Growing up in a small suburb of Indianapolis, Alyssa Bost grew up thinking that big cities like Los Angeles and New York were scary places where “normal” families didn’t live. But after getting into her dream school, Pepperdine University in Malibu, she started to realize that her idea of “normal” may not be everyone else’s.
“I grew up thinking that if you grew up in L.A. you would have no sense of reality. That is definitely not true and I learned that pretty quick!” she said.
So after college, armed with a psychology degree, Alyssa looked into programs where she could earn her teaching credential and masters while also teaching. She joined the NYC Teaching Fellows, one of the largest such programs in the U.S., and taught middle school at Frank D. Whalen and the Frederick Douglass Academy.
“I didn’t know any Black, Latinx or Jewish families growing up in Avon, so New York City was a learning experience for me and super exciting,” Alyssa said.
It was also where she met her husband, Paul. Unbeknownst to either of them, Paul had also attended Seaver College, the Malibu campus of Pepperdine and was three years ahead of her, studying humanities. They never met during college even though they were on the same campus for a year.
A minister at the church she attended while living in New York wanted to introduce Alyssa to her brother. She thought they’d be a perfect match, so Alyssa and Paul’s first date was at his family’s Thanksgiving celebration.
“It was like a big date with the whole family,” she said. “Our next date was going to the movies with my mom.”
They started dating long distance and got engaged at her NYC going away party a year and a half later.
“His mom clued him in that my parents would feel a lot better about me moving across the country if we were engaged, which was his plan already. So my rooftop going away party turned into an impromptu engagement party, which was pretty fun,” she said.
Since Paul grew up in Santa Monica, the couple lived there for two years. They soon realized that if they wanted to buy a house, they had to look elsewhere to be able to afford anything in their price range. They chose Westchester originally because of accessibility to where they were working at the time and it was affordable. Barely, but affordable.
“It felt very much like a neighborhood. Our street is pretty lazy and quiet and I remember hearing kids playing hide and seek outside the first week after we moved in and I thought that was pretty awesome. It was family-oriented and felt slower than most parts of L.A.,” Paul said.
Alyssa added, “But you’re still in L.A. We wanted to stay close to our church, jobs and family. There’s lots of overlap for us between church and family, and we’re really involved in our church, Culver Palms Church of Christ, where most of Paul’s family attends and his mom is an elder.”
By the time the family moved to Westchester, Alyssa was working at Sinai Akiba Academy near Westwood and Paul was a lawyer. The Bosts have two children, Brynn, 6 and Jane, 3. Brynn is attending online kindergarten at WISH Charter and just joined the Girls Scouts as a Daisy. She attends soccer camp weekly with a pod of six friends. Jane was attending Covenant Preschool before COVID, but now participates in Kids Day Out, an outdoor play group in lieu of preschool through Cornerstone Church.
“Jane is a little spitball. We call her ‘Zaney Janey’ because she’s a little crazy,” Alyssa said. The family also includes Soapy, their 14-year-old mutt.
“He is whatever dog you think he is,” Paul said. “He sort of looks like a cartoon dog to me.”
The Safer-at-Home order changed their family dynamics quite dramatically. As an intellectual property attorney working at Sheppard Mullin, Paul was at work most of the day. Alyssa decided to become a stay-at-home mom four years ago, so the family barely saw him.
“Now I rarely leave, so I’m much more involved in the daily life of the house,” Paul said. “Certainly it’s been challenging, but it’s also pretty amazing to be able to overhear the teaching and learning process in a way that most parents aren’t privy to. It’s very rewarding to see how much Brynn is learning and how phenomenal her teacher, Mr. Gleason, is. It’s made me much more appreciative of the craft of teaching.”
“There are many people that are having a very difficult time right now, and we’re grateful and aware that our situation is unique because Alyssa is primarily taking care of the children,” he said. “My hope is to be able to work from home in the future, at least on a part-time basis, after the pandemic is done.”
While the family was adjusting to different living conditions during the pandemic, they also became aware of other ways their family is privileged.
“With the events of this summer we’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting. Our neighborhood, Kentwood, was developed in 1943. There were originally these racially restrictive covenants to keep the neighborhood white. We’re starting to uncover and understand some of the racial reckoning that needs to start within our own home and neighborhood. It’s been an eye-opening experience,” Alyssa said.
So with the intent of getting more involved in the neighborhood with an eye toward inclusion, Alyssa joined the HOA board, the Kentwood Home Guardians.
“Are we doing our best to right the wrongs of the past in whatever way we can?” asked Alyssa. “Are we being welcoming? How can we be inclusive of not only all races, but all income levels?”
Now living in the community for seven years, the Bosts feel incredibly lucky to live in Westchester.
“I remember discovering the Bluffs shortly after moving in. I was so excited to know there was a trailhead within walking distance of our house. I walked to it and the view was amazing. You can see all of the L.A. basin and there was a creek with herons and cranes. Are we still in L.A? This is incredible! We’ve spent so much time at the Bluffs since,” Alyssa said.
“Yesterday we were in the car and pulling into Westchester and out of the blue, Brynn said, ‘Mom, I really love our neighborhood! The streets aren’t too big and the streets aren’t too busy. I just like it.’ I told her, I do, too!” Alyssa said. “When I was attending Pepperdine, I used to say that I would never raise kids in L.A. I’ve done a 180 on that opinion. I’m very happy raising our kids here. It’s been awesome. I couldn’t imagine raising them anywhere else.”
Posted January 2021.
By Consuelo Israelson. Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner.