Project SOAR is a college access program focused on supporting the college and career goals of residents in public housing. Currently, the program is operating at five public housing sites in downtown, East LA and South LA. SOAR serves any resident regardless of age, education level, or citizenship status. In addition to working with students in 9-12th grade, SOAR provides one-on-one advising for returning adult learners, community college and transfers students, and residents interested in vocational training or certificate programs.
Since SoCal CAN was awarded the LA2050 grant in July 2020, Project SOAR has used a portion of the funds to create a special, paid position for SOAR students and parents. At the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester, the SOAR team designed the SOAR Ambassador Program with the goal of hiring six students and six parents. These student and parent ambassadors would support Project SOAR through promotion, recruitment, and social media efforts at Nickerson Gardens, William Mead, Ramona Gardens, Gonzaque Village and Avalon Gardens. After a successful application and interview process in October 2020, Project SOAR welcomed twelve Ambassadors to the program and hosted two separate virtual Ambassador Orientations for both parent and student participants.
SOAR Education Program Specialists, Maria Perez, Marvin Ramirez, and Stephanie Guzman leading Ambassador Virtual Orientations, October 2020. Parents Ambassadors (top), Student Ambassadors (bottom).
Project SOAR Ambassadors provide critical insight into the climate and needs of the communities the program serves. They've helped staff identify new strategies and ideas for connecting with residents at each site. All six student ambassadors have been SOAR participants for multiple years. Five of them are currently attending local colleges that SOAR helped them apply to and enroll in. The student and parent ambassadors have also helped the SOAR team refine and adapt the program by providing meaningful feedback on their own experiences and sharing what additional resources or supports are needed to better serve future students and families. If you're interested in experiencing the Ambassadors in action, follow us on Instagram (@projectsoarla). During February 2021, the Ambassadors are “taking over" the IG posts and stories to share their personal experiences with college and Project SOAR.
SOAR Student Ambassadors: Brisa Bernal, Thuy Tran, and Jocelyn Benavides (left to right).
COVID-19 & Technology Support
As COVID-19 continued to provide increasingly insurmountable challenges to accessing technology for remote learning, Project SOAR worked steadfastly at identifying partnerships and opportunities to help SOAR students stay connected and enrolled in school. This past November, we were delighted to be identified as one of HACLA's community partners successfully serving residents on the ground and were able to work in collaboration with HACLA to provide refurbished laptops to students in need. Through a grant awarded to HACLA, Project SOAR was able to identify and distribute refurbished laptops to 100 SOAR students across our five main housing sites.
Many households reported sharing one laptop between multiple members in the household, significantly reducing each student's ability to access courses and complete school-related tasks. The laptop distribution was a highlight of the fall semester, bringing a moment of relief and encouragement to a hundred students and families facing an unimaginably difficult year.
A stack of refurbished laptops ready for distribution at Nickerson Gardens computer lab.
In addition to remote learning challenges, many SOAR families faced cuts in employment and income due to COVID-19. While SOAR offers resume support and assistance with applying to vocational and technical programs for all residents, many certificate or training programs have additional tool/supply costs not covered by financial aid. Thankfully, through a partnership with the SOLA I CAN Foundation, Project SOAR was able to provide an amazing $5,000 scholarship opportunity to residents impacted by Covid-19 and in search of educational opportunities to advance their career and employment options.
Below: SOAR/SOLA I CAN Scholarship program flyer made possible by a generous donation from Oprah Winfrey.
Both parent and student ambassadors assisted the SOAR team in promoting the scholarship and referring residents to the scholarship who they knew had lost work due to Covid-19. Through the partnership with SOLA I CAN, SOAR was able to secure 10 scholarship spots specifically reserved for SOAR participants. In addition to financial award, the scholarship also provides intensive case-management support to and through the program, career coaching, and employment assistance. Applications are still being reviewed, but we look forward to hearing which SOAR participants receive the award and celebrating their success.
Challenges and Lessons
As Project SOAR continues to have decreased access to residents and in-person programming, we are faced with increased challenges in recruitment and outreach.
While the SOAR team has been able to continue to support the students and families already connected with SOAR, we are deeply concerned about the number of residents who are in need of support, but whom we are unable to reach through the usual community events, meetings, and social gatherings no longer happening on site.
