Sony Studios’ Commissary Lawn was transformed into a high-energy and interactive all-ages party Saturday night for City Year Los Angeles’ sixth annual Spring Break: Destination Education benefit event.
The celebratory event raised a record-breaking $1.6 million for City Year, a non-profit service org that aims to improve educational success in impoverished, urban school districts by forging high-impact mentorships between its members and at-risk students. The org’s Los Angeles branch boasts a membership of over 300 young adults.
Octavia Spencer, a City Year LA board member and six-year supporter of the org, hosted the event, with Aaron Paul, Michael B. Jordan, Sophia Bush, Allison Janney, Angela Bassett, Julianne Hough, Derek Hough, Ian Harding, Keegan-Michael Key, Miranda Cosgrove, Blake Anderson and “New Girl” alums Lamorne Morris and Max Greenfield also showing up to support the cause.
“Education is the pathway out of poverty, and that’s why City Year means so much to me,” said Spencer, adding, “These are young people giving back to people that are their peers, and they give back in a way that is only going to strengthen our society.”
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“Superstore” actor Ben Feldman, a newcomer to City Year’s annual spring break event, also spoke to the importance of education, telling Variety, “Education is such a simple thing and such an important thing. Kids in 12% of schools in the country are experiencing 50% of the problem. These kids need to be targeted, located and helped. Someone needs to reach a hand out to them.”
City Year LA’s executive director Mary Jane Stevenson took to the stage to stress poverty’s detrimental impact on students’ ability to learn.
“If I drive just 11 miles southeast of my home, the Americorps members that serve in the school districts there are really worried that their students might not show up that day. They might not make it to school because they didn’t get there safely or maybe they had no way of getting to school. They might show up hungry or exhausted or depressed,” said Stevenson, addressing the crowd. “It’s just because they live 11 miles away in a different zip code. What that says to me is that we’re not taking care of our children.”
A swarm of City Year Americorps members, outfitted in their signature red and yellow jackets, huddled around the event entrance to greet party guests with a series of energetic cheers. Once inside, partygoers sampled food from an array of scattered buffet tables and participated in activities at various interactive booths–offered by Snapchat, E!, Twentieth Century Fox and Aramark, among others–that were situated around the perimeter of the lawn.
The evening concluded with a performance by Imagine Dragons, whose set included acoustic renditions of “Radioactive,” “Demons” and “It’s Time.”