How LA2050 Grantees Are Responding to COVID-19

Posted April 6, 2020 by Team LA2050

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. We continue to be inspired by our grantees who are adapting, innovating, and championing their missions more than ever during this time.

Defy Ventures has paused its in-prison programs due to the California Department of Corrections restrictions on visitors at this time, but Defy's staff hasn't skipped a beat. The team has been able to connect with participants to continue with the EIT (“Entrepreneur-in-Training") curriculum, and has shifted to virtual meetings for post-release and community programs. In addition, they're starting virtual book clubs and launching a letter-writing campaign so that volunteers and post-release EITs can send words of encouragement to in-prison EITs.

Rise reallocated a small portion of its project budget to provide immediate shelter to 40 local college students living in their car or on the streets. The goal: to use the time in a temporary facility to find permanent housing for these students. Rise has also continued its work with local college student organizers, shifting from in-person to digital advocacy methods.

Rock the Vote moved its Census “Create-a-thon" to an innovative digital gathering. Fortunately, the “Create-a-thon" was all about expressing creativity through the use of digital tools and platforms. The kick-off and award ceremonies were conducted virtually while a Slack workspace was created so that participants and event organizers could share resources, announcements, and questions about the Census in real time.

The Street Vendor Coalition responded swiftly to alleviate the negative economic impact of COVID-19 on local micro-businesses and their workers. The coalition created the Street Vendor Emergency Fund to raise the money needed to provide $400 in direct cash assistance to vendors who are unable to access government assistance.

The Youth Movement Against Alzheimer's coordinated an alternative to its in-home caregiving model given concerns around older adults and COVID-19. The program, “E-Meal," will combat isolation by setting up virtual dinner meetings via phone or video to connect YMAA's volunteers with older adults. Not only does E-Meal encourage social interaction, but it also gives older adults a venue to express their need for resources.

The Natural History Museum has closed its local museums and paused all in-person programming. But NHM's Community Science team is accustomed to using creative, mobile methods to encourage Angelenos to explore nature on their own. One example: the upcoming 2020 City Nature Challenge, an international effort to mobilize people to find and document plants and wildlife in cities across the globe using their own smartphones and cameras.

826LA is continuing to provide its free tutoring, writing workshops, and support services to students, teachers, and families both online and over the phone. 826LA was motivated to make the shift to virtual methods in part because of the team's belief that storytelling can be a powerful tool in difficult times. See 826LA's digital resource hub for families here.

Harlem Lacrosse adapted proactively to the challenges faced by students, families, and teachers due to COVID-19. Program Directors served as “Resource Catalysts" to disseminate information from schools about virtual learning, meal distribution, and more. Meanwhile, the Leadership Team created virtual platforms and streamlined curricula to continue delivering academic support, athletic training, and social-emotional learning virtually. Some activities: live workouts, lacrosse jeopardy games, and an age-appropriate discussion on the coronavirus.

9 Dots has designed new remote learning options for its Get Coding and Academy students and will be offering webinar lessons to a full grade level at a time. 9 Dots is also launching this year's CS Education Heroes awards as a virtual campaign by soliciting videos from the community about why CS education and teachers are so important.

We're Halfway There: Mid-Year Updates from our 2019 Grantees

Posted January 23, 2020 by Team LA2050

Last summer, LA voted for 10 incredible organizations to receive $100,000 to implement their solutions to our region's most pressing questions. Six months later, we're checking in on their progress toward making LA a better place.

Click on the organizations below to read their mid-year blog update.

Harlem Lacrosse Builds Community Through Sport

Posted January 23, 2020 by Harlem Lacrosse

This is an update on the winning proposal from the PLAY category in the 2019 LA2050 challenge.

This year, Harlem Lacrosse's message was #TogetherWeGrow. And we were thrilled to kick off this academic year by being awarded an LA2050 grant to make Los Angeles the best place to play! Through this partnership and with the help of many other individuals and organizations, Harlem Lacrosse - Los Angeles was able to focus on increasing our impact.

Our first priority was to strengthen our existing programs at our four school-based programs and our Community/Open programs. The LA programs kicked off the school year in August and jumped right into a fall designed to recruit new players and retain returners from last year. The highlight of the fall was our Friends & Family Fun Day, where players brought their loved ones to the field for a day of friendly competition. Students were able to showcase their own growth while teaching parents, siblings, and friends the basics. Building community through sport is an important goal of Harlem Lacrosse.

Program staff refined their skills during professional development training sessions, which included working with WeCoach on trauma-informed coaching practices, Glenn Young on progressions for teaching physical fitness, and Doug Lemov who provided best practices and customized lesson planning and practice evaluation tools to the HL staff. In addition to their practice plans, Program Directors build out a curriculum for each season which includes academic support, social-emotional learning lessons, team building activities, and enrichment experiences to support their players. Personal and professional growth through ongoing staff development is essential to the high quality programs Harlem Lacrosse offers.

We also continued to grow our partnerships, with local club teams, high school and middle school programs, and local leagues.Our girls teams were thrilled to welcome back program partner USC Women's Lacrosse team, led by coach Lindsay Munday. The USC players hosted a clinic and have been keeping in touch through a pen pal program. I know the Harlem Lacrosse girls are excited to cheer on their friends and lacrosse mentors when USC plays at home this spring. The Harlem Lacrosse boys competed and won their division in the fall box lacrosse league, a testament to the hard work these student-athletes have put in, and the dramatic improvement that can result from focused training and goal setting. Currently the boys are competing in a Winter League, and through these important competitive experiences are increasing their skills and gaining important game time minutes. Our girls will once again compete in the Pacific Edge Lacrosse Association's spring recreational league, the only all-girls league in LA, and a big supporter of what Harlem Lacrosse is doing to bring the sport into urban schools.