One thing we have learned from the past six months is the value of adaptability, especially when it comes to the programs and services SOAR provides. As a college access program, we remain committed to increasing the number of residents attending and graduating college, but we also realize the numerous additional factors that impact any person's ability to focus on educational goals and attainment. In the past months, we have only just begun to adapt our programs and services to meet the immediate and basic needs of students and families and will continue to seek out strong partnerships with organizations who can help provide holistic support to our residents.
In 2015, Natasha arrived at Union Station Homeless Services looking for a pathway to recovery and some assistance to get back on her feet. She quickly found much needed shelter and services at our Adult Center bridge housing program. Before too long, Natasha was well on her way to recovery and a place she could call home.
Over time, Natasha formed a close friendship with Karen, a community volunteer who worked in the Adult Center kitchen. Natasha credits this relationship with providing her guidance and support as she moved into her own apartment, settled into her new community, and grew into the person she is today. Natasha's relationship with Karen serves as ongoing inspiration for Union Station's Community Allies Program, a LA2050 Challenge grantee in the CONNECT category. To learn more about what our program is achieving in our community – and to hear more about Natasha's experience with her ally, Karen - we invite you to view this new video available on our YouTube channel and this article recently published in Pasadena Weekly.
“It's a wonderful friendship to have, because I grew up without a family. My siblings were separated from me at a really young age. So, to have that commitment with someone else, to be able to share your thoughts and dream, it makes me a better person to know that I am loved and cared for and guided every step of the way." – Natasha Head
The mission of the Community Allies Program is to support and empower individuals and families to combat isolation while achieving self-sufficiency, housing stability, and overall wellness by fostering one-on-one relationships, developing social networks, and building community. In this way, Community Allies is transforming the traditional one-on-one mentor relationship. This year, despite the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Allies program is continuing to change lives. In recent months participants have reported that their allies and additional telephone pals have become an important lifeline as isolation, anxiety and depression rates have increased across all sectors of the population.
Now more than ever before, it is the human connection that goes beyond service provision that truly sets Community Allies apart.
“(We have) case managers helping recently housed clients but there's a whole other piece that case managers can't always provide. We established Community Allies to provide a sense of ongoing belonging and friendship in a new community. Pairing a client with a friendly face in the community really helps clients create a wonderful transition into housing." – Dana Bean, Union Station Homeless Services
The essence of Union Station's Community Allies Program is human connection, and this has presented a unique challenge during the current pandemic. The health and safety of our community is our number one priority, and we have had to make significant adjustments to how we provide services over the past 10 months as we have had to forego all in-person group activities and one-on-one visits. Nonetheless, during this time, our volunteer community allies have been working hard making connections with program participants while also following CDC guidelines to keep everyone safe and healthy.
We are pleased to report that our Community Allies Program is continuing to match volunteer allies with newly housed individuals and families to provide an additional layer of support, mentorship and community integration assistance. Many of these relationships are new and have been born of the increased need during the pandemic and others are long-standing over the past two to three years.
In recent months, program staff have implemented creative online group activities (including a book club and writing group) and supported allies as they meet with program participants online through zoom calls and phone calls to maintain social distancing. Some allies and participants have also chosen to meet at a park or other public outdoor location following social distancing guidelines. In spite of recent challenges in reaching out in person to potential new volunteer allies and new participants, today we have 45 active program participants and 35 active community volunteers, with 25 current one-on-one matches between a community ally and a program participant. We have also celebrated the successes of many program participants, from getting the keys to a new apartment to new jobs… all from a safe distance.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about becoming a Community Ally, please visit https://unionstationhs.org/help/volunteer/volunteer-mentor-program/.
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]
Crop Swap LA is moving forward with its first front yard microfarm. It has not been easy maintaining safety measures at all points during the COVID crisis, but we are even more resolved for our mission because of it. Thank you for your continued support.
Located at 4603 Angeles Vista Boulevard in View Park, we have our materials prepared, vendors selected, and the month-long process to tarp and sunlight deprive the top layer has begun. Drive by sometime to see it (being respectful to the owners, of course).
There were a multitude of businesses and services needed to facilitate this project. To date, we have contracted:
Most notably, the farm design is appropriately innovative for our arid environment, allowing us to capture and recycle rainwater hundreds of times to grow regenerative organic food. We've received our materials, and we're partnering with Enviroscape LA to install it by March 2021.
