I was excited to spend the day at LACES(Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies) last month in support of Career Day. I was not only impressed with the campus itself but for the enthusiastic response to this annual event. For those unfamiliar with the school, LACES is a highly academic magnet just east of Robertson that serves 6th-12th grades. Originally, before Palms Middle School was created, LACES was known as Louis Pasteur Junior High and was the alma mater of many of my relatives as well as thousands of other Los Angeles kids. I was joined by a host of other professionals to speak about their experiences in a variety of careers. Lawyers, doctors, plumbers, and artists all took a turn at the podium- even our lead officer Chris Baker was there to talk about being a police officer. I shared my trajectory that started with excelling in school before embarking in a variety of industries before becoming a real estate agent in my 30s. I told them the journey is as important as the destination and if I had enjoyed being a lawyer more, I might never have found myself in the career in which I’m thriving today. I shared the plusses and minuses of being in real state, namely that you don’t get a salary and if you don’t bring in business, you don’t get paid! However, while sometimes unstable, especially when the markets turn downward, being an entrepreneur and your own boss can ultimately be incredibly rewarding. I hope I inspired a few of the LACES students to think about real estate as a future career and I was honored to be among such esteemed professionals also there to share a bit about what they do every day
It’s May! This is the month to celebrate mothers, Memorial Day and, for some college students, May marks the end of another school year. It seems rather inconceivable that we are already in the place with our middle son to even think about college. Just yesterday he was dressed up in a little suit graduating from Castle Heights Elementary. And what feels like mere moments ago, his older brother was pouring over college applications, stressed out with choices and decisions. Like most parents’ going through such an experience with first born children, we were flying blindly with no clue what to do. Our parents weren’t too involved when my wife and I were seniors applying to schools, so we took a back seat approach to our son Mason, too. Luckily, he’s pretty type A in that he was very comfortable navigating the world of college applications solo. His high school (the Geffen Academy at UCLA) provided what seemed to be strong counselors to assist with deadlines and compiling lists of potential schools. When Mason’s counselor quit in the middle of the process, we probably should’ve found outside help to get him over the finish line but figured he had come this far already, no sense bringing in anyone new at the eleventh hour. And our attitude (as naïve as it may sound) has generally been you’ll get into some places, rejected from others and ultimately end up where you’re meant to be.
Honestly, the whole college game is a racket. The kids we know are so over-the-top qualified to go to any elite school, there’s absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t be accepted at every single one of them. Seeing spots go to students with lesser resumes is demoralizing and depressing and should be filed under the ‘sometimes life isn’t fair,’ column. Then there’s all this language we never had to deal with back in the 1990s: Early Decision, Early Action, Early Decision II, binding contracts, rescinding applications. It’s a whole new world and it’s complicated. Kids today work so hard in high school and then cram their available minutes with volunteer hours, activities, jobs, app developments, charity work and are still faced with disappointment because they have their hearts set on going to one of a few trendy or top-notch schools. I wish I could sit each of these astounding kids down and tell them that in the long run it really doesn’t matter. Their worth or future is not built on what one or two colleges decide.
Mason was deflated when he didn’t get into his top choice after being placed on the waitlist (Wharton). He got into a few schools but then got rejected from even more. This is a kid who never got below an A, had stellar SATs, was president of his debate team and on and on and blah blah blah blah. He still got rejected from top notch schools and was understandably sad, wondering what was it all for?? But at the end of the very long and arduous process, luckily he had two great choices from which to choose (which ironically happened to be the alma maters of both his parents): Wesleyan or UCLA. He ultimately decided to go to UCLA and even though all summer he mourned what might’ve been had he decided to go back east, today he’s the happiest we’ve ever seen him. He loves being a Bruin and is having the time of his life.
Back when Mason was going through this process, and we couldn’t travel due to the pandemic, he applied to schools mostly sight unseen. Now with the pandemic in the rear view mirror, middle son Spencer was able to spend spring break ‘23, touring a bunch of back east schools. Four out of five of us braved the freezing cold weather (shockingly, Mason opted to spend his vacation with the entire UCLA Greek system in Cabo instead, go figure!) and together we visited 10 colleges in five days. It was a whirlwind! And did I mention freezing? But it was great to expose the boys to the beauty that is a small liberal arts education. The campuses were lush and green with ivy-covered buildings, hundreds of years old. I took them to visit Wesleyan and showed them my old dorm and the lawn where I’d sit with my buddies playing guitar. We took tours and saw friends’ kids who are current freshmen at Brown, Tufts and Vassar. We heard enthusiastic tour guides explain why they loved their respective schools. We saw a Red Sox game and remarked how cool it would be to live in a town where you could actually walk to the hometown stadium. We saw beautiful schools with the rose-colored glasses of ‘what could be’ yet also with a slightly cynical eye knowing there’s no such thing as a sure thing.
I guess what I’m saying as the next crop of students endeavor to start applying for colleges (including my fantastic son, Spencer): go easy on yourselves. You are already great and not only does the perfect college not exist, but where you go does not define who you are or the hard work you’ve already done. In many ways the college application process is a lot like being a real estate agent. You work hard, you present the best possible version of yourself or the product you’re marketing but you’re not always going to make the sale or get the listing. It happens all the time and when it does, it feels terrible! But being an adult means you pick yourself up and move on and hope for a better outcome the next time around.
