LA2050 Blog

We’ve got access to the information that every Angeleno needs to make an impact. Our blog features the latest LA2050 news, announcements, features, happenings, grantee updates, and more.

SJLI Advances Education, Fosters Economic Opportunities, and Builds Careers for Youth


[The following mid-year update was written by the organization and then sent to us for further sharing.]

The Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI) has been at the forefront of addressing youth justice, social determinants of health, and the educational equity movement for over 15 years. SJLI is dedicated to improving the education, health, and well-being of youth and communities of color by empowering them to enact social change through research, training, and community mobilization. Through the Higher Pathways educational equity program, SJLI advances education, fosters economic opportunities, and builds careers for Black and Brown youth.

With the generous support of LA2050, Goldhirsh Foundation, and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, SJLI has made tremendous progress toward achieving youth economic advancement. Higher Pathways is in direct response to the pressing need for Black and Brown youth to attain progress toward achieving educational, career and economic growth. The primary goal of Higher Pathways is to develop a strong cadre of young men of color who progress through a conscientious and methodological series of academic counseling, skills building, and resources leading toward educational attainment and greater economic opportunity. Recognizing a correlation between educational access and economic opportunity, SJLI works to address barriers to college and job access for Black and Brown young men in Los Angeles County.

Higher Pathways complements the 18-25 year old population of opportunity youth and supports youth in college readiness and career readiness, and wraparound services to ensure positive, healthy engagement with their experience, as well as access to additional resources as needed. SJLI incorporates rigorous academic training, and college preparation and career readiness activities to ensure that participants achieve the following outcomes: (1) Persist through college; (2) Build relationships and resources for internship/externship opportunities and/or entrepreneurial pursuits; (3) Graduate from college with an identified career pathway; (4) Become critical leaders capable of knowledge transfer to other incoming alumni; and (5) Transition to adulthood with the knowledge, skills, and resources to advance economic opportunity for themselves and their greater community.


Since being awarded the LA2050 grant, Higher Pathways has implemented various programs, events, workshops, individualized sessions, and supportive services to increase college and career pathway development of SJLI alumni.

  • Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Sessions is a business and entrepreneurship workshop series serving 50 high school students since January 2024.
  • FAFSA Workshops were held in February to assist 133 college students with completing FAFSA applications.
  • Launched in February 2024, BagBuilders is a career guidance and workforce development program currently serving seven black and brown young men between the ages of 18-25.
  • Monthly Academic and Wellness Check-ins were held for 93 college students, ensuring emotional well-being and academic success.
  • SJLI College Success, Career Readiness, and Alumni Support Counselors made college campus visits to UC Berkeley, Cal State East Bay, University of the Pacific, Sacramento State University, Chico State, UC San Diego, and CSU Fullerton to provide academic and wellness support for approximately 14 alumni.
  • SJLI provided 107 alumni with scholarships totaling $136,500.
  • BB&BA, SJLI’s alumni basketball tournament took place on January 12th. Over 50 alumni showed up to play in a 3 on 3 tournament.
  • An Alumni Retreat took place between March 14-17th. Almost 20 alumni came together to finalize a Youth Participatory Action Research project.
  • SJLI provided over 175 Service Hours to alumni, with services ranging from Career Services, College Support, Scholarship Support, and Mental Health and Wellness.
  • SJLI provided employment referrals to 10 young adults.


During the grant period, the Higher Pathways team experienced various challenges, with one being a leadership transition. A new Higher Pathways Manager started in February 2024. Despite this transition, programs have successfully continued. SJLI staff works diligently to ensure that every student receives the support and services they need. However, this is challenging to do when some students become unresponsive to communications. SJLI staff continues to reach out to its alumni and remains ready to serve them. Although students continue to struggle with navigating the higher education system, they have persisted with the guidance of SJLI’s College Success Counselors.

What’s Next

The next six months hold exciting activities that support the education and economic advancement of SJLI students and alumni.

  • In May, SJLI will host the annual Urban Scholars Culmination to celebrate a cohort’s program completion and to welcome 94 youth in LA County as new SJLI alumni.
  • A Different World is a summer college immersive that will serve a projected 120 high school juniors and seniors, acclimating them to college life and preparing them for their higher education journey. The program is currently in the development phase, with program dates set for June 2024.
  • In May, SJLI will distribute College Care Packages to 107 alumni enrolled in college. These care packages will include gift cards, school supplies, and wellness supplies.
  • In July, SJLI will host the Summer Homecoming, which is a picnic with food, games, and music to celebrate all Urban Leaders in their higher education and/or career journey (projected 100 attendees).
  • Through the BuildWithin Apprenticeship, SJLI will select two BagBuilder participants to complete SJLI apprenticeships to gain employment experience.

SJLI is grateful to LA2050, the Goldhirsh Foundation, and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for supporting the continuation of the Higher Pathways program to advance education and economic opportunity and build careers for youth of color in Los Angeles, fostering a more inclusive and just society where everyone has the chance to thrive regardless of their background.

AuthorSocial Justice Learning Institute