Our features include:
Our Angeles Vista site plan
The costs for the project have increased as time has gone and as design needs have changed. We are confident we can launch a series of these gardens, begin a legitimate movement in the process, and adjust perspectives. It may be one garden that does that, or it may be more than one, as we try to be efficient with precious resources and donations we've gotten for the project.
The Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) envisions an accessible park system for all residents and is committed to equity by specifically focusing its investments to close current disparities in park access and park program participation. These disparities have been found to disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color. A Mobile Recreation Program is one answer to addressing these inequities and helping to make LA the best place to PLAY by bringing themed vans to LAUSD schools not within a 10-minute walk of a park. RAP's goal was to bring a park environment to communities that do not have easy access to parks.
The objective is to mobilize and make accessible various physical activities that will allow youth to participate in the communities that are underserved. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic and LAUSD school closures, RAP's themed vans will visit LA City pocket/neighborhood parks and our 60 Alternative Learning Centers that do not provide any recreational programs. These vans will bring a variety of themed activities that allow for social distancing and stable groups such as field hockey, tennis, track & field, volleyball, skate ramps, and back to basics like jump ropes, hopscotch, and chalk art. During this pandemic, schools, playgrounds, and swimming pools have all been closed, and children have been restricted to staying at home with no recreation or sports programs available.
Progress So Far
Since being awarded the LA2050 grant and receiving funds from Goldhirsh Foundation and Annenberg Foundation, RAP has been working with various groups to achieve the vision and goals of this program. With the assistance of the Los Angeles Parks Foundation, RAP's first success has been to be able to purchase two 2020 Ford Transit cargo vans for the Mobile Recreation Program. The vans are currently with experts designing the interior of the vans to house the numerous concepts needed for the Mobile Recreation Program. RAP is also in dialogue with graphics experts to design artwork for the exterior of the vans. Simultaneously, RAP is in the midst of the City's administrative process to take full ownership of the vans for the dedicated purpose of utilizing them for a Mobile Recreation Program.
Once the vans are ready to mobilize, qualified skilled staff will drive them to various neighborhoods to provide activities such as badminton, judo, soccer, wheelchair basketball or tennis, and skateboarding to echo the spirit of the Olympic games. RAP staff will introduce youth to traditional and non-traditional Olympic and Paralympic Sports, as well as back to basic games.
The next steps toward implementing the Mobile Recreation Program are to secure all the necessary City approvals to take full possession of the vans and to complete the exterior artwork. RAP will determine the types and amount of play and sports equipment that is needed to fill these vans and then will move forward in making those purchases.
As the vans near completion, RAP will conduct outreach to the community by working with our public relations team and the parks, to market the opportunity to participate in mobile play.
“With recent world events, a lot of family dynamics, structure, normalcy, developmental progression has taken a huge hit. Families everywhere have felt it. The Special Needs Community have felt it the most. Our kiddos thrive and rely on daily schedules, therapy, and extracurricular activities. For many families, it has been terribly challenging to homeschool, while trying to work from home, and trying to provide therapy to our kids. We are not therapists. I was hesitant about Telehealth. I thought, there is no way this is going to work. Last week, we had our first session, and it's actually pretty awesome! Far from ideal to have group online, but there were so many great takeaways…Telehealth + PTN's YouTube Channel = Amazing!"
Since the beginning of the Safer at Home order, PTN has come to recognize and value the power of flexibility and adaptability in profound ways. We see this not only through the lens of the children with special needs we serve who are consistently working to improve their flexibility, both literally and figuratively, while constantly adapting to a world that wasn't built for them, but also through the lens of our organizational operations. We were called upon to stretch the limits of what we thought possible in terms of our service delivery and capacity; to expand the depth of our service into the homes of our clients; and to adapt the scope of our work to engage and support parents and caregivers as they become their child's in-home educator and therapist. This is all to ensure that children with and at-risk for developmental delays and disabilities continue to have access to the critical early development and educational services they need to make LA County the best place to LEARN.