Harlem Lacrosse has continued to provide enrichment and career mentoring to its students as well. Through partnerships with Google and String King, students learned about local companies and potential job pathways. Students took tours of local colleges and visited museums. And we just kicked off our annual corporate partnership with AdvicePeriod, who will lead this year's cohort through a 12 week program around financial literacy.

In addition to the full-time Program Directors who work in tandem with school staff at our partner sites, Harlem Lacrosse has hired several part-time assistant coaches, many who learned about the program through their own school communities. Harlem Lacrosse players who are now in High School have also played a role as junior coaches and interns. Harlem Lacrosse is currently working on how to create more formal high school programs to continue serving the older players, through tournaments, college counseling, and coach and leadership training. Harlem Lacrosse also relies heavily on the dedicated group of volunteers who help at Play Days, and act as assistant coaches and tutors.

One unique program that Harlem Lacrosse offers is the Youth Leadership Board, a cohort of high school students who act as junior board members and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what it takes to run a non-profit organization. Applications for next year's cohort will be open in June 2020.

And finally, Harlem Lacrosse - Los Angeles continues to prioritize growth of its local advisory board. Currently we are lucky to have a group of very committed, very passionate individuals who advocate for Harlem Lacrosse and provide vital support. We are hoping to add a few more like-minded individuals to strengthen our board and increase our reach into the community; this has proven to be a bit of a challenge, as the lacrosse community, while tight knit, is still relatively small in LA. If anyone is interested in joining a mission-driven, sports-based youth development organization in a board role, please contact us!

Harlem Lacrosse is a year-round program, and our LA staff is already finalizing our busy spring season as well as our overnight camp - Camp Alex - and our day camp, Summer Academy. By the end of the year, a typical Harlem Lacrosse student-athlete will have participated in between 250-300 hours of programs. Through teamwork and deep relationships between Program Directors and their players, the students who make up the Harlem Lacrosse rosters experience growth in academics, athletics, and social-emotional learning.

Harlem Lacrosse is committed to helping each of its players find their own personal pathways to success. But we know we can't do this alone. We are so proud of our partnership with LA2050 and are excited to continue our work with our own growing team as we continue to expand in Los Angeles.

Interested in joining our team? Applications are currently open for full-time Program Director positions on our website. And we are always looking for volunteers to be coaches, tutors, and mentors. Want to learn more about Harlem Lacrosse? We will be hosting our Annual Benefit on February 6th at Sony Pictures.

​People with Criminal Histories Defy the Odds in Los Angeles

Posted January 23, 2020 by Defy Ventures

This is an update on the winning proposal from the CREATE category in the 2019 LA2050 challenge.

Defy Ventures is proud to be making Los Angeles the best place for people with criminal histories to CREATE their new lives after incarceration. Defy is partnering with the Goldhirsh Foundation's LA2050 initiative to support people with criminal histories from the time they are incarcerated through their transition back into the community, when they are searching for employment and starting their own businesses.

Anywhere from 85% to 89% of formerly incarcerated people who are rearrested are unemployed at the time of rearrest. To prevent recidivism and ease the reentry process, Defy believes it's crucial to prepare individuals with the skills, experiences, and networks that will lead them to be successful employees and entrepreneurs after incarceration.

Program Progress

Since Defy was awarded the LA2050 grant in July 2019, we have kicked off a new CEO of Your New Life class of Entrepreneurs in Training (EITs) at California State Prison, Los Angeles County (also called Lancaster, due to its Lancaster, CA, location) and enrolled 63 EITs. We held our Business Coaching Day on December 10 with 45 volunteers in attendance, including staff from the Goldhirsh Foundation. Other volunteer attendees included a team from WELL Health—a tech company in the healthcare space—and employees who work at a variety of certified B Corp organizations. Volunteers and EITs connected with one another and bonded in their shared humanity during empathy-building exercises throughout the day. Volunteers coached EITs on resumes, personal statements, and business ideas, while EITs inspired volunteers with their resilience, drive, and determination.

Caption: Dancing, coaching, and cheering at Defy's Dec 10 CEO YNL Business Coaching Day

One volunteer who attended the Lancaster event shared, “Up until the past year or so, I have experienced a lack of exposure to the truth behind the criminal justice system and those directly affected by the way it is currently set up. My experience with Defy opened my eyes to the humanity that exists behind prison walls. [...] Now, I will never be able to see this issue in the same way I had before, and I would never want to."

This class of EITs is scheduled to compete in their Business Pitch Competition and graduate in the spring. If you believe in second chances and want to serve as a judge in a pitch competition with some of the most creative and driven entrepreneurs around, we welcome you to join us!

Caption: Volunteers and EITs at Defy's Jan 11 CEO YNL: Community Business Coaching Day

Defy's CEO YNL program in transitional facilities (called CEO YNL: Community) had its first graduation in September 2019, attended by volunteers from City National Bank and other organizations across Los Angeles. The six EITs who graduated from CEO YNL: C are all currently employed. Our second class, with 18 enrolled EITs, is now underway and held its Business Coaching Day on Saturday, January 11, in DTLA. Like the day at Lancaster prison, the CEO YNL: C event was attended by dedicated volunteers and EITs. We can't wait to hear the EIT business pitches during the culmination of both CEO YNL programs!

