2014 Grants Challenge

C5LA’s Youth Leadership Development and College Preparatory Program

C5LA's proposed project develops future leaders, helps youth graduate high school and attend college, and teaches the value of giving back.


Please describe yourself.

Solo actor (just us on this project!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

C5LA's proposed project develops future leaders, helps youth graduate high school and attend college, and teaches the value of giving back.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

Central LA

East LA

South LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South Bay


What is your idea/project in more detail?

The mission of C5LA perfectly reflects the goals of LA2050—we prepare under-resourced Los Angeles youth for lifelong learning, build their character, and empower them to contribute their skills, talents and abilities to the community. C5LA provides a five-year youth academic and leadership development program for students at high risk for high school dropout based on family poverty, single or no-parent homes, and precarious living circumstances. C5LA helps them to graduate from high school, identify potential career paths, and enter an institute of higher learning. Program elements include: academic support, test preparation, community service projects, summer camps, college campus tours, and career fairs.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

C5LA will offer leadership development, mentoring, college preparatory, and service learning programs to 300 students in grades eight to twelve over one year. With the goal of helping youth: 1) graduate high school; 2) navigate the process of applying and enrolling in college; and 3) pursue a career path of their choosing, the C5LA program is structured as follows:

Year One—Learning to Take the Lead: Eighth graders begin with a team building program that prepares them for the adventures that lie ahead. During the school year, youth participate in a two-day high ropes challenge course where they learn the importance of leadership and teamwork. In the summer, students travel to Hyattville, Wyoming for four weeks for Camp Paintrock–Leadership U. At camp, they learn about themselves and others, developing fundamental leadership skills while participating in adventure activities.

Year Two—Leadership in Practice: Students apply newly developed leadership skills in challenging real world settings. Throughout the year, youth prepare for their upcoming summer experience through a variety of planning programs and a three-day camping trip. Year two culminates in the 12-day C5LA Bridges/Paintrock Leadership Challenge—a backcountry leadership adventure in Montana and Wyoming, where youth make decisions, solve problems, and learn to work together effectively.

Year Three—Exploring My Future: Participants explore choices for post-secondary education and careers through The Road to College, a 7-10 day college campus tour. While on the tour, teens engage in a volunteer service project in one of the communities they visit.

Year Four—Visionary Leadership: Students spend a week on a college campus where they identify the needs of community members, create potential solutions to the unique problems faced by the community, meet people who are making a difference in the community, develop a multimedia presentation about their experience, and teach others about the importance of giving back. Youth continue their college preparation through seminars and attendance at college fairs.

Year Five—Looking Ahead and Giving Back: In their final year, youth develop and host the C5 A.C.T. Now Summit. This culminating day-long college access event is presented to their peers—students who share similar life experiences but lack the resources, skills, and preparation that our C5LA students have obtained through their years with the program.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LEARN today? In 2050?

According to recent studies, only 45% of all LAUSD freshmen ultimately receive a high school diploma. For ethnic minorities, the graduation rate is even lower. Nationwide, African-Americans drop out of school at almost twice the rate of Caucasians, and Hispanics at over three times the rate of their Caucasian peers.

A lack of education impacts a person’s whole life. High school dropouts are 72% more likely to be unemployed, three times more likely to be arrested over their lifetimes, and the less formal education one has, the worse one’s health tends to be. Ultimately, low graduation rates impact entire communities, as historically under-served populations lose potential talent, leadership, income, and access to credit and capital—all of which could otherwise invigorate local economies.

Key to the future success of all youth is a high school degree. Research clearly demonstrates that teens with successful role models earn higher grades and have greater self-esteem. Unfortunately, C5LA students lack such role models, as they become the first people in their families to attend college.

C5LA makes Los Angeles a better place to learn by providing education and supports to under-served youth and encouraging and facilitating high school graduation and college matriculation. The impact of our program on today’s youth is clear: for the past two years, 100% of our students have graduated from high school and gone on to college.

C5LA is also helping make Los Angeles the best place to learn in 2050 by preparing program graduates to be leaders in the community and to take their education and leadership skills into their neighborhoods, schools, and places of work to perpetuate a cycle of improvement for others. These benefits are particularly important in Los Angeles’ low-income neighborhoods, where there are too few examples of success with which youth can identify.

Giving back to the community is essential and all youth are required to spend at least 30 hours per year engaged in community service activities. The program also cultivates continued service through its Counselor in Training in Program (“CIT”). CIT provides C5LA graduates an opportunity to further develop the skills they obtained through their five years in the program. “C5ers” participate in either the Leadership Camp in Wyoming or the Road to College Tour and the ACT NOW Summit. Students build skills that help create well-prepared and high-quality counselors and prepare them for the future.

Whom will your project benefit?

