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THE GABRIELLA FOUNDATION
2016 END OF YEAR REPORT
Gabriella Charter School student
“Dance makes me
feel peaceful and
happy and it’s so
IN OUR WORDS
Gabriella Charter School student
“I like the artistic
moves that we do
and how they
into a little
“I love how everybody
dance! has always been
that warm, safe sanctuary
where I’ve come to dance
my heart out. Everyone
here has and always will
feel like a family.”
Through High-Quality Dance & Academics
We are delighted to share with you The Gabriella Foundation’s first ever End-of-Year Report, which
we designed to bring you up close to our daily work that is transforming the lives of youth living
in Los Angeles’ underserved communities. From the beautiful photos of our students, to their
colorful stories, to the details of our new program elements, accomplishments and future plans,
we are excited for you to experience dance as we do, and to witness its transformative impact on
the lives of those touched by it.
We also want to share with you The Gabriella Foundation’s journey of growth and development
and how it has transformed our organization and programming. From the birth of The Gabriella
Foundation to the establishment of the Gabriella Charter School, we are now two organizations
working side by side to create bright and inspired futures for underserved youth. Through the
Foundation’s award-winning program, everybody dance!, we have successfully created models of
in- and after-school dance training that are advancing academics, engaging students physically and
mentally, helping them acquire dance techniques, knowledge and self discipline, strengthening life
skills, and developing in them a love and appreciation of dance and the arts.
The Mission of The Gabriella Foundation is to transform
the lives of underserved youth in Los Angeles through
high-quality dance instruction.
Our Vision is for The Gabriella Foundation to be
nationally recognized as a model for transformative
work in the artistic expression of dance and creative
youth development, nurturing and sustaining
communities where youth, regardless of
economic or racial background, foster a lifelong
appreciation of dance, are leaders engaging
positively in their communities, serve as role
models and mentors to new generations, and possess
the self-discipline, confidence and sheer drive to reach
their full potential.
We have also established a pathway for our Teaching Artists, considered “some of the best
children’s dance instructors in the world,” according to the LA Times, a testament to their skill,
dedication and participation in ongoing evaluation and professional development. In academics,
Gabriella Charter School continues to stand out among Los Angeles charter schools, receiving
awards and top scores for academic excellence – including a 2016 California Gold Ribbon Award,
the 2016 Title 1 Achievement Award, and the 2016 California Exemplary Arts Program Awards
(only about 30 awards given across the state for arts!).
Our multi-faceted, highly successful program, everybody dance!, is allowing us to grow our
partnerships and community presence – The Gabriella Foundation launched everybody dance!
in-school dance training at Para Los Niños Middle School this fall and introduced everybody
dance! after-school dance training over the summer in the Watts community in partnership with
Summer Night Lights, Camp Ubuntu Watts and The Children’s Institute. Gabriella Charter School
just received news that its application was approved to open a new charter school for the
2017-2018 academic school year, bringing along the everybody dance! model of dance training
and incorporating the academic best practices that have made it a top-performing charter in
And we will continue to grow thanks to your tremendous support and encouragement. Your loyalty
and commitment to our community’s youth have made possible every accomplishment you will
read about in this report, every smile you will see, every dance form you will enjoy, everything we
will work toward today, tomorrow and in the future. On behalf of the staff and Boards of Directors
of The Gabriella Foundation and Gabriella Charter School, our sincerest thanks for your generosity,
and for your willingness to support our work in the coming year and beyond.
Leah Fischer & Joan Herman
The Gabriella Foundation Board of Directors
If Gabri were here, she would be proud of what we have built over the past 16 years.
I am so proud of the young people in our dance program and Charter School.
In one week this year, our charter school won three separate awards: the State’s Gold Ribbon School,
Lilian Gonzalez, the oldest daughter of immigrant parents, started in our dance program at age four, and
entered UC Santa Barbara this fall.
Exemplary Arts Education Award and Title 1 Academic Achievement Award.
These awards will be a huge help as our innovative charter gears up to open a new campus in 2017 in
another inner-city Los Angeles community.
Meanwhile, our highly-regarded in- and after-school dance program, everybody dance!, a winner of the 2014
National Arts & Humanities Awards, is laying down new roots in the underserved neighborhoods of South
Los Angeles and was a featured program on Give, a new series highlighting nonprofits making a difference
that is airing on NBC’s The More You Know.
It is wonderful to see the work of our talented and devoted teachers and Board members acknowledged.
And it’s nice to go to the White House to meet the First Lady.