Defy's post-release program has held 33 workshops and other post-release events and we've welcomed 19 EITs home since July 2019. Quan, Defy's post-release manager, has developed partnerships with Sharp Dressed Man and Bluffworks, who are providing free suits and clothing for EITs when they enter Defy's post-release program.

Caption: Three Defy EITs in their suits, courtesy of Sharp Dressed Man!

Post-release EITs have secured jobs at companies such as the VA hospital, Proterra, Jenni Kane, and Metropolis. One Defy graduate, Debra, said, “Most people come out of prison thinking that the deck is stacked against you, but Defy helps you unstack that deck. There are a lot of things that take over your life and Defy helps you organize your good intentions. Defy is the constant that I feel I can rely on."

Challenges and Lessons

Given that our CEO YNL: Community program is just a year old, we've learned a lot in the past six months about implementing our program in a transitional setting. For example, while we're currently working with two transitional facilities as planned, we had to pursue a different facility after one of our original partners didn't work out. We tried multiple times to launch at this facility and ultimately were unable to get the time dedicated to Defy's program within their existing schedule. We've learned that EITs who are in transitional facilities have more demands on their time due to increased programs and preparation for release, which can make it challenging for both the facility and the EITs to prioritize Defy's coursework. We have started to address these challenges by adding flexible class time for EITs with jobs, hiring an on-site facilitator, and starting to make modifications to the curriculum to better suit the needs of the transitional population.

Join us!

Next up, Defy will be holding Business Pitch Competitions and graduations for the class at Lancaster and for the CEO YNL: Community program. The Lancaster event is scheduled for April 21. The CEO YNL: Community date is still being scheduled, but our website will be updated with the date as soon as it's locked in. You can find all open event dates on our website for both in-prison and post-release events—join us!

​LA Troka: Sembrando Cultura y Nutrición

Posted January 23, 2020 by LA Plaza

This is an update on the winning proposal from the LIVE category in the 2019 LA2050 challenge.

The LA Troka team recently sat down with six representatives from Mexico and Central America to discuss indigenous food sources, contemporary cuisine, and community health. These individuals representing Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras shared their cultural experiences and discussed the mission of LA Troka. When asked if they had ever heard of the countries that made up the area known as Mesoamerica, they excitedly raised their hands, eager to share what they knew. This group of 3rd through 5th graders from Normandie Elementary in Inglewood shared stories of where their families had migrated from and discussed their favorite corn foods including tamales, tacos, elotes, pozole, and pupusas. Students excitedly went on to explore the ancestral corn plant through hands-on activities. They ground nixtamal into masa using a metate, observed the inside of a corn kernel under a microscope, and learned the parts of the plant in three languages (English, Spanish, Nahuatl). Students left inspired to connect with their family histories and empowered to explore healthier eating habits. This is one of many examples of a community reactivating their culinary roots.

Students grinding nixtamal into masa using a metate
Students grinding nixtamal into masa using a metate

LA Troka: Sembrando Cultura y Nurtrición, brings science, health, history, art and culture to youth across LA County by exploring connections between the historical, cultural, and nutritional components of ancient Mesoamerican foods. LA Troka addresses major issues in community health and wellness. According to findings by the Latino Legislative Caucus and the LA County Department of Public Health, Latinos are less likely to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Latinos were also found to eat fast food and drink soda more often compared to non-Latinos, resulting in higher rates of diabetes and obesity. In 2013, 32% of Latino fifth graders in Los Angeles County were reported as obese. For all these reasons and more, LA Troka works with local communities to learn about the importance of healthy living.

Since receiving the LA2050 grant in July 2019, LA Troka has reached more than 4,400 participants through 54 workshops in 26 different public and scholastic events. We anticipate continuing this positive trend and reaching our goal of 10,000 participants by the end of June 2020.

With the implementation of a participant survey, we have begun recording the impact LA Troka has on our local communities. Focusing on raising awareness of nutrition, culinary preparation, and cultural-historical background of native Mesoamerican plant foods, we have found that:

  • 90% of participants believe that healthy eating is very important for their families
  • 62% have considered the connection between food and their cultural ancestry
  • 82% of participating families said they were very willing to try new healthy food options and recipes at home after participating in LA Troka's workshops.
  • 100% of participants surveyed expressed the importance of having programs like LA Troka in their communities

We plan to continue collecting data through the end of the grant period as an evaluative tool to ensure we are meeting program and grant goals while also serving the needs of our communities.

Since receiving the LA2050 grant, we have seen an increase in requests for LA Troka programming at schools and community events. We are especially excited about the work we have begun with after school programs, including Keep Youth Doing Something, Inc. (KYDS), and have worked with entities such as City Year, LA City and County libraries, and the Department of Parks and Recreation. We've extended our reach to various communities like Pasadena, Baldwin Park, Orange County, and Pomona where we have participated in school-based workshops, community events, and STEAM Expos. These collaborations support our interdisciplinary approach to education, incorporating arts, life science, culinary and garden activities, and trilingual literacy as a way of encouraging participants to explore their own family's culture, traditions, and healthy eating.

As a LA2050 grant recipient, we've had the opportunity to network and collaborate with fellow LA2050 grantees, including the Natural History Museum. We are excited to participate in their upcoming summer program, Summer Nights in the Garden. This will be an opportunity for cross-promotion, while mutually expanding each other's audience base and bringing awareness to the Goldhirsh Foundation mission.