As a partner with the Goldhirsh Foundation's LA2050 initiative, PTN is incredibly proud of the ingenuity and creativity that our staff demonstrated to ensure that young children and families continue to have access to the support they need to reach their developmental milestones and early education goals. In alignment with the Safer at Home Order, PTN suspended in-person services in March and while we were able to resume onsite programming at a limited capacity and with additional safety protocols, PTN's Best We Can Be Zero to Three early childhood education team worked hard to develop an extensive catalog of relevant on-line content to support all our early learners, whether at home or in the clinic. PTN's YouTube Channel includes a thoughtfully curated series of videos produced by our Leaps & Bounds Early Intervention staff featuring sing-along songs utilized in the program available on our “Circle Time with Leaps and Bounds" playlist; and a series of videos that utilize common household items such as painter's tape, pillows, step stools, towels and sheets to promote gross motor skill development, physical activity and movement available on our “At-Home Activities for Children," playlist for free for the general public. To date, these playlists have more than 65 videos and nearly 95,000 views!
This innovative approach and quick adaptation of our services was a tremendous benefit to the children and families we serve, and has garnered PTN local and regional recognition. Both NBC7 and Spectrum News 1 highlighted PTN's programming on the evening news.
Since July, PTN has served 252 children ages 18-36 months through its Leaps & Bounds Early Intervention program via tele-intervention and in-person services, 31 children ages 12-36 months with or suspected to have autism enrolled in our Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) program, and 24 infants and children in our Early Head Start (EHS) program. We are on track to meet, if not exceed, our targets in terms of children served, despite a myriad of challenges presented by the current public health crisis. Thus far, program participants continue to demonstrate positive improvements in development across all domains (cognitive, physical, language, and social/emotional). In addition, we provided support services to approximately 300 parents of children enrolled in each of these programs and hosted 13 virtual Parent Support and Education workshops, socials, and orientations in English and Spanish for parents and caregivers. PTN also hosted 13 drive up events offering families critical supplies like diapers and craft kits. One parent recently shared the following:
“The Parent Socials have brought so much joy and have given me an outlet to voice my joys and concerns. It is so nice to just be understood and validated. To hear other parents' stories and hear that I'm not alone in my struggles is like a breath of fresh air. I look forward to these socials every month."
PTN is deeply concerned about the long-term implications this pandemic will have on the developmental trajectory of vulnerable and medically fragile children in our community as the pandemic has only exacerbated health, economic and educational disparities for vulnerable populations. Sadly, studies show that Southern California residents have delayed health-related services such as those offered at PTN and routine wellness visits (where early signs of developmental delays are often first identified) not only because of concerns about exposure to COVID-19, but also due to cost, accessibility, and access. As we emerge from this crisis, we anticipate needing to increase the depth of therapeutic and support services provided to help children recover from developmental setbacks that have taken place during this prolonged disruption in care, and those that are just beginning to seek services.
While there remains much uncertainty about the future in regard to how best to safely resume in-person services, long-term social distancing mandates, and additional impacts of the COVID-19 virus, PTN is clear in its commitment to ensuring that all children and families in need have access to high-quality early intervention and education programs, whether they be virtual or onsite. PTN looks forward to continuing to deliver programs that help young children LEARN.
To learn more about PTN's virtual and in-person programming and ways you can support our organization, please visit us online.
The Lost Angels Children's Project (LACP) is a nonproﬁt serving youth in Lancaster facing homelessness and poverty. Since 2014, LACP has offered after school programming to high school students in Lancaster in classic car restoration and industrial arts.
LACP is best known for its annual classic car sweepstakes at the Ventura Nationals when the organization gives away a classic automobile restored by the kids in the afterschool program.
LACP is best known for its annual classic car sweepstakes at the Ventura Nationals
In 2018, LACP opened a silk screen print shop social enterprise to employ youth to make t-shirts and merchandise and promote its in-house brands as well as complete custom t-shirt and apparel orders for outside customers
With its background in classic cars, vocational training and social enterprise, LACP was perfectly situated to enter the field of workforce development for the Antelope Valley.
Good Life Manufacturing Vocational Training Social Enterprise
In 2020, LACP partnered with the City of Lancaster, Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) and America's Job Center (AJCC) to create the Good Life Manufacturing Vocational Training Social Enterprise. The program offers paid vocational training and job experience in Industrial Arts and Manufacturing to transition-age youth (18-25 years old) in Lancaster facing poverty and unemployment.
The program features hands-on training in welding, reading and drafting blueprints, fabrication, power and hand tool use, auto body repair and customization, auto paint & prep, engine assembly/disassembly, automotive electrical, forklift certification, and composites. Youth acquire entry-level aptitude using welding equipment, plasma cutters, drills, drill presses, cold saws, chop saws, grinders, sanders, compressors, air tools, impact guns, brakes, stomp shears, spray paint, and much more. Youth receive six weeks of intensive training and then six weeks of paid job experience building custom furniture and working on cars for actual customers.
Participants also receive soft-skills training and wrap-around supportive services to ensure they are “work ready" and can keep a job once they are hired. Soft skills training includes LACOE's award-winning “Bring Your 'A' Game to Work" instructional course, mock interviews, resume building and other exercises designed to ensure that students understand what to expect, and what will be expected of them, as they enter the workforce.
Supportive services and individualized case management ensure that each student is able to overcome any barriers to employment. Focus areas include GED/Diploma, Driver License and instruction, public benefits assistance, housing, criminal record expungement, child care, reliable transportation, vehicle insurance, health/medical care, and financial and credit counseling and assistance.
Our Progress with Cohort Graduations
The first training cohort of 11 students graduated at the end of July 2020, with a 91% hire rate (10 out of 11 students). We overcame numerous difficulties including a shutdown of our program for several months due to the pandemic. We instituted numerous safety protocols including daily temperature and self-check screenings, personal protective gear (masks and gloves), sanitizing stations, regular deep facility cleanings, social distancing, COVID Rapid Testing and tracing, and other measures.
Our second training cohort began in October 2020. We added automotive repair and customization, body work and paint, engine assembly, electrical and composites training to the program. Ten students graduate on January 13, 2021, and will begin their job search armed with strong resumes that feature highly transferable skill sets. We are very hopeful for their prospects, and one has already received an offer of employment with Northrop Grumman.
Third Cohort Planning and Preparation
We are conducting outreach to local employers to build and leverage relationships that will strengthen and improve our workforce development efforts. We anticipate increased success in 2021 as we begin the 3rd training cohort on March 1, 2021.
COVID Relief Efforts
During the pandemic and shutdown of our after school and vocational training programs, LACP shifted to offer essential supplies and food to local communities that were experiencing food insecurity, unemployment and severe economic hardship. By partnering with local restaurants and Operation BBQ Relief, LACP was able to deliver over 15,000 meals to hundreds of local families. Our students learned the meaning of community engagement and experienced the joy of giving back to our community during our Winter Food/Toy Drive.
First Cohort graduates
Nobody wants to miss forklift training day! Certification adds a highly valued skill to graduates' resumes. Program staff subject trainees to real-life work situations that put trainees' noses to the grindstone, and offer constant opportunities for self-improvement and growth.
Custom furniture made from wood and metal. The First Cohort completed an order of customized furniture including shelving and tables for the City of Lancaster's new Community Center.
Project cars worked on by the Second Cohort. A Mustang and a Chevy.
Biggest Barrier: A Car & Driver License
One of the biggest barriers faced by participants has been the lack of a car and valid driver's license. The first requirement for any type of employment is showing up. Program graduate and vehicle recipient John W. was hired by Temco Logistics immediately once he had reliable transportation and was able to drive to the interview and then continue driving to work. After working with Temco for a couple of months, John was hired by Northrop Grumman. Good Life Mfg. donated vehicles to two of its graduates, and repaired the vehicle of a third graduate, who also received driver training instruction and obtained his driver's licenses.
Isaias came to Good Life Mfg. through L.A. County's GROW program. He previously had experience working as a Plumber's helper and knew he wanted to expand his skills as a welder and fabricator.
During the training program, Isaias worked at Stater Bros. as a grocery clerk, and still managed to get all of his apprenticeship and paid work days at Good Life Mfg. Isaias' hard work paid off when he received an offer of employment from Northrop Grumman, which he accepted. Nothing can hold this guy back!
TOP GRADUATE VANESSA
Vanessa became one of our most skilled apprentices and graduated at the top of her class. She is still working to complete her GED, and is now working full time as a forklift driver at Floor & Décor in Los Angeles. Program Director Aaron Valencia was proud to hand her a well-earned Completion Certificate, and we are all excited about her future!
