2020 Grants Challenge
🎉 Winner

Project SOAR: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Through Education

Project SOAR turns the college and career dreams of students living in public housing into reality. This grant will place three counselors on five public housing sites in East and South Los Angeles to provide one-on-one college advising to 1100 students and families. Because college graduates earn $1 million more than high school graduates over the course of a lifetime, this is the equivalent of an $1.1 billion social return on investment!


Has your proposal changed due to COVID-19?

With the onset of COVID-19, our counseling staff was quick to transition to remote advising. Project SOAR counselors have maintained contact with SOAR students primarily through texting and phone conversations, but also via email and video conferencing. Our counseling staff is also in the process of building out a text messaging and artificial intelligence platform that will be integrated into Project SOAR advising practices this summer and into AY 2020-2021. Of course, once we are cleared to do so, we return to in-person, socially distanced advising on site.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

East LA

South LA

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles

If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.

Over the last three years, SoCal CAN and HACLA have developed a highly-effective partnership to make Project SOAR available on five housing sites. SoCal CAN bears all responsibility for project implementation, data tracking, and reporting. HACLA’s role has been to: (1) provide space free of charge on each public housing site to serve as the college center; (2) promote Project SOAR to residents via robocalls, leaflets and community boards; and (3) connect Project SOAR staff to other service providers that are delivering important wrap-around services.

What is the need you’re responding to?

Public housing is home to nearly 21,000 Angelenos whose average household income is $24,424. Children and youth make up almost 50% of the resident population. According to data provided by LAUSD, students in public housing score lower on standardized tests, have higher rates of absenteeism, and are less likely to graduate from high school or attend college than their peers. They also attend schools with little to no college advising. Despite these conditions, students in public housing have college and career aspirations. They want to break the cycle of poverty and provide economic mobility for themselves and their families.

Unfortunately, very little investment has been made to support the college aspirations of public housing residents. This has been an enormous missed opportunity to promote postsecondary degrees/credentials that lead to significant career options and pay.

HACLA and SoCal CAN have forged a dynamic cross-sector partnership to bring college advising to the sites.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?​

SoCal CAN and our 85 member organizations have deep expertise working with low-income, first-generation, students of color in nearly pocket of Los Angeles County. This is why the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles turned to SoCal CAN when an opportunity emerged through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to place college counselors on public housing sites. Together, we developed a comprehensive approach. We were one of 9 cities across the country that were selected as a demonstration site for Project SOAR.

Over the last three years, our partnership has yielded tremendous results. We’ve provided college knowledge to more than 1100 students and families in public housing and 448 students are either gearing up for the college application phase or currently persisting through college as a result of Project SOAR. We have been recognized as a national model by HUD, the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities and The Kresge Foundation.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?

Direct Impact: 1,100
Indirect Impact: 10,000

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

Over the last three years, Project SOAR Los Angeles has become a nationally recognized model for supporting the college and career aspirations of residents in public housing. The program currently operates on five public housing sites, but there is demand to expand SOAR to all fourteen HACLA developments. By doing so, we have the potential to serve 10,000 residents down the road. Our work has also piqued the interest of state policymakers. Of course, our primary focus is LA and ensuring the most vulnerable Angelenos the right to a postsecondary education and pathway out of poverty.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Project SOAR seeks to eliminate any barrier that stands between a resident’s desire to attend college and the advising needed to make that happen. We prioritize 7th-12 graders, college students and opportunity youth under 25, but our door is open to anyone that would like to pursue postsecondary education. We’ve found that Project SOAR is especially helpful to the students who would otherwise fall through the cracks.

Included below is a summary of what we are seeking to accomplish and metrics to determine whether we have been successful. We have developed a sophisticated case management system in SalesForce to track our interactions and impact with students and families.

1. Increase college application and acceptance rates for residents at the five Project SOAR housing sites:

* 95% of Project SOAR students will have an individualized academic plan.

* 85% of Project SOAR students who are eligible for federal aid will complete the FAFSA.

* 75% of Project SOAR students who are eligible will apply for grants and scholarships.

* 90% of Project SOAR students who are UC-CSU eligible will submit applications.

* 90% of Project SOAR students who are completing high school and intend to attend college, will submit applications.

* 100% of Project SOAR students who have been accepted to college will have a clear understanding of the various financial aid packages offered to them for decision-making purposes.

2. Increase college enrollment and persistence rates for residents at the five Project SOAR sites:

* 100% of Project SOAR students who submitted their intention to register will receive guidance on how to navigate any remaining enrollment issues.

* 95% of Project SOAR students will successfully enroll and attend school in the fall.

* 95% of Project SOAR students will enroll in our college success program, Level Up.

Which of the LEARN metrics will your submission impact?​

College graduates

College matriculation

Opportunity youth (“Disengaged youth” 16-24 not working or in school)

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?​

LA is the best place to CONNECT

LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?​

Access to the LA2050 community

Communications support

Capacity, including staff

Strategy assistance and implementation