While we've been very successful, we've also encountered some challenges – namely, establishing consistent access to K-12 grade students which requires us to create formal agreements with various school districts. Thus far, we have been able to overcome these challenges by connecting with different school and community partners. Our goals for the next six months are to formalize agreements with charter school networks, streamline our reservation calendar, and balance K-12 school workshops with community events. Additionally, we plan to continue developing curriculum to include a total of 25 native Mesoamerican plant foods. Each of these curriculum units will consist of interchangeable lesson plans that can be used depending on event theme, school, grade, season, and student needs.

When planning for the future, we keep in mind the words and stories of our families who show immense support for the work we do. As one parent wrote to us:

“Me gusto que les enseñan como nuestros abuelos y papas nos criaron a nosotros cultivando el producto para poner en la mesa."

“I liked that they teach [the kids] how our grandparents and parents raised us, cultivating the foods that we put on our tables."

LA Troka is motivated by the understanding that students across Los Angeles carry with them a wealth of knowledge. For the 74% of students enrolled in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) who identify as Latino and the 38% who speak Spanish as their primary language at home, much of this knowledge comes in the form of family tradition, language, food, and familial history. These are the elements on which LA Troka is founded – supporting health and nutrition while communally reviving our culinary and cultural roots!


​Get Coding: K-6 Computer Science Education and Pathways to Transformation

Posted January 22, 2020 by 9 Dots

This is an update on the winning proposal from the LEARN category in the 2019 LA2050 challenge.

9 Dots is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a transformative computer science education for every student. We fulfill this mission through in school and after school programming; innovative curriculum development; an online Platform that delivers lessons, teaching tools, and actionable learning insights directly to classrooms; and original research into how students learn and how underrepresented students can be engaged in CS more effectively.

9 Dots received a 2019 LA2050 LEARN grant in support of our Get Coding program. Through Get Coding, 9 Dots partners with Title I schools to build complete K-6 computer science (CS) education pathways for students in low-income communities. Get Coding combines our original coding curriculum and platform with comprehensive professional development services for teachers, including workshops, 1:1 coaching, and support from on-site “Coding Coordinators." 9 Dots Coding Coordinators work side by side with teachers in their classrooms to plan and deliver every class until every teacher is ready to teach CS independently.

A Tale of Two Students

In a 4th grade Get Coding class at Washington Elementary in Compton, a young student named D'mari confidently raised his hand. A 9 Dots Coding Coordinator, Francisco Montenegro, had asked for a volunteer to come to the front of the class and solve a coding challenge by thinking through the problem out loud. This can be extremely difficult both cognitively and socially. It requires a fundamental grasp of coding concepts and disciplined computational thinking, as well as the courage to stand in front of the class and the teacher, and potentially fail. But D'mari was fearless. He came forward, worked through the problem step-by-step, and found the solution.

In the same classroom, another student named Patrick circulated and assisted other students after completing his coding challenge. Patrick is especially drawn to paired programming where he can work alongside his peers, sharing his strategies and thought processes in coding. He is able to coach other students through complex sequences and “debugging" steps when a solution fails. Patrick understands that errors in code are a productive part of learning and he helps his 9 Dots instructor and classroom teacher establish a culture of collaboration and perseverance.

But last year, both of these students had a very different attitude. As 3rd grade students enrolled in coding for the first time, both D'mari and Patrick were quick to feel discouraged if a coding challenge appeared too difficult. They especially didn't want to fail. However, this year, their problem solving and perseverance transformed their presence in the classroom as they learned that experiencing failure doesn't limit their abilities, but strengthens them.

Building K-6 Pathways

9 Dots' LA2050 LEARN grant is addressing the new Student Education Pipeline metric. The stories of D'mari and Patrick demonstrate how learning to code in school across grade spans and developmental stages offers young students the opportunity to really evolve as coders, creative thinkers, problem solvers, and leaders. These complete CS education pathways are extremely rare at the elementary school level. But 9 Dots wants to change that.

This year, 9 Dots has already built out complete K-5 or K-6 education pipelines at eight of our Title I partner schools. This means that students at these schools will begin learning coding in Kindergarten with digital literacy, basic pattern recognition, and sequencing activities and progress, grade by grade, to JavaScript and other complex coding languages.

What James Said

Too many students like D'mari and Patrick would leave elementary school without learning coding if it wasn't for our 9 Dots Coding Coordinators, two of which are supported by LA2050 funding. Our Coding Coordinators are dynamic young teachers and CS experts who reflect the diversity of Los Angeles classrooms. They are essential to our strategy of training teachers to build long-term CS capacity at schools, modeling best practices, and establishing an inclusive debugging culture that encourages all students to see themselves as coders.

9 Dots Coding Coordinators Yoanna Cisneros and James Ward with coding students
9 Dots Coding Coordinators Yoanna Cisneros and James Ward with coding students

James Ward, a second year Coding Coordinator at Roosevelt Elementary, was approached by the mother of a young black student in his class. She told him how excited her son was to have James, a black man, as his teacher and that he planned on becoming an engineer when he grew up. James was moved. “I can't recall a time throughout my education when CS seemed like a possible career or future," he told us. “That's why the work we're doing matters. It's imperative that Black and Latinx students see themselves represented in the CS field because if they don't, how can they even begin to imagine or consider a future in CS? I want my students to see themselves while I teach."

