2013 Grants Challenge


Educating Young Minds, a non-profit learning center, is expanding the reach of its educational and counseling programs by undertaking a significant expansion of its pre-K programs and services. Through an innovative on-line program, Educating Young Minds is using its 25 years of experience to better serve the under-represented and at-risk population in Los Angeles. This on-line service will initially serve 2,500 students, allowing for a later expansion of up to 10,000 students. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF EYM Educating Young Minds is a rich and diverse supplemental learning environment where students are encouraged to grow academically, emotionally and socially. Educating Young Minds grew out of the needs of many students and families for supplemental education and counseling, which over-stressed public schools could not meet. Mrs. Angeles Echols began Educating Young Minds, a non-profit learning center, 25 years ago in her one bedroom apartment in mid-city Los Angeles. She saw the need in our inner-city communities for supplemental educational and counseling services. A dysfunctional school district and unsupervised after school environments were, and still are, endangering young people and fueling unacceptable high school dropout rates. Through hard work, good business sense, and a deep understanding of humanity, Mrs. Echols built Educating Young Minds into a thriving community based organization that currently serves 277 students (pre-K through 12th grade) throughout the year with a staff of 25 teachers, 4 administrative staff, and 3 volunteers in a 12,000 sq. ft. state of the art learning center. Open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. , EYM provides home study instruction, after school tutorial (The Ray Charles / Educating Young Minds Enrichment and Learning Program), standardized test prep classes, a six week summer program, and a college scholarship program that offers EYM high school graduates $6,000 to $12,000 college scholarships. EYM has empowered over 3,500 students with the skills and ability to enroll in, succeed at, and graduate from four year universities. DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM • ACCESS / NO EXCUSE is an on-line tutorial program developed by Angeles Echols and Educating Young Minds collegiate graduates that provides students with a wide range of learning interactions from pre-K through college and beyond. The pre-K component is a comprehensive program that provides: 1. The EYM On-line Curriculum provides sequential lessons in mathematics and literacy. These bi-lingual learning interactions combine visual and audio learning approaches. Learning interactions move at the rate of the child, custom tailored to his or her needs and ability. Parents go on-line with the child and are encouraged to take a lead role in interacting in positive, educational, and fun activities. Parents have the option to turn off the sound and follow a prepared script that enables them to become the teacher. The curriculum is geared to encourage positive interaction between the parent and child. The material starts with basic classification and association, phonics, and then progresses to introducing numbers and letters to jumpstart the child’s educational development so that he or she is prepared for elementary school. The site also incorporates an incentive for the students to continue to progress through the curriculum through the use of a point system. A site member earns points for passing quizzes and tests, and they can then use the points to interact within the virtual world. 2. Virtual World Interactions allow parents and students to choose the subject, be it math, English, or phonics, and within the virtual world, they can interact with other students during the learning process. Students and parents interact with on-line resources and a free-roaming, 3-D, interactive virtual world representation of the Educating Young Minds Learning Center. 3. EYM Live / On-line is a direct video conferencing feed that connects parents and students to teachers, counselors and mentors at EYM’s learning center. Parents will work directly with teachers to provide early education opportunities for their children. Available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. of Fridays, EYM Live / On-line will serve families that cannot access area preschools. Parents on-line provides message boards for parents only, allowing them to interact with teachers, counselors, and each other. On-line communities can be excellent resources for support and information; Parents on-line provides a forum where parents can share their views, and reach out to others in the community. Using HTML5, this website is accessible on tablets, iPhones, and traditional desktops. ACCESS / NO EXCUSE is an on-line educational hub that has been built in large part by EYM alumni. These former students have graduated college and returned to EYM.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

EYM alumni are attending and graduating from colleges from around the nation like Stanford, Cal Tech, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Bakersfield, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Los Angeles, Cal State Northridge, Clark Atlanta University, Columbia, Cornell, Dillard, Dickenson, Fresno State, Hampton University, Howard, Kentucky State University, Loyola Marymount, Morehouse, Northwestern, San Diego State, San Jose State, Santa Clara, Spelman, Syracuse, Tuskegee University, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, University of Illinois, University of Kentucky, University of Pittsburgh, University of Puget Sound, University of the Pacific, USC, and Xavier.

To truly express the impact of our programs, we would like to share the story of an EYM alumni in her own words:

LaShia Ransom, EYM Graduate 1999

USC 2003, B.A. DEGREE, SCHOOL 2007, M.A. Counseling- Marriage and Family

Child Therapy

Founder Non-Profit "Enriching Communities"

Once upon a time, I was known as a "selfish little girl with a horrible attitude", who at 14 knew everything and "didn't need anyone to tell me “Anything", until that one late evening when my mother found me sitting on my bed crying into my Trigonometry book, with my TI-82 in hand. My mom asked, "What was wrong?" With tears in my eyes, I looked at my mom for the first time feeling like a failure. I responded, "I don't know how to do this! I've failed my 2nd math test!" My mom felt the defeat and sadness in my words. She hugged me and told me, she would figure it out and she would get me some help.

