On Saturday, August 30, 47 young performers from seven YALs took center stage in the second annual Kids Got Talent competition at Plummer Park in West Hollywood. Representing Century, Santa Clarita, Compton, South Los Angeles, Lakewood, Norwalk and West Hollywood centers, the 20 solo and group acts entertained the audience with a wide variety of singing and dancing.
“All we have to say is, our kids have talent!” declares Lieutenant A.J. Rotella, SYF’s executive director. “What a great group of youth and a lot of fun.”
The show was emceed by Peter Singer and judged by Paul Dreher of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Leslee Tarlov of TAI Events and LASD Central Patrol Division Commander Joe Gooden, all of whom generously contributed their time to help the performers realize their showbiz dreams. Selecting standouts among so many enthusiastic participants was a difficult task, but ultimately the judges awarded first place to the Lakewood Divas a capella group and second place to soloist Madison Russ of West Hollywood YAL. The third-place honors were shared by singer Maria Isabell Plazola of Century YAL, the Pink Diamonds dance group from Compton YAL, and duet-singing sisters Audrey and Ashley Spain of West Hollywood YAL.
“It was very nerve-wracking, but also a very fun and new experience for me,” says 15-year-old Russ. “So many kids had amazing talents and everyone did great!”
Although only a few could be chosen for awards, all of the participants deserve congratulations for the effort they put into getting ready for the big night. “The kids at my center practiced almost every day for three months before the event,” says Deputy Steve Ferreira of Lakewood YAL’s six acts.
While the cash prizes — $750 for first place, $500 for second and $250 for third — were certainly a motivator, the performers’ genuine passion shone through. “They want the honor of being recognized as the best at whatever they are doing,” says Deputy Sean Ruiz from West Hollywood YAL, which hosted the competition. “Seeing all of the kids who have worked so hard get up on stage and give their all was amazing.”
The children’s dedication was matched by the personnel who assisted in making the show a success. Ruiz planned and coordinated the event with direction from the SYF and help from the City of West Hollywood, which donated the location, additional staff, professional sound and lighting equipment, and the specially trained technicians needed to operate it. In addition to working backstage, deputies and YAL staff spent weeks ahead of time helping the performers prepare for their moment in the spotlight, teaching self-confidence along with the songs and steps.“This event gives the kids the opportunity to work toward a goal, alone or with a group,” explains Ruiz. “They get to put the things that they are learning at the YAL into practice. And the recognition, whether it’s the cash or an approving smile and hug from family or friends, goes a long way toward solidifying the lessons they have learned.”
“The highlight was seeing all the kids come together as one and performing on stage for the audience,” says Ferreira. “It just shows how united they are. In the end, it’s not really about prizes and things like that; it’s about bringing happiness and joy to people.”
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