MEET ASHLEY AND ROBERT
Ashley A. and Robert C. are enrolled in our current (second) vocational training cohort. Both graduated from Mojave High School. When Robert saw the Instagram post about the Good Life Mfg. vocational training program, he knew his friend would be interested. Ashley grew up around her father's business, The Mojave Desert Auto Repair, and loves working with her hands. She was accepted into the Electrical Engineering program at Cal State University Bakersfield in 2019. When the pandemic hit and all of her classes became zoom classes, she knew she wanted some more hands on training and called us to inquire about the program. Well as soon as we heard what she was all about, we knew we had to get her here. She is top of the class, is still attending her electrical engineering classes AND even has a part time job. Her dream job is to work for Northrup (spoiler alert: Northrup has hired several of our graduates in the past, and loves our program).
We feel very fortunate to be working with this dynamic duo from Mojave and the rest of our exceptional cohort!
All of us at Las Fotos Project cannot believe that the My LA2050 grants challenge happened six months ago because we remain in awe of the support our youth-powered Foto Studio received from all of you! Las Fotos Project is proud to work alongside the Goldhirsh Foundation's LA2050 initiative to CREATE a Los Angeles that fosters art and entrepreneurship.
According to the Otis Report on the Creative Economy, Los Angeles is already home to the largest population of working artists and 13% of LA County residents are employed in the creative economy. While the availability of workforce development programs for traditional trades have become widely available in communities of color, most do not include the creative arts as part of their curriculum. So in 2017, Las Fotos Project launched our Creative Entrepreneurship Opportunities (CEO) program to prepare students for this ever-growing economy. CEO is an innovative model for building career pathways in the creative economy for teen girls through photography instruction, mentorship, business experience, and creative freedom. Through weekly photography training and paid on-the-job experiences, the CEO program equips our students with the tools, skills, and knowledge to think critically, explore creative careers, and become self-sufficient. We believe that preparing our youth of color for creative careers is critical not only for our region's growth, but more importantly for our youth to generate their own jobs and wealth.
Program Progress and Challenges
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has paused the grand opening of our physical location for The Foto Studio; however, the inability to work in a professional studio has not stopped us from creating and moving forward. Since Las Fotos Project was awarded the grant in July, we launched our remote product photography services, and we are extremely proud of our CEO students' resourcefulness and innovative spirit displayed through the work they created from the safety of their homes or through physically distant, outdoor photo shoots. Our CEOs created images for Girlfriend Collective's website and Forever 21's Digital Lookbook. They also documented micro-business owners supported by past My LA2050 awardee Inclusive Action for the City and created social media content for Lander Skateboards, a brand-new skateboard company in LA! You can view all of our recent product photography projects here.
In addition to our CEO students completing product photography jobs and building their income, we made progress toward our goal of supporting women owned small businesses through mutual aid. In Fall 2020, we trained a cohort of 19 CEO students, as part of their training, we partnered with woman-owned businesses: Vive Cosmetics, Pam + Mo, and Mixtina. These businesses provided products to each student in our CEO Clients class, the owners participated in class sessions giving students an opportunity to network, learning how to work with clients and how to meet clients' needs while still executing their own creative visions. In exchange, our students provided each of these businesses with unique product photography images to use on their website and social media in order to boost their online sales. You can view all our CEO's portfolios here!
Our CEO student Maria Romero has been a tremendous leader as we launched our product photography services. During these last few months, she not only graduated high school and started college, she has trained in the CEO program, worked with our first few product photography clients, and even started her own film developing business!
Las Fotos Project has taught me to be outspoken and proud of being a woman photographer of color. The Creative Entrepreneurship Opportunities program has given me the liberty of learning how to make my passion into a business that can eventually become a job that will sustain me. The CEO program has also provided paid job opportunities, which have helped further my personal discovery of different types of photography. Through these experiences, I learned what I love as well as what I do not really enjoy in the field of photography. Personally, I am excited to see the Foto Studio running because it will give girls in Las Fotos Project the opportunity to be more hands-on while learning about photography.