But the greatest reward is seeing the happiness of the children in our programs:
• The joyful looks and excitement of 125 GCS students bravely auditioning at the start
of school for our dance performance group
• The smiles on the faces of everybody dance! performers at the crack of dawn on a Saturday
morning as they warmed up for an NBC production crew
• Our youngest students — some not even five years old — holding hands while they hop
Siggi Aguilar, alum of Gabriella Charter School, grew up working after-school in his father’s hardware store.
To avoid debt for his family, Siggi turned down Notre Dame University this spring to enter Cal State
Los Angeles and major in mechanical engineering.
Noble Stephenson, another Charter School alum, established a chapter of Junior State at his Los Angeles
charter high school, became student body president, and this fall entered UC Riverside — with plans to run
for State Assembly in 2024.
Erika Escalante, joined our dance program at age 4, achieved a 4.0 GPA through high school and this fall
enrolled at UCLA, with the goal of one day becoming a pediatrician.
Neftali Hernandez, son of a dishwasher at a Koreatown restaurant and a straight A student and valedictorian
of his high school class, enrolled this fall at USC where he will double major in computer engineering and
biochemistry and minor in dance.
Each of these students is the first in their family or the first in their generation to attend college.
What we achieve would not be possible without you.
This year Gabri would have turned 30. We were blessed to have her with us for 13 years. Thank you all for
honoring Gabri’s memory by making so much possible for so many wonderful young people.
and skip their way to class each morning; or watching a third grader cartwheel to class.
• Our older boys showing off breakdancing moves in dance class
• The roars of approval from audiences at our year-end recitals
“What we achieve would not
be possible without you.”
The Gabriella Foundation and Gabriella Charter Schools
Students from Gabriella Charter School, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Para Los Niños and all after-school dance sites
experience year-round transformation by learning up close with dance leaders, watching professional dance performances,
benefitting from cutting-edge academic activities and exercises, and celebrating our community of engaged families and friends.
everybody dance! after-school
and Saturday classes begin the
season with over 620 students
enrolled in 57 classes, including
four new sections of pre-ballet
classes for children ages 4 to 7.
everybody dance! after-school
students attend the first field trip
of the season to see Hubbard
Street and Second City at The
everybody dance! after-school
students and families launch
winter break at our Annual Holiday
Party, complete with performances,
raffles, face painters, storytellers,
magicians and Santa!
Read Across America Day
brings school friends and their
favorite books to GCS to read
to students while staff show
their enthusiasm for reading by
dressing as book characters.
At their biennial visit, Alvin Ailey
dancers lead everybody dance!
after-school and GCS students in
performing their signature piece,
Los Angeles Dance Project
conducts a week of Master
Classes with our High
School Dancelab students.
The American Ballet Theater’s
workshop for GCS 7th and
8th graders culminates in a
performance of Nutcracker
excerpts at Grand Arts High
everybody dance! after-school
students and families attend
four field trips to holiday dance
performances, including Los
Angeles Ballet’s performance
of The Nutcracker.
Mock interviews help
GCS 8th grade students
polish their interview skills
with guidance from GCS
community supporters and
Gabriella Foundation staff.
GCS’s Company K!ds
Crescendo Choir, G-Sharps
Glee Club and Guitar Club
display their dance and
musical talents for the school
community at the Winter
Anita Mann Kohl teaches a
Master Class to our High
School Dancelab students,
inspiring them with the story
of her dance journey from
performer to choreographer
everybody dance! students
from all sites celebrate the
holidays by performing
down Sunset Boulevard
in the Echo Park Annual
everybody dance! after-school
dances at Club Nokia for
the Dancescape LA Concert,
with proceeds benefiting
arts programs in Southern
California public schools.
Charlie Hodges, former LA
Dance Project dancer, teaches
a Master Class workshop
for everybody dance! Ballet
GCS receives perfect scores
in instruction, finance,
governance and operations
from LAUSD’s Annual
everybody dance! students
auditioned for DIAVOLO
| Architecture in Motion,
which created a piece for our
2016 Gabri Awards Gala at
everybody dance! afterschool Performance
Company dances at the
West Hollywood Kids Fair.
everybody dance! afterschool students attend
Ballet at The Music Center.
GCS leadership and staff
accept awards honoring GCS
as a California Department of
Education Gold Ribbon School
and Exemplary Arts Program at
a Statewide Awards Ceremony.