By the Numbers

With the support of LA2050 and the Goldhirsh Foundation, Get Coding is serving 265 teachers and over 6,500 students at 22 elementary schools in the Los Angeles (LAUSD) and Compton (CUSD) Unified Schools Districts. Ninety percent of the students we serve are students of color and 82% are Low or Very Low Income.

9 Dots is working to develop complete CS education pathways at 10 schools by the start of the 2020 school year by building a CS trained educator workforce, one trained teacher at a time. With a gradual release model, 154 teachers are currently receiving full classroom support, 54 are receiving partial support, and 46 are “graduated" independent teachers. So far, 96 percent of teachers surveyed enthusiastically support continuing the program at their school next year.

9 Dots measures student progress through lessons and Level Up coding challenges. In addition, to ensure that classrooms are joyful and engaging and that all students can envision themselves as coders, we regularly survey students on their interest and self-perception. Our mid-year survey results show that 87 percent of students report that they like coding, 83 percent identify as coders, and 83 percent believe they belong in a coding classroom.

Get Coding Kindergarten students at Longfellow Elementary show off their coding solutions
Get Coding Kindergarten students at Longfellow Elementary show off their coding solutions

What We Learned and A Look Ahead

In the next six months we will be using data and feedback from students and teachers to enhance and adjust our approach as needed. Our initial LA2050 target was to end the 2019-20 school year with 100 teachers prepared to be independent CS instructors. However, today's elementary school teachers are swamped with demands on their time and resources and initial feedback indicates that not every teacher currently receiving partial support may feel confident enough to teach on their own at the close of the year. 9 Dots puts the real world experience of teachers and students first, and we are adjusting our model to extend continuing partial support to teachers who need it.

We will continue to work with administrators to add additional grade levels at our current partner schools. As these CS education pathways deepen, we are developing new ways of measuring and tracking our impact. For example, we are developing a system of unique student login ID's that will allow us to track individual student proficiency and motivational progress across grades. In addition, we are updating our curriculum with a tagging system to measure not just coding proficiency but associated problem-solving strategies.

9 Dots understands that not every student will or should become a software developer. But every student will be navigating a 21st century professional, social, and civic landscape transformed by CS and other new technologies. An early coding education can help prepare them to understand and meet those challenges and, when they encounter failure, persevere.

Next year D'mari and Patrick will start their third year in Get Coding and will begin learning JavaScript. We can't wait to see what they create.

Longfellow Students complete their fifth lesson
Longfellow Students complete their fifth lesson

Meet VCH's Four LA2050 Artists

Posted January 22, 2020 by Venice Community Housing

This is an update on the winning proposalfrom the CREATE category in the 2019 LA2050 challenge.

For the last 30 years, Venice Community Housing (VCH) has developed deep roots in the community through its affordable and supportive housing developments, resident services, homeless services, YouthBuild program, and advocacy work in the communities of Venice, Mar Vista and Del Rey. 100 percent of those served by VCH are low-income and more than 30 percent of current tenants have experienced homelessness prior to residing with VCH.

As a result of gentrification and challenges to developing affordable housing, Venice has a lower housing supply today than it did 50 years ago. Venice has always been a long-standing epicenter for arts and culture from diverse backgrounds. With continued gentrification and the rise of Silicon Beach, Venice has been in danger of losing its unique identity and culture. This has coerced many low-income artists with long-standing roots in Venice to move out. VCH aspires to tackle this challenge head-on in an effort to preserve the arts and culture that has distinctly characterized Venice for so many years by building an economically robust and self-sufficient arts program accessible to all.

In 2018, VCH created an arts initiative called Arts Community Collective (ArtsC2), a sub-group within VCH's Advocacy Committee. ArtsC2 consists of VCH staff, tenants, local artists, and community members, and works to further VCH's mission by incorporating art projects into existing and new housing developments. Through public art installations, ArtsC2 hopes to highlight that the formerly houseless who now live in supportive housing deserve a well-designed, artful building to call home.

The funds awarded to VCH from the LA2050 challenge are being used to create murals on four buildings in VCH's portfolio. Public art installations will also serve the greater community and the nearly 30,000 tourists who visit Venice Beach on a daily basis.

Progress Update

After releasing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in fall, VCH received about 25 artist applications, from which 12 artists were selected and invited for interviews. Each artist was interviewed by a panel of staff and artists from the ArtsC2 committee. Through group consensus, the final four artists were selected in mid-December.

In addition to artist selection. ArtsC2 also worked with VCH's Property Management team to select the four buildings that will serve as the sites of the murals. Representing a mix of affordable and supportive housing units, the selected sites are located at 102 Navy St., 12525 Washington Pl., 4216 Centinela Ave, and 4429 Inglewood Blvd.

ArtsC2 is currently in the process of selecting the artist apprentices, who will receive a stipend to assist and learn from the lead artists. Those interested have responded to a separate RFQ. Two apprentices have been chosen, and the remaining two openings will be finalized by January 31 after receiving input from the lead artists.

The final step in building each mural team is to select a community liaison for each project. He or she will be the conduit between the artist and the residents of the building. Ideally, this role will be filled by a tenant from each of the four buildings. ArtsC2 will consult the Resident Services team for tenant recommendations.

In the next six weeks, each lead artist will attend a tenant meeting at their respective sites of their art installations. Tenant meetings are facilitated by VCH's Resident Services and Property Management staff and will be the forum for tenants to provide feedback to the artists about how they feel about their homes and what they would like to see in the murals. VCH staff and tenants can't wait to see what the artists come up with!


