Jake T. Austin Kicks Off The School Year At The Boys & Girls Club

jake t austin_boys and girls_1bPhoto Credit: Mitch Dao

From movies like Hotel for Dogs to New Year’s Eve and TV staples like Disney Channel’s The Wizards of Waverly Place and the Freeform series The Fosters, actor Jake T. Austin has grown up on-screen. With the 2020 school year beginning in the most unprecedented of times, he paid a visit to some of the youths that have been impacted by Los Angeles County’s school closures. As we persevere through the pandemic and the L.A. community comes together, Haute Living sat down with Jake at the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena.

HL: As Angelenos integrate into our ‘new normal’ health and safety-consciousness—such as wearing masks—into daily life, what adjustments have you made to your own routine?

JA: It’s been great to be able to support small businesses and see how they’ve pivoted to offer their services in accordance with the L.A. County Health Guidelines. I went to Craig’s and they converted their parking lot to an outdoor space and it is decked out with bistro lights and foliage. And I had tacos at Sugar Taco on Melrose, which is a vegan eatery and women-owned. These businesses had to make immediate adjustments to their space and seeing them take that initiative is inspiring. I work out at Plyo Fitness in Hollywood on La Brea; prior to the pandemic, they did group classes inside their facility and due to gyms being closed, they modified those workouts for their outdoor space. It’s pretty amazing to see their entry annex become a training circuit. The entrepreneurial ingenuity has been great and the customers in those spaces are psyched to be there. Everyone is in this together and they adhere to social distancing and use the hand sanitizer that the business has made available. I love to see the proprietors and also the population of L.A. handle this pandemic with growth, evolution and by working together.

HL: There are over 4,000 Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide and dozens in L.A. County. How did you connect with this non-profit organization?

JA: Growing up on sets, I didn’t have a traditional school schedule, but there was a mini classroom on the sound stages and the child actors would be tutored in that space. I was so fortunate to have a consistent and safe space, and I’ve been partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs for the past few years to provide a positive environment for today’s youth. BGC has youth programs such as homework assistance, computer support, physical education and life skills. And they do it with only partial government funding, and the other resources come from financial contributions of people and businesses. With the pandemic causing many schools in Los Angeles to be closed, I wanted to visit the kids at the Club to see how they’re doing and do something special to kick off the school year. With after-school sports and other activities being disrupted, they’ve been through a lot, so I’m glad I’m able to have this connection with them.

jake t austin_boys and girls_2cPhoto Credit: Mitch Dao

HL: Tell us about your visit to the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena?

JA: Like other entities in Los Angeles, the pandemic has changed how they operate. They’ve expanded their hours of operation beyond just after school programs. They’re now open from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with 75 kids in the branch. They’re open so much longer than they were before the pandemic, and the staff is optimistic, which positively affects the kids, too.

HL: Most kids are at home, due to distance learning. What was the vibe when you visited the Club?

JA: The kids are SO happy to be here. I sat in on some arts & crafts activities, physical education and visited their computer lab. I’m glad they have this place to go to, because for youths, “going to school” is so central to their day. My career is being an actor: my day has changed but, productions are resuming and even during the initial stages of the lockdown, I was able to do meetings and script readings on Zoom. In the entertainment industry, the pandemic was disruptive, but we’re all in it together and we make the best out of it. But to the kids, removing school from their lives is such a shock. I’m really glad they have the Boys & Girls Club to go to. And having this space is a necessity to their parents who usually rely on school for child supervision and can’t have their kids at home while they work essential jobs that take place outside of the home. They are heroes in and of themselves, as are their family members.

HL: Do you have a favorite memory from when you were in school?

JA: Because I didn’t go to school in a traditional sense, I didn’t have homecoming games or dances. But having been in so many roles, I was fortunate to have been nominated for a few Teen Choice Awards. So you could say that going to that event was like my prom and that’s definitely a favorite memory.

Creative Consultant: Andrew Pham

Photographer: Mitch Dao

Special thanks to the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena (Lisa Cavelier and JD Lovernsky)