C5LA’s Leadership Development and College Preparatory Program serves Los Angeles students who are at high risk for school dropout based on family poverty, single or no-parent homes, precarious living circumstances, and prevalence of gangs in their neighborhoods.

C5LA participants are Latino (56%), African American (22%), Asian/Pacific Islander (11%), Caucasian (7%), and other backgrounds (4%). One hundred percent come from low-income, working poor backgrounds and most live in homes where the annual income is less than $10,000 per family member. The average student in our program comes from a family of five members with a total annual income of $21,000. One hundred percent of C5LA youth participate in the federal free lunch program and over 90% are the first in their families to attend college.

More broadly, C5LA benefits the community by developing college-ready youth who have self-confidence and positive self-esteem, value diversity, and function effectively in a multicultural environment. The success of our youth as first-to-college family members, peer mentors, and community leaders also directly impacts the lives of their families, friends, and community: siblings/friends gain a positive role model and the community gains an engaged citizen. Successive generations will be more likely to attend college and their futures will change dramatically. Financial stability, better health, less violence and incarceration, and greater opportunities for advancement and retirement security are all likely outcomes of a college education.

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

C5LA works with organizations such as Educare, the Posse Foundation, Champions, Impact, and UCLA Uni-Camp to collaborate on serving more youth through our leadership programs. We are also partnered with the Fulfillment Fund and Princeton Review to enrich our college preparatory programming, including our youth participating in their standardized test taking prep classes and the Fulfillment Fund’s Destination College fair.

C5LA also partners with 18 schools in the LAUSD through the Beyond the Bell Program, an initiative that provides after-school enrichment opportunities for underserved youth. Because C5LA aims to prepare youth for college through programs like the Road to College, the agency has developed extensive partnerships with dozens of colleges and universities, including throughout California and into Oregon and Washington for the Road to College and across the country as students have explored and entered universities around the country for more than 10 years. In addition to the Road to College, the A.C.T. Now Summit enables students to spend a week on a local college campus designing and developing a day-long college access and awareness event for other at-risk students. Each year, A.C.T. Now impacts not just the lives of our program youth, but 500 others as well in the culmination of the program when C5 youth deliver the fall college preparatory program to hundreds of peers.

As a result of our participation in the Los Angeles Social Venture Partners's “Fast Pitch” program, C5LA partnered with South Central Scholars in the creation of the “College Access Brain Trust,” which now includes leadership from several key organizations, including the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship and the former Magic Johnson Foundation.

We ensure our collaborations are successful by:

• Working closely with existing collaborative partners to further develop our program;

• Seeking out relationships with college preparatory programs that have been proven effective; and

• Constantly exploring how we can partner with new organizations that serve a similar youth demographic.

How will your project impact the LA2050 LEARN metrics?

Youth unemployment and underemployment

District-wide graduation rates

HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math

Academic Performance Index scores

College matriculation rates

Truancy rates in elementary and middle school (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

The Leadership Development and College Preparatory Program is designed to help low-income students who come into the C5LA program with a C-average grade level, to achieve the following goals:

• Students will improve their grades and increase extracurricular activities during high school;

• 100% of students will graduate from high school;

• 100% of students will enter an institution of higher learning (college/university, community college, trade technical school, military, or other) within 12 months of their graduation from C5LA;

• 80% of youth will identify potential career paths and interests; and

• 80% college persistence rate for program alumni who have matriculated to college.

One hundred percent of our youth complete more than 30 hours of community service per year and are involved in extracurricular activities. C5LA has an unprecedented 94% year over year retention rate of participants. More than ten years of annual evaluations conducted by Youth Development Strategies, Social Solutions Efforts to Outcomes, and an internal program practice and safety audit confirms that 100% of youth who complete the program receive their high school diploma and over 95% matriculate to college. For the past two years, 100% of our students have gone to college. The current college persistence rate for our alumni is 5-10 times the national average.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

C5LA is aimed at fulfilling our mission by helping youth grow, stay in school, and succeed. In order to accomplish this, the program has been designed around five key outcomes, which the program uses to measure success. Students are expected to:

• Form positive relationships with youth and adults;

• Live and work successfully in a diverse community;

• Graduate high school and pursue higher education;

• Make a positive contribution to his or her community; and

• Develop leadership skills in the areas of Self-Awareness, Confidence, Communication, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Organization, and Group Effectiveness.

C5LA measures school attendance, community service hours, extracurricular involvement, and academic performance/grades. When compared to data related to a student’s performance prior to entrance into the C5LA program, we are able to measure performance and assess need for program change or enhancement.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Throughout its development, two principal lessons have informed the design of C5LA’s programs.

