Thank you to everyone in the LA2050 community who supported Ready to Succeed (RTS) in securing this grant, which has been a source of stability for the many students relying on our support during the pandemic. As students prepare to launch their careers during this difficult economic period, we are not only coaching them to develop competitive skills and competencies – we are also physically connecting them to a community of mentors and professionals who can open doors and serve as advocates for them now and throughout their lives.
Summary of Activities & Progress
With this grant, we aimed to test and develop a sustainable, collaborative service model to integrate complementary organizational expertises, with the goal of multiplying each partner's impact and guaranteeing the holistic services that young adults need and deserve. Recognizing that social and emotional support are as important as career development in helping our students thrive, we planned to create a shared service model with Stepping Forward LA (SFLA), which provides mentoring and life skill development to current and former foster youth.
During the pandemic, as we increased communication with peer organizations to share resources and ideas, we identified a third partner, Los Angeles Room & Board (LARNB). The organization operates “Opportunity House," a 50-bed supportive housing community near UCLA for former foster and homeless youth in community college. LARNB proved an ideal third partner for this project: Through Opportunity House's residential structure, we are able to test our collaborative model in an environment where we can maintain consistent access to youth, easily observe and collect data, and address challenges in real time.
Opportunity House interns
In addition to each partner's core programming, over the last several months, we have collectively devoted intensive, shared services to a dedicated cohort of 10 students at Opportunity House. Weaving together a holistic combination of support, LARNB provides safe housing and healthy meals, academic support, and connection to resources; RTS provides career development; and SFLA provides life skill development workshops and group mentoring activities.
In alignment with RTS' career development mission, our collaborative model places work experience and learning at the center. We launched a paid internship program, hiring 10 exceptional Opportunity House residents. Under the guidance of SFLA, interns are developing and rolling out a mobile app designed to build skills and resiliency among youth in foster care through peer learning. In addition to providing youth with valuable resources and mentorship, the app will be a mechanism for our collaborative partners to integrate services on a broader scale. To complement this hands-on experience, RTS engages interns in individualized career exploration and guidance, bringing theory and practice together to make the career learning experience more effective. Using what we learn with this cohort, we plan to sustain the internship as a standing feature among our collaborative, serving multiple cohorts over time.
In addition to collaborative efforts, this grant also helped RTS build our capacity to meet growing demand for our Career Accelerator program as more students faced hardship and uncertainty during the pandemic. With LA2050 support, we quickly adapted our core curricula and successfully moved all programming online. We also significantly increased campus outreach, doubling our number of partnerships. As a result of our online infrastructure and partnership expansion, we received a record number of 79 applications for our 2020 Fall cohort (4X the previous year) and accepted 44 new Scholars, our largest-ever cohort.
Challenges & How We've Responded
As our partnership unfolded, we recognized that many students require additional academic and life skill support before they are ready for the more robust career programming we provide to our Career Accelerator Scholars who attend four-year colleges and are further along on their career journeys. Fortunately, our collaborative model allows these students to receive the support they need, when they need it, from our partners who specialize in these service areas. We also pivoted our initial approach to focus less on career development and more on career and self-exploration. By meeting students where they are, we are building their sense of agency through the self-discovery process. Eventually, we expect that more residents will be good candidates for our long-term programming, particularly after participating in the internship program.
Receiving first paycheck ever for work as Stepping Forward LA/Ready To Succeed/Opportunity House internship.
▪ Virtual, collaborative programming: With the interns' forthcoming mobile app (launching March 2021), we will soon have the infrastructure to connect a much larger group of youth, program alumni, mentors, and professionals across each organization's networks, with the potential to serve an unlimited number of youth.
▪ Shared network integration: We continue to develop mechanisms to efficiently connect students to social and emotional support to combat isolation. Nine RTS alumni are helping us launch an official Alumni Collective, a network of our graduates who will plan social and networking events and serve as mentors and professional advocates for youth. Through this network and through connection opportunities provided by the new app, our alumni will be able to serve as positive examples to current foster youth in SFLA's community as well as to Opportunity House residents.
▪ Data evaluation: Through surveys, weekly check-ins, and information collected on our virtual career development platform, we are tracking key metrics: career exploration workshop completion, college persistence, internship/work experience, and social and emotional wellbeing. We are also working with partners to develop metrics for measuring the success of our collaboration itself so we can share lessons learned with peers and funders in our industry.
We are eager to share additional updates and data at the conclusion of the grant period. For more information on our work, please visit www.readytosucceedla.org or contact Romi Lassally at [email protected]