So kids, if you’re listening, keep your spirits up, know you’ll get in somewhere and most importantly: please be kind to your parents. This experience is not easy for any of us!
More Westside Stories is the third book in a series that explores the history, sites, news-makers and interesting information pertaining to the creation of the Westside of Los Angeles. My father-in-law, Michael Harris, was working on this volume when he passed away and the project was completed and published posthumously by his brother, Godfrey Harris. If you would like to purchase a copy, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His first two books, Westside Stories and Westside Stories Too, can be found on Amazon.
It’s not really in my nature to get political. I tend to keep my head down, do my work, ignore the chatter and move forward. So it was out of my comfort zone to attend two events last month; first a “Meet & Greet,” for City Council nominee Katy Yaroslavsky followed by a panel of the four candidates running to represent District 5 (that’s us). It’s easy to gloss over these smaller, city-level elections in favor of the glitzier national ones. I’ll admit I don’t always vote when the ballot is so localized, waiting instead for the bigger elections with more recognizable names. But after some time, you realize that the local elections are often more impacting than whoever is running for President. One of the problems I’ve noticed is unless you’re willing to put in the work and really get to know who the candidates are, you’re in a sense throwing away your vote because you don’t know anything about whose box you’re checking on the ballot.
The City Council plays an integral role in our city. Paul Koretz had represented our area for several years, and while he had a few fans, there were many more constituents who were thoroughly frustrated by the job he was doing. To be fair, though, it sounds like a difficult, thankless job in which he was most likely met with angry, irritated constituents complaining about a multitude of issues that were not getting addressed. I imagine the list of problems is triple the length of actual solutions and no matter how altruistic the reasons of becoming a civil servant may be, it’s easy to leave the position feeling depleted and frustrated by lack of action, too. So, to that end, I applaud anyone who is attempting to be elected and take on this role next. It’s not an easy thing to do but from what I witnessed, the candidates all seem to have the energy and passion to do the job well.
But what exactly is the job in the first place? (and don’t quote me, I’m no expert!) In broad strokes, the City Council is responsible for creating and enacting laws for the city. They’re like the legislative and judicial branch all in one. Each councilmember represents his/her district and together they try to create laws and budgets to benefit their constituents. The mayor works closely with the council and it’s imperative that councilmembers work together in order to create consensus to get the mayor on board with what they want to do.
Councilmembers also take existing city laws and budgets and try to massage them into better serving their community. Because the city of Los Angeles is so huge, our councilmembers often need to work with various L.A. County organizations, reaching across different individual bureaucracies to access resources. They also should be well versed in acquiring available funds on the state and federal levels to help pay for what we need.It was interesting to hear the panel of candidates tackle the biggest issues currently facing our District 5. They each had about ninety seconds to address everything from how to handle the increasing homeless problem; how to create more affordable housing; how to fix traffic headaches and ensure pedestrian safety; how to tackle climate change; how to increase/decrease the roles of police officers; and basically how to better the lives of millions of people from east of the 405 to Koreatown and south of Mulholland to Palms. It’s a huge undertaking and whoever gets the job definitely has his/her work cut out for them.
But now comes the fun part! Between today and the primary on June 7, take a minute to research the four candidates and see who resonates closest with you and who you would like to be your representative on the City Council. Here are the four people running: Jimmy Biblarz, Scott Epstein, Katy Young Yaroslavsky and Sam Yebri. They each have comprehensive websites that detail their professional backgrounds, government experience, where they stand on the issues and how they’ll go about solving them. Then, you may want to find out the next time they’re speaking and try to catch them in person. At the event we attended for Katy Yaroslavsky, we talked at length about crime and how it feels as though the criminals are emboldened to commit these acts because there doesn’t seem to be any real consequences to their actions. She told me about her plan to get more support for police officers and reallocate the mental health and homeless calls to qualified professionals in those fields, thereby allowing officers to patrol more often, arrive quicker and concentrate on why they wanted to be police officers in the first place: to keep our neighborhoods safe.
I wish good luck to Katy and all the other candidates. They are taking on a herculean task by just running for this particular office and no matter who ultimately wins, I’m glad there are those willing to put themselves out there just to help make our city (and community within the city) a better place for all.
For many years, once every couple of months, neighborhood ladies would get together to enjoy a little wine, delicious snacks and lots of laughs! Of course we had to take a pause for the last few years due to the pandemic but now that Covid numbers are (hopefully) waning and the weather is warming, now seems like a great time to bring the “Wine Nights” back! Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join. The first one in this post-pandemic world will be held on April 12 from 7-9pm. If you would like to come, please send me an email and I’ll forward you the evite. If you are interested in hosting on in the future, that would be great as we need hosts to keep the party going. No pressure for anything fancy! These get-togethers are really just an excuse to get out of the house for a few hours, see old friends/neighbors and hopefully meet some new ones. In the past we’ve included jewelry shopping, book readings and other special guests in the festivities. I hope you’ll join us in April! Here’s my email to get all the details: email@example.com