduated from high school. In addition, 100% of LATM youth have increased self-esteem — giving them the critical foundation they need to dream big and succeed at all things in life.

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