USC’s Bovard Auditorium hosts
GCS’s Annual Dance Recital,
this year’s theme, Dancing
Through the Decades, complete
with brilliant choreography and
GCS says goodbye to 52
culminating 8th graders while
Ms. Liza strongly admonishes
them: “Don’t be strangers. We
want to see you back on campus
The Ricardo Montalban Theater
hosts everybody dance!’s afterschool recital, Poetry in Motion.
Nearly all 950 seats are filled
with family and friends at four
The Gabriella Foundation
and Gabriella Charter School
celebrate 16 years of transforming
lives through high-quality dance
training and academics!
BY THE NUMBERS
Measuring the Scale, Impact and Sustainability of Our Work
Our numbers continue to grow.
• 1,786 students enrolled in everybody dance!
• 621 students enrolled in everybody dance!
• 300 youth in Watts participated in exploratory dance
• 213 weekly in/after-school classes programming
• 18 field trips
• 17 performances
• 11 master classes
• 10 dance locations
»» 3 sites host after-school and weekend dance
programming (Gabriella Charter School, Camino
Nuevo Charter Academy, affordable housing
establishment in east Koreatown)
»» 6 school campuses host in-school programming
(Gabriella Charter School, 4 Camino Nuevo Charter
Academy campuses, Para Los Niños)
»» 1 site hosts exploratory community dance classes
(Watts campus of The Children’s Institute)
Everybody dance! increases proficiency in the language
and skill of dance.
• 99% of GCS students scored a C or above on
the dance section of final trimester report cards,
surpassing our goal of 90%.
• everybody dance! has opened doors of opportunity
for numerous students. Alumni Norbert de la Cruz
III was named one of the 25 dancers to watch by
Dance Magazine. Petra Johnson, 11, was awarded
The Hope Award at the Youth American Grand Prix
Competition, a high-level ballet competition.
Everybody dance! increases sense of community and
positive self-development. In our June 2016 student
• 93% of students said their physical fitness improved.
Everybody dance! receives high scores from Search
• The Search Institute’s Youth and Program
Strengths surveys captured students’ experience
of everybody dance! across eight program areas:
Safety, Structure, Relationships, Belonging, Social
Norms, Efficacy and Mattering, Skill-building, and
Integration of Efforts.
• In both pre- and post-assessment surveys,
students rated everybody dance! in the top two
categories of Good or Excellent in all eight areas.
Everybody dance! seniors are attending college. We
are proud that 100% of our 2016 seniors in everybody
dance! after-school graduated from high school and
entered college in fall 2016.
• 89% said their self-esteem improved.
• 91% said their sense of self-efficacy improved.
• 90% said their sense of being supported by friends
and/or the community improved.
Everybody dance! is anything but fleeting.
• On average, students stay with our program for 7+ years and over 30% study more than one dance form – the
depth of learning they experience becomes a part of them as they transition into post-high school college, career
and vocational pursuits.
• Edith Escalante embodies this beautifully. Starting with everybody dance! at age 4, Edith spent 14 years with
everybody dance! and as a graduating senior in spring, was our first recipient of the Student Gabri Award.
Edith demonstrated not only excellence in dance, but also became the individual we knew she could be:
compassionate, confident, driven and self-assured. Now in her first year at UCLA, we look forward to Edith
returning to The Gabriella Foundation as an inspiration to and role model for our program participants –
a true testament to the sustainable, transformative powers of consecutive, focused training in dance and the arts.
The Gabriella Foundation was established in 1999 in memory of Gabriella Axelrad, a 13-year-old
who loved to dance. In determining the organization’s programming, a distinct effort was made
to strategically respond to Los Angeles’ lack of safe recreational space, arts education and childhood
Our signature program, everybody dance! opened its doors in 2000 in an affordable housing project just
west of downtown with 12 weekly dance classes taught to 35 enthusiastic children experiencing dance
instruction for the first time in their lives. Learning of the after-school program, Camino Nuevo Charter
Academy, a local charter school, contracted with us for in-and after-school dance – immediately seeing the
positive effects of dance on student energy when returning to class … more focused, engaged and ready to
In 2005, we opened Gabriella Charter School, a unique Title 1 K-8 dance-themed public school, as a
continued memorial of Gabriella’s desire to teach and in response to the overwhelming success of everybody
dance! at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy. Every student at Gabriella Charter School studies dance as part of
every school day, including ballet twice weekly, choreography once per week and an additional dance form the
remaining two days of the week.
In 2013, we established the Gabriella Charter School as a separate but linked non-profit entity to strengthen
governance capacity, with everybody dance! continuing to provide its award-winning in/after-school model of
Our In- and After-School Models of Dance Instruction
O ur Accomplishment s
The Gabriella Foundation
We made great strides in forging new partnerships and creating new program elements!