In January, artist Ivo Vergara finished VCH's first mural project at 200 Lincoln Blvd. VCH held an unveiling party on January 11th, which was well attended by community members, VCH staff and supporters, and the individuals whose faces were featured in the mural. Our first art installation was a great success, with many lessons learned along the way that will help inform our processes moving forward with the next four murals.

To follow along as the artists begin their design and community engagement process, find us on Instagram @vchcorp and @artscsquared

Pictured: VCH staff, muralist Ivo Vergara, and community members whose portraits are featured in the mural

Meet VCH's LA2050 Artists!

My name is Samantha Aguilar. I am a Los Angeles based illustrator and painter. A lot of my inspiration comes from the Los Angeles Community. All of my paintings communicate a hopeful message that I hope will encourage people to feel represented and uplifted.

Gary Palmer was born in Belfast in 1968, and grew up in small town of Holywood, Northern Ireland. He completed a Master's degree in Architecture at University of Edinburgh in 1992. He has traveled in Australia, Europe, and the U.S. making 3D Chalk drawings for international festivals. Some of his accomplishments include winning competition for public art in London in 1994, and being commissioned for the Ulster Museum in Belfast in 1995. Gary emigrated to the U.S. in 1996, and now works from his studio in Venice, California.

Educator and Muralist Sergio Daniel Robleto has been actively engaging with multiple communities in order to produce murals that deliberately act as a platform and voice for the locals. Most notably is his collection of murals made in collaboration with the community of Boyle Heights. He manipulates the aesthetic of each mural so that it links directly with the aspirations, concerns, and culture of the people therein. The result he says " is a wall that acts as a silent dialogue with the beholder."

Henry Lipkis was born in Venice, and grew up on the boardwalk eating Big Daddy's pizza, sitting on the grass sketching local characters, and slowly becoming one himself. Though now based in New Orleans, Venice has shaped and compelled him to paint substantive murals around the world for the last 10 years. After moving away and honing his community based practice, Henry is eager to return home to create a personal monument to Venice.

Students Advocate to End Campus Hunger & Homelessness in LA with Rise

Posted January 22, 2020 by Rise

This is an update on the winning proposal from the LEARN category in the 2019 LA2050 challenge.

Rise is excited to continue our advocacy work to end campus hunger and homelessness in Los Angeles by training and supporting students in the creation of on-campus basic needs advocacy campaigns.

According to The Hope Center's #RealCollege survey, 1 in 5 Los Angeles Community College students experience homelessness and almost 40% experience food insecurity. Our campaigns are bringing urgency to these issues and demanding college administrators take action to address these problems that are standing in the way of their students' ability to stay in school and graduate.

Our Progress, Challenges & Next Steps

I: Ideation Phase

This past summer we conducted three town halls with students, community stakeholders and organizations to brainstorm big ideas to end campus hunger and homelessness. We compiled the list of ideas from our town halls and had our community at large vote on the top three strategies. The three strategies that were chosen are:

  • Los Angeles City College (LACC): Identify existing campus spaces that could be converted into safe, overnight shelters with security and support staff.
  • UCLA: Replicate and expand the Students 4 Students shelter model and other student housing by using underutilized spaces that have potential for safe shelter or permanent housing.
  • Pasadena City College (PCC): Align financial aid enrollment with the CalFresh application so that students can auto-verify their eligibility and don't have to go to the DPSS office separately.

II: Implementation Phase

In the fall we hired two co-organizing managers to run these three campaigns: Jemere Calhoun, the Associated Student Government President at LACC, supervised LACC, and Saba Ansari, a 4th-year student at CSU Fullerton, supervised UCLA and PCC. Both Jemere and Saba had extensive organizing backgrounds.

Saba and Jemere hired 8 student organizing fellows, spread across the three campuses, to build these advocacy campaigns from the ground up. Our student organizing fellows created petitions, built relationships with like-minded on-campus groups, met with campus administrators and gathered hundreds of petition signatures through tabling and attendance at on-campus events.

Below are more campus-specific updates, challenges and next steps from Jemere and Saba:

LACC Update, Challenges + Next Steps:

Going into this campaign, we knew that the LACC administration had already refused to move forward with an existing plan to use a campus parking lot for overnight shelter, voicing the need for an approximate $50 million grant in order to cover security and insurance issues. Given the parking lot plan was stalled, we identified the women's gym as another underutilized space that could be converted into an overnight shelter at a lower cost. Our team worked to build support on campus by partnering with other on-campus groups focused on homelessness and thus far have collected 645 petition signatures. The LACC Associated Student Government has also endorsed the petition, raising the legitimacy and urgency of the campaign with administrators.

This semester, we will build out our team of student organizers to 4 and we will focus our efforts on partnering with and sharing the perspectives of the most vulnerable populations on campus, including LGBTQ and mentally and physically disabled students who are facing housing insecurity. We will also escalate our tactics to put more pressure on our administration by providing a liability waiver for students, obtaining a grant to provide liability insurance or physical security, writing an op-ed and marching on the parking lot and Women's Gym.

We anticipate that the emergency shelter would directly impact 50-100 at one time, and would be a step in the right direction in combating housing insecurity on our campus.