Lesson 1: Summer camp experiences (two weeks or longer) have a tremendous impact on children’s confidence, self-esteem, and interpersonal skills. C5LA was founded in 2000 as the personal philanthropy of John Alm, former President and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises. After many years of sending his own children to summer camp, John Alm began to see the impact it had on their lives. The camp experience was an amazing lesson in life, but John knew that not all youth had the resources or financial means to attend.

With this in mind, John began his mission with the idea of creating a summer camp for those who otherwise would not have access to such an opportunity. In order to truly achieve the life impacting experiences that he felt would be necessary to affect students’ future behavior, John Alm and his wife, Carolyn, purchased a ranch in Hyattville, Wyoming, built a camp on the land, and hired staff to create the Paintrock Canyon Program.

In 2000, he brought 36 Los Angeles teens to Paintrock for the inaugural summer, where the youth spent one month at camp, far away from their everyday lives in Los Angeles. Having started as a summer camp 14 years ago, C5LA is now a five-year, year-round academic and leadership development program where 100% of all participants graduate from high school and over 95% enter college.

Lesson 2: Youth of limited family resources need consistent, long-term support to achieve their full potential. A 2006 study by the Bridgespan Group listed several important factors for enabling low-income students to get into and make it through college. Factors include understanding the link between education and career aspirations, a cohort of peers planning for college together, expecting a college-preparatory curriculum, and taking steps to make college more affordable.

With these factors in mind, the C5LA program grew in scope, not only involving a summer camp, but also creating an educational program that helps children grow into successful young adults. The program provides the wonderful adventure programs teaching the skills necessary for success and provides long-term assistance and support the youth might otherwise never receive.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

C5LA’s program is well established and we are confident that we can implement our project in the next twelve months because we have a clear timeline for recruiting new program participants and conducting project activities. The timeline for the upcoming year follows.

August-September: Administrators and C5LA Site Coordinators of each partner middle school meet with C5LA program staff to kick-off the identification/nomination/selection process.

October: C5LA Site Coordinators and Administrators present the program to the staff, who nominate youth at their middle schools. Teachers, counselors, and principals complete nominations and these documents are presented to partner school Site Coordinators for review. C5LA typically receives 30-40 nominations per school and more than 500 total nominations.

November-December: C5LA Site Coordinators distribute program applications to nominees. Students and parents/guardians complete applications, secure reference letters, grades, and write essays. C5LA typically receives 300-400 completed application packets.

February-March: C5LA staff reviews applications and uses a score card to assess the fit with the program as well as the student’s need. Approximately 150 students are selected to interview for 72 spots. Interviews are completed on campus and include both group and individual format in order to assess the students in a team-oriented environment as well as one-on-one.

April: C5LA staff meets to decide which 72 students will be chosen for the five-year, year-round program to begin in the spring. Thirty-six boys and 36 girls are chosen and this group is considered a cohort for the five program years. All students are notified, along with a wait-list group, and then the program kicks-off with orientation programming in the months leading up to the first residential summer program in Wyoming.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

The first challenge we are at the end of conquering, but remains a current challenge, is confidently fundraising a minimum of our budgeted expenses, and preferably going over this goal with a contingency amount in place each year.

C5LA’s revenues have fallen short relative to expenses, as expected, due to the fact that our operating budget was previously fully funded by a National organization (which was funded by Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Enterprises). When the funding ended five years ago, our board and staff were tasked with raising the entire operating budget for the first time. A $2.8M cushion of support was provided knowing that it would take at least a few years, if not longer, to raise approximately $1 million per year when starting from zero. It is not our intention to completely drain the funds in this safety net pool and we still have a reserve available.

We have successfully grown the board and continue to forge funding relationships with new partners each year, all while maintaining existing donors. We are now poised, along with potential support from new funding sources such as LA2050, to grow our budget again in 2015 and start to strategically plan for an endowment fund.

The second challenge is staffing and retention. C5LA seeks qualified staff of the highest caliber and aims to ensure that they stay. Because of the uniqueness of our model, combining year-round college preparation activities with rigorous outdoor adventure in the summer months, C5LA seeks individuals with a broad range of skill sets. Staff must have experience in youth development, outdoor education, leadership development, and college and career planning. There are seasonal summer employees for Camp Paintrock and training new staff each year on the program and culture can be challenging.

C5LA addresses staffing challenges by connecting with local colleges and universities to recruit staff through their teacher training and MPA programs. C5LA also recruits LAUSD teachers. These efforts, along with intensive training, ensure that we recruit dedicated, qualified, and diverse staff who reflect the demographics of our program participants. In addition, there are opportunities for former program youth to work with C5LA. This is often ideal because many former C5ers work with C5LA when they are home from college in the summer and are already familiar with the program culture.

What resources does your project need?

Network/relationship support

Money (financial capital)

Volunteers/staff (human capital)

Publicity/awareness (social capital)

Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)


Community outreach