Recently, I started my own business, EVE's FILM, where I develop film for photographers. When I first started shooting with film it was expensive because many photo shops charge more than $15 per roll. Las Fotos Project has taught me that photography should be available for everyone so I learned how to develop my own film and later I started developing film for others with a price range that would not be too expensive for fellow photographers. Currently, I am saving up the income I make from my CEO jobs and EVE's FILM in order to buy a few new camera lenses as well as purchasing additional developing chemicals. You can view my most recent CEO portfolio here.
In 2019, Maria received The Foto Award in the Self- Expression category. Self-portraiture became a healing process that she hopes others are able to relate to.
In 2019, Maria focused on event photography. She was the official photographer for LA Compost.
In 2020, Maria helped pilot the launch of our remote product photography services. She worked closely with Lander Skateboard to create product and lifestyle images.
Next Steps and Call to Action
Despite Covid-19, we remain excited about the next steps for The Foto Studio. Once it is safe to do so, we look forward to training our students in the studio and accepting clients for photoshoots and e-commerce photography. We still plan to open our doors to local artists and creatives so they can have an affordable and safe studio to create their work. All of this together will help complete our vision of being an incubator and accelerator for creatives in LA. However in the meantime, we invite you to support Las Fotos Project by hiring our CEO students as your product photographers or by purchasing a print in The Foto Shop. We also invite you to spread the word about our CEO program to women-owned businesses who might be interested in our mutual aid efforts. If you are interested in hiring our students or partnering together on a project, please reach out to us at [email protected].
As we welcome the new year, the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF) also reflects on our work to make Los Angeles the best place to PLAY!
While dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF) adapted our programming and project timelines throughout 2020 to better respond to the communities our families call home. Through our COVID- 19 relief efforts, virtual programming and social justice initiatives, we have provided nearly 500,000 meals and more than $2.2 million worth of food, water, hygiene necessities, educational items and Dodger products to the most vulnerable Angelenos during this time of economic insecurity. In addition, LADF has supported more than 106 local nonprofits and social justice organizations working to address racial inequality and alleviate COVID-19 impact. As we supported Los Angeles' most underserved communities, we also doubled down on our commitment to complete the three Dodgers Dreamfields and Fitness and Training Zones associated with the LA2050 grant.
The project supported by the LA2050 grant includes building three Dodgers Dreamfields and Fitness and Training Zones at Gonzales Park in an effort to restore Gonzales Park to its prior baseball glory and promote a positive environment for youth of all ages to play baseball and softball. Alongside Kershaw's Challenge and the City of Compton as lead partners, these Dodgers Dreamfields are the first set of fields to feature energy-efficient capabilities and solar components, as well as be the first to infuse elements of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) through LADF's Science of Baseball curriculum.
We believe that Dodgers Dreamfields are game-changers, and now more than ever, revitalized green spaces help revitalize communities, boosting the safety of local parks and providing a place where neighbors can gather, exercise and play. Together, LA2050 and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation make Los Angeles the best place to PLAY by creating a lasting impact for the City of Compton through these Dodgers Dreamfields.
Challenges and Obstacles
In February 2020, we hosted a community groundbreaking alongside Compton Mayor Aja Brown, Dodger Pitcher Clayton Kershaw, actor Anthony Anderson, and community members, partners, and local high school youth who will benefit from the new park. After the community groundbreaking event, construction was quickly underway before it was abruptly halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a significant delay in the project. Due to COVID-19, we needed to put a hold on construction to conduct an appropriate evaluation of our options. We wanted to be mindful of the level of involvement of LADF staff and partners as the project started, to ensure the safety of our team and collaborators and to move forward in a responsible and productive manner.
In the months that followed, we took the time to connect with all parties involved, including our committed project sponsors, about their continued support of Gonzales Park. We value their partnership and appreciate that they have re-assured their commitment to our project during such an uncertain time. With such a transformative project, we have also added new sponsors along the way.
The current list of partners includes:
Progress and Next Steps
After having to put a pause on construction, we are happy and excited to announce that the construction of the three Dodgers Dreamfields at Gonzales Park resumed in October 2020!