UCLA Update, Challenges + Next Steps:

Our ask of Chancellor Block to invest $1M in a student-run homeless shelter on-campus is bold, but not that bold in the context of UCLA's $5B+ endowment. However, given the administration's prior decision to not support or fund the UCLA student-led shelter, Students 4 Students, our hope is that the power of student organizing this time around will gather the momentum and awareness necessary so that UCLA's administration can't say no.

Our team of 4 organizing fellows built a solid foundation for our campaign, collecting 860 petition signatures and forming partnerships with other basic needs-focused organizations on campus like Cafe 580 and Bruin Dine. Our fellows began meeting with administrators as well, including UCLA's Dean of Students. However, in the meeting it was clear that the administration is still in denial of the homeless problem on campus.

Nonetheless, momentum is growing as The Daily Bruin's Editorial Board published this article in December and another article about our students' work in early January. To build on that momentum, this semester we will escalate our tactics to put more pressure on UCLA's administration with more press, endorsements of the petition by student government and other campus organizations, an on-campus demonstration, and additional meetings with campus administrators.

We anticipate that the proposed on-campus, student-led shelter would directly impact 30-50 students per year at UCLA, but UCLA's investment would send a signal to other well-endowed institutions that they should start dedicating significant resources to address the issue of student homelessness on their campuses as well.

Pasadena City College Update, Challenges + Next Steps:

PCC has been an uphill battle for our team. We started out the semester with a partnership with the Lancer Pantry, which ended up falling through for various reasons. Additionally, we had one strong student organizer leave the position early on, so it took us a good amount of time to rehire. Because of these obstacles, we weren't able to build relationships on or off-campus with many groups this past semester.

However, we will now have a team of 4 strong student organizers to build on the 120 petition signatures that were collected last semester as well as develop relationships with the student services and financial aid offices to further our goal.

We anticipate that the direct impact of using financial aid data to verify CalFresh eligibility would be an additional 2,500 students enrolled. Our hope would be that PCC could be a model for all public colleges in California looking to address their students' food insecurity through CalFresh enrollment.

Additional Campuses:

This semester we will hire 3 additional student organizers to build basic needs advocacy campaigns on Los Angeles Trade Tech College and West Los Angeles College campuses.

What Our Fellows Have Learned (So Far):

“I had no idea the extent to which student hunger affected my campus before I became a fellow at Rise. Learning about some of our students' stories was an extremely important, eye-opening experience for me and one that has changed my understanding about the effects and impact of student hunger on college campuses forever."

“Through the fellowship, I have been pushed out of my comfort zone and forced myself to interact with people I never would have normally talked to. It has really been such a growth-inducing experience for me this semester, and I can not wait to get back to doing it in the spring semester!"

The Natural History Museum Shows There's So Much Nature in LA!

Posted January 22, 2020 by Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

This is an update on the winning proposal from the PLAY category in the 2019 LA2050 challenge.

Is There Really Nature in L.A.?

Challenging the misconception that nature does not exist in cities is our passion here in the Community Science Program at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC). We actively recruit volunteers who live and work in Los Angeles to help dispel this myth, and we engage residents in making wildlife observations. We show families, teachers, and youth how to become community scientists by teaching them how to use the iNaturalist mobile app to turn their observations of backyard wildlife into real data points that are shared with NHMLAC scientists and staff. This community-sourced information, a vital component of urban nature research, can be used to answer authentic scientific questions about the plants, animals, and fungi living in Los Angeles. Through this community-based participation, Angelenos form connections to nature in their neighborhoods and contribute to a database of knowledge that can even be used to inform policy or city planning.

As an LA2050 grant recipient, we are expanding our community science programming at NHMLAC to reach thousands of people from communities across Los Angeles County. We are proud to partner with the Goldhirsh Foundation to further the initiative to make LA a better place to play!

(Pictured: Youth at the Wildlife to Watts event identifying their neighborhood bats)

Welcoming Michelle to Our Team

With the help of the LA2050 grant we were able to hire Michelle Race, our new full time Community Science Coordinator. She joins our team with five years of experience in environmental education and a background in connecting underrepresented communities to the outdoors. Her work focuses on creating new partnerships, training new community scientists, and planning outreach events.

(Pictured: LA2050 Community Science Coordinator, Michelle Race)

Meeting People Where They Live

Since receiving our LA2050 grant, we have traveled all over Los Angeles County, interacting with over 1400 people at nine different events. We attended “Wildlife to Watts" to share news about the bats that have been detected in South L.A. We trained the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council on how to use iNaturalist, introducing them to NHMLAC community science projects and supporting their biodiversity initiative with LA Sanitation and Environment. We partnered with LA County Library for a Nature Day at A C Bilbrew Library in Willowbrook where families watched a squirrel marionette show, touched a live snake, listened to a nature story, and explored the wildlife just outside the library with NHMLAC staff. And we hosted a youth BioBlitz to test our new Nature Exploration kits while searching for wildlife at Colorado Lagoon in Long Beach. In total, participants at our events have contributed nearly 200 new observations on iNaturalist, and counting!

(Pictured Left: A young participant observing a bee during the nature walk at A C Bilbrew Library)

(Pictured Right: A Watts resident learning about bats in Los Angeles from LA2050 Community Science Coordinator, Michelle Race)

Challenging Perceptions of Nature

Some of our favorite moments during community science programs include seeing the surprise on people's faces when they learn that there are 12 species of bats that might be living in their local park, or experiencing the excitement of a kid catching an insect and observing it up close. For one of our youth participants at the Colorado Lagoon BioBlitz, his “wow!" moment was, “When we first laid on our stomachs and looked under the pier and saw how many mussels there were!". Those unexpected discoveries help shift the perspective on the diversity of life that can be found in urban environments.