• Artists Advisory Council: We created The Gabriella Foundation Artists Advisory Council to
involve in our work luminaries from the dance world and other fields of artistic expression.
Members engage with our students through master classes and performances, contribute
their expertise and thinking to our current and future work, and open doors to new
opportunities and partnerships.
• Para Los Niños: Starting in the fall, everybody dance! now provides in-school dance classes
to 8th grade students at Para Los Niños Charter Middle School located in south Los
Angeles. Our goal is to extend classes to 6th and 7th grade students in the near future!
• Watts Exploration: With guidance from the Los Angeles Promise Zone Initiative, we
launched exploratory dance classes over the summer in Watts at its Summer Night
Lights events and through Camp Ubuntu Watts serving middle school students to assess
community interest in establishing a permanent dance program. Classes are continuing
during the academic year at The Children’s Institute and we are now in conversations about
a possible future location for everybody dance!
Everybody dance! in-school uses dance as a tool for learning where teaching artists work with academic
instructors to incorporate movement into daily curriculum. Imagine Kinder students transitioning to a
different rotation while making sounds of the alphabet with their bodies in letter shapes, or 4th graders
choreographing a dance to show how food is digested, or 8th graders solving systems of equations through
different rates of hip-hop steps. Everybody dance! after-school focuses on the technical mastery of a dance
form. Students are encouraged to study multiple forms of dance – ballet, jazz, modern, tap, hip-hop, breaking
– with leveled training and annual assessments allowing them to advance based on their technical mastery.
• Professional Dance Companies: Adding to our growing number of affiliations with
professional dance companies – Diavolo, Versa-Style and now BODYTRAFFIC – we
welcomed BODYTRAFFIC instructors to our modern dance teaching team to further
strengthen our focus on quality.
We hire professional dance instructors whose passion for dance resonates with and engages students.
Described by the LA Times as “some of the best children’s dance instructors in the world,” our Teaching Artists
inspire students to achieve their very best in the dance studio, teaching beyond technique by imparting life skills
and instilling in our students confidence, creativity, community and commitment.
• Dancelab’s Mentor Match: Growing our existing Dancelab class, which broadens students’
perspectives on arts-related career possibilities through master classes and workshops
taught by field experts, we are matching high school students with mentors in an artsrelated field to delve deeper into a field of their choosing.
Our Successful Approach
• Student Teacher Education Program (STEP): Students interested in a dance education
career can now sign up for STEP and serve as everybody dance! teaching assistants, which
allows them to experience the teaching of different dance genres to children and youth of
Everybody dance!’s most salient characteristics - culture, community and consistency – play an integral role
in moving us toward fulfillment of our Mission:
• Culture of high expectations and performance: Students must arrive on time, be suitably attired for
dance, and master requisite skills before advancing to higher levels. To maintain teaching quality,
everybody dance! also provides regular teacher professional development and administers twice yearly
evaluations that measure teaching performance in accordance with California State Standards for
Performing Arts, as well as discipline-specific benchmarks.
• SummerDance: Extending the everybody dance! experience to new students,
SummerDance, a two-session two-week camp, introduced 120 neighborhood youth ages
6 to 11 to multi-level daily classes in ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop, art and life skills.
• Student Leadership Team: Our new Student Leadership Team provides opportunities
for middle and high school students to serve as everybody dance! Ambassadors, playing
a leadership role in the organization by communicating student needs and concerns,
organizing fundraisers, and volunteering at Foundation events.
Gabriella Charter School
As the Gabriella Charter School heads into 2016-17, the twelfth year of its innovative,
dance-themed charter school:
• Awards: GCS was awarded the 2016 California Gold Ribbon Award, the 2016 Title 1 Achievement
Award, and the 2016 California Exemplary Arts Program Awards (only about 30 awards given
across the state for arts!) in a recent ceremony.
• SBAC Assessments: GCS’s most recent SBAC assessments showed our students were “far
above” in serving similar students across the state. Indeed, even when comparing us with
non-similar schools (e.g., including high socio-economic school groups), GCS performed above
the 77th percentile for similar grade levels.
• LAUSD Annual Oversight Visit: GCS received perfect scores in instruction, finance, governance
and operations from LAUSD at its Annual Oversight Visit.
• Dance Recital: GCS had one of its best dance recitals to date, infusing technology, interesting
choreography and great technique, highlighted by parent-made costumes. We continue to hear
from school guests who rave over the excellence of the recital.