Construction crews started reconstruction with the tilling of the turf, surface grading and soil preparation of the field. This included the demolition of the fields and the entire backfield space, in addition to some concrete demolition and removal from the field site. This demolition was critical, as it ensures the Dodgers Dreamfields can be centered and repositioned in a way that better supports local youth as they grow and develop their skills throughout the years, from T-ball to high school and college athletics. In addition to demolition, construction crews started to upgrade the irrigation system of the park, which required the installation of new irrigation and drainage piping throughout the field site.
Construction crew preparing the field for construction
Continued development of the Dodgers Dreamfields
Most recently, final grading took place in preparation for continued work on field development of the three Dodgers Dreamfields, which includes the setting of concrete for park walkways, installation of sod and infield mix, installation of field fencing, construction of bullpen and Grandstand, and installation of lights in the back field.
Despite the unexpected delay associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently on target to complete this project by spring 2021, culminating with the celebration of Jackie Robinson Day. Final touches of the Dodgers Dreamfields, which will include application of the Science of Baseball signage and installation of solar scoreboards, will be completed immediately prior to the unveiling event, which is tentatively scheduled for April 15, 2021.
As a member of the Los Angeles community, we encourage you to stay informed on our progress by following us on Instagram Facebook and Twitter. When it's safe to gather again, we look forward to celebrating with you in person as we unveil our three Dodgers Dreamfields and create new community spaces for youth and families to PLAY at Gonzales Park.
To learn more about the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, please visit Dodgers.com/ladf.
$1M My LA2050 Grants Challenge Launches
Goldhirsh Foundation's LA2050 Initiative Makes Open Call for 25 Impactful Ideas
LOS ANGELES, February 11 – The Goldhirsh Foundation last week announced online the launch of the 2021 My LA2050 Grants Challenge.
The grants challenge is an annual open call from the foundation's LA2050 initiative for ideas to make Los Angeles County the best place to learn, create, play, connect, and live. Applications are welcome through April 2 from non-profits, for-profits, and government agencies.
A total of $1,000,000 will be awarded to 25 organizations — five per category — to implement their ideas, turning inspiration and effort into impact and equity. Those 25 are selected by evaluators from Social Venture Partners Los Angeles (SVP), using LA2050's transparent list of 68 metrics. Then, the general public votes online to decide the grant amount each winner receives, in various increments ranging between $10,000 to $100,000. Last year, more than 105,000 votes were cast.
“The My LA2050 Grants Challenge has never felt as pressing as now," said Tara Roth, President of the Goldhirsh Foundation. “There are enormous needs in so many communities, as well as such a reservoir of creativity and innovation. The My LA2050 Grants Challenge sets out to connect those two."
The My LA2050 Grants Challenge is a collaborative effort. In addition to the $1 million in funding from the Goldhirsh Foundation, additional support this year comes from the Annenberg Foundation, providing $50,000 in grant funds to support efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion; and from the Snap Foundation, supporting projects that develop pathways to the creative economy for underrepresented youth in Los Angeles.
The My LA2050 Grants Challenge began in 2013, and this is the eighth time in nine years it has taken place. Through 2020, more than $17 million has been granted thanks to My LA2050: $7 million from the Goldhirsh Foundation, $3.5 million from funding partners, and $6.5 inspired by the grants challenge.
For more information on the grants challenge, prospective applicants and the public are invited to visit the website, https://challenge.la2050.org, which is built around the slogan “Together for a brighter future." The website includes FAQs, application forms, and a timeline with key dates. Some of those key dates include:
Prospective applicants seeking additional information may sign up here for virtual information sessions. To look at past applications, visit the comprehensive My LA2050 Ideas Archive: https://archive.la2050.org. That user-friendly database contains more than 1,500 proposals and is available for anyone to search, view, and make donations to non-profits. Also, a complete list of past grants challenge winners is available here.
LA2050 (www.la2050.org) is an initiative driving and tracking progress toward a shared vision for the future of Los Angeles. We are centered around five unique goals that in 2050 Los Angeles will be the best place to learn, create, play, connect, and live. Connect with @LA2050 on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and sign up here to receive our newsletter, which includes social impact job listings and events.
ABOUT GOLDHIRSH FOUNDATION
At the Goldhirsh Foundation, (www.goldhirshfoundation.org), we connect the dots between the best emerging innovations and the financial, social, and human capital to make them thrive.
For media inquires, please contact Jeremy Rosenberg, [email protected]