By the end of the week, my mother had found Educating Young Minds (EYM) and Ms. Echols in the yellow pages. I arrived at EYM, embarrassed to admit I needed help. (Please take note I had been an honor roll student since the first grade.) Asking for help was something I didn't know how to do. As my mother and I sat with Ms. Echols she looked at me, then at my mom, asking a lot of questions. I gave one word responses with the most negative attitude you could imagine. That's when Ms. Echols respectfully asked my mother to leave, no, she told her to get out of her office. What happened in that office I rather not mention today, just know that it was done with love and respect and I learned a lot of humility! The rest is history and was truly a blessing!

Needless to say, not only did I pass my Trigonometry class, I became one of the first students to receive a scholarship from EYM in 1999 and graduated from USC with honors in 2003. In 2007, I graduated with a Masters Degree in Counseling- Marriage & Family Child Therapy. Today I am a very humble and proud wife and mother, who is employed with the Los Angeles County Probation Department as a Deputy Probation Officer II. Last year I co-founded my own non-profit organization, "Enriching Communities", to be an advocate for inner city youth suffering from substance abuse.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Because of the scalable nature of on-line service, EYM has discussed ACCESS / NO EXCUSE with a number of potential collaborators. Local schools are interested in the live on-line tutorial that provides after-school assistance to students. Community colleges are interested in the vocational possibilities that ACCESS / NO EXCUSE will eventually offer. Corporations are interested in partnering with ACCESS to reach under-represented communities and individuals. However, first and foremost because of the proprietary nature of the program, the creation of the first phase of ACCESS - the pre-K educational service, is being done in-house by our staff of 9 computer programmers.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Access No Excuse website is designed with the capability to capture and deliver both aggregate and granular levels of data that can support the needs of management, sponsors, parents and other stakeholders. The site will deploy the latest web analytic technologies to accomplish this objective. Using the data, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will be built into a website dashboard which will provide Access No Excuse management a critical tool to monitor real time performance of its site operations, evaluate students’ progress, as well as produce benchmark data that could be shared with partners or others, as appropriate.

Website Traffic - Data will include:

The daily number of visits

The average number of page views per visitor

Average duration per visit

The most requested pages

The total length of each visit

Frequency of visits

Navigation pathways from entry points to exit

Top landing and top exit pages

Referring sources etc.

To track student progress, the data will be further aggregated to provide metrics such as:

Attendance (visit consistency)

The module each student started and completed

How many students started each module

Engagement time (amount of time spent on each module)

Most and least frequently used modules (module popularity) which will provide opportunities for improvement

How many parents logged in with a student and returned to log in for self help

Family level engagement (number of kids in family versus number enrolled in the program)

Demographic breakdown: age bracket, gender, culture (i.e. ethnicity), economic level, education,

Geolocation (area, school district, etc).

With the above range of data elements, both parents and Access No Excuse management will be able to track and measure the progress of the kids at various stages and in different ways. Reports can be produced weekly, monthly quarterly or as needed. Kids of the same age, socio-economic background, similar parental environment (i.e. single parent, grandparents, multi-generation homes) can be compared. Specific performance information can be gathered to help determine when a parent or guardian may need further instructional follow up or support. For example, looking at the number of modules a child has signed into, but never completed for a period of time will be a quick red flag.

Learnings from comparative data can be utilized by management to further enhance the program and potentially provide valuable best practice information to feeder schools or partners within the school district. Aggregate performance data could be used by management and parents to compare kids in the program with similar kids in the school district, county or statewide. Also, based on user profile, specific reports could be created on feeder schools or districts who may be interested in seeing how well their students are doing in the program.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

Low-income children often begin kindergarten behind their peers. This “achievement gap” is well documented, and often widens as children progress through elementary school and beyond. There are many causes for this inequality, but the results are clear: high school drop-out rates for African American and Hispanic youth approach 50% in some local schools in Los Angeles.

What is clear, and is consistently supported by data, is that high quality pre-K programs can have a significant impact in promoting readiness in low-income children. Just as importantly, programs that focus on parental participation and support can markedly strengthen the education children receive at home, especially for children raised in single parent homes. Some studies have shown that pre-K programs have the potential to not only significantly narrow the achievement gap, but maintain these academic gains as the child grows.

The challenge remains in providing access to under-served populations. There are many barriers to reaching these under-served populations. Chief among them is access; a lack of nearby learning centers and pre-schools in low-income neighborhoods is compounded by difficulties with transportation. Just as importantly, getting families to buy into the process and believing that attending non-mandatory pre-K programs is of great benefit and importance remains a barrier.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

The on-line revolution is breaking down barriers that have long separated and segregated society. It is our vision that as connectivity continues to grow, and as the services available on-line continue to improve, young people will increasingly have equal access to the tools they need to succeed at school and at life. Success in the year 2050 would be an educational system that provides a quality education to all children. Where inner-city youth can learn in positive and empowering environments that set high expectations and provide the tools they need to succeed. The internet has the potential to provide this type of access, and it is our vision that we can make a meaningful impact right now and in the future.