• Literacy Intervention Program: GCS rolled out a new literacy intervention program, which found
that 4th-8th grade students in Tiers II and III of instruction made more than quadruple gains
when compared to last year in F&P assessments.
• Student to Technology Ratio: GCS bested its goals of a 2:1 student-to-technology ratio and
working with standard and pilot programs across classrooms to determine how
technology can best supplement and differentiate classroom learning.
• Gifted Program: GCS introduced its first-ever gifted program, identifying
approximately 40 students in grades 4 to 8 for this category. We
have also started professional development to consider how
to differentiate and enrich learning for these students
during the regular school day.
Our Strong Partnership
• Large Wait List: GCS has over 350
students desiring entrance (as of
our March 2016 lottery), our
largest wait list to date.
We – The Gabriella Foundation and Gabriella Charter School –
continually seek to strengthen our historic partnership through
strategic collaboration and cooperation in a variety of areas. As we
grow together, we ensure that our core areas of focus remain competitive
and resilient, working in concert to deliver the highest quality dance
• Emphasis on parental involvement to help build a culture of community: Families must contribute at
least fifteen service hours annually. In 2015-16, 95% of parents completed their service hours, contributing
a total of 6,662 volunteer hours to every part of the program. Quarterly parent meetings include a topic of
discussion, and time for both small group and large group conversation where parents can provide input into
the program and discuss any new policies.
• Sequential, consistent, long-term dance training: More than half of after-school students ages 8 to 19 study two
or more dance forms and dance five or more hours per week. On average, students in the after-school program
stay with us for 7+ years.
Through High-Quality Dance & Academics
A Conversation with Liz Martinez, Gabriella Foundation Registrar
Affectionately called, “Mama Liz,” Liz Martinez has seen her daughter, granddaughters
and entire family benefit from everybody dance! in- and after-school dance training and
attendance at Gabriella Charter School. We have grown as organizations because of Liz
and, as we discovered, Liz and her family have grown with us too! Liz tells us more here on …
… Coming to work as a Dance Office Registrar
Coming to work is not coming to work for me. I tell everyone. Today at the market, someone was asking me
about work and I told her that I never feel like I’m going to work because I love everything about it, from the
music to the dance to the children to the families. I also love how it serves the community, being a part of a
Foundation that has a true heart for the people, that’s rewarding to me. Three-quarters of our families don’t
have extended relatives, so I’ve seen the families come together and help each other out as if they were family.
Coming here is more than just a program; it’s spending time with family.
… Her daughter Lizzy’s experience with everybody dance!
Lizzy started with everybody dance! at the age of 9 when the doors opened and stayed until 18. She loves ballet
because she loves the structure, but modern is where she really feels that she can express herself. Our family
members never really knew what she did here. I remember when I would bring her every day and my father
would ask me, “Why do you go every day?” It wasn’t until our third or fourth recital that he finally got to go.
He was telling everyone that’s his granddaughter. Then he came to me and said, “Now I know why you go;
now I know why you’re there.”
… Her granddaughter Lily Rane’s experience in 1st grade at Gabriella Charter School
Lily Rane loves the dance program. She looks forward to it at GCS and on Saturdays. She loves everything about
it and one day when she came home from school, she told Lizzy, “Thank God I’m at GCS because I love it so
much.” She loves going to school, she loves everything about it, the reading and the math. They welcome her,
they know her by her first name, and it’s a family community. Being in the dance office, I get to know parents
who share a lot. One told me, “My child is getting rescued by this school.” Another said, “I don’t think the
instructors and administration realize the impact the school has on families.”
The joke in my family is, ‘Mom is the happiest person at work.’ They know it and love everything
about it. They just know what the program has done for the community, that if it weren’t for this
program … it would be hard to imagine what things would be like. It’s a force like no other.
… Her family’s experience with us!
Oh wow, you know, we talk about that often, my boys and my daughter. It has showed us a lot. There are good
programs, there are good people who care enough to make a difference and therefore you get involved, you see
how you can help, how you can be a part of the structure. It’s really about empowerment. The joke in the family
is, because they know I’m so happy in my job, “Mom is the happiest person at work.” They know it and love
everything about it. It’s a force like no other.
… Her role in creating and growing a caring community of families
For me, I am so proud of somewhere that kids can come to express themselves regardless of what’s happening,
regardless of good or bad, there is a place that they can come. I’m at the forefront with the families, just
making them feel welcome, helping them understand that this is for their kids, their family, the community
and to help make a difference. I tell them that their child will never be the same once they’re here. This is
something that they’re going to take with them.
Lily Ra ghter