(Pictured: Participants and NHMLAC Community Science Staff at Colorado Lagoon)

Helping Teachers in the Outdoor Classroom

Another component of our goal to reach more Angelenos includes the creation of new digital media that can be used by educators to incorporate community science into their curriculum. This project is intended to assist teachers in using the outdoors as a classroom and to help their students practice scientific skills. These digital resources will eventually include: lessons aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, videos on how K-12 audiences can do community science, and suggestions for how to work with school administration to implement new curricula.

Community Science for Everyone!

Not a teacher? Do not fret, we're also making community science videos for the general public. Ever wanted to know how to take better pictures of wildlife with your phone, or how to help other community scientists identify their observations? We are creating short videos that will give everyone the tools needed to take part in our projects. They will be released in April, right before the City Nature Challenge, a world-wide competition where cities compete to see who can find and document the most plants and wildlife.

(Pictured: Members of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council at a training about iNaturalist)

Spreading Community Science All Over L.A.

We are looking forward to 11 more events in the coming months and are continuously working to plan more programs to add to our calendar.

In February, we're hosting an iNaturalist training for Boundless Brilliance, an organization that is working to close the STEM gender gap. We are excited to participate for the first time in La Plaza de Cultura y Artes' Family Day in March, where we'll explore local wildlife with visitors. We'll kick off Earth month, co-hosting a bug hunt with Boundless Brilliance at the City of STEM event on April 4th. Then, in the run up to the City Nature Challenge, you will find us teaching volunteers how to use iNaturalist during the Friends of the LA River's annual river clean-ups. Finally, in May, we'll be at the International Science and Engineering Fair education outreach day, where we'll provide interactive programming for students visiting from schools all over L.A. County.

(Pictured: Visitors on a nature walk at A C Bilbrew Library with Senior Manager of the Community Science Program, Lila Higgins)

Nature Play & Science

Getting thousands of youth and adults out into L.A.'s nature has been a powerful experience for all.

We've watched kids dig for pill bugs at their local library, heard parents and their little ones exclaim as they pulled up a sea cucumber to examine closely, and seen hundreds of new iNaturalist observations be submitted. We're excited to see where the next six months will take us and we hope you'll come along for the journey.

Be sure to sign up for the LA2050 email list where we'll be sharing all of the details on how you can join us at one of our upcoming events. We hope to see you soon for a day when we can all play outdoors in LA!

YouthCare Pilots In-Home Respite Care for Individuals with Alzheimer's

Posted January 22, 2020 by Youth Movement Against Alzheimer's

This is an update on the winning proposal from the LIVE category in the 2019 LA2050 challenge.

The Youth Movement Against Alzheimer's (YMAA) is an advocacy and service organization operated by a motivated group of young individuals that value community involvement and are dedicated to making a change. Specifically, YMAA's YouthCare program creates space for intergenerational connections, alleviating the challenges of an aging population and allowing youth passionate about changing the perception of Alzheimer's to gain work experience.


YouthCare is an in-home activity and memory care program that pairs trained undergraduate and graduate student volunteers with older adults diagnosed with MCI, early-stage Alzheimer's, or dementia. Student volunteers go into the homes of family caregivers and follow a set curriculum designed by the UCLA Longevity Center in order to provide patients with cognitive stimulating activities and companionship. This helps to improve the quality of life for seniors by keeping them engaged, channeling their energy in a positive way, and uplifting their mood. The program also helps their family caregiver by providing them with temporary support in taking care of their loved one.


Since we have received the LA2050 Grant, YMAA has made great progress in the development of YouthCare: hiring a team and acquiring volunteers. In July 2019, we hired a new CEO and in November 2019, we hired a Director of Caregiving Programs. These team members have been working hand in hand to flush out the next phase of the YouthCare program.

In addition, during this planning phase, we have successfully modified the program structure from facility-based services to the in-home model, including finalizing marketing materials and revising the program curriculum.


The next steps in bringing this program to life are recruitment of volunteers and patients, volunteer training, and program activities. The recruitment of student volunteers will consist of phone calls, e-mails, and in-person Q&A sessions on campus.

The recruitment of patients is a bit more complicated and will require our team to attend collaborative community meetings, hold in-service sessions with doctors and discharge planners, and outreach to social workers and health plans, as well as going out into the community to meet with family caregivers face-to-face. We also plan to place advertisements in print and online media publications, radio stations, and local television stations to aid in the recruitment process. At the beginning and end of the program cycle, we will also send out press releases to major media outlets so that the community is aware of the amazing work the Youth Movement Against Alzheimer's is doing.

We are prepared and ready for this next phase: launching the in-home YouthCare model in March 2020. With this pilot program, our goal is to serve a minimum of 20 family caregivers and patients while engaging 50 or more student volunteers. This pilot program cycle will run for a total of 8 weeks. Every program cycle thereafter will run for approximately 12 weeks.

We will also be planning ongoing training and social events for everyone involved in this program in order to build a sense of community between students, family caregivers, and persons with Alzheimer's or dementia. After the pilot is complete, we anticipate the creation of an alumni group so that previous volunteers will come back during the next program cycle to greet new student volunteers and share their experiences.

All in all, we are making progress towards our goals and we are excited to continue to serve the Los Angeles community!

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