2021 Grants Challenge

Keep PLAYing: High School Program Expansion

Harlem Lacrosse seeks to expand its high school programs and staff, and teach even more students in South LA, Compton, and Inglewood how to PLAY lacrosse. This year 12 seniors, who began Harlem Lacrosse’s transformational lacrosse program as middle schoolers, were accepted into four year colleges; of those dozen trailblazers, many will be first generation college students, and 7 will be college lacrosse players despite most never attending a school with a HS program. Imagine the impact Harlem Lacrosse could have with more staff and resources!


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

South LA

Other:: Compton


What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

HL-LA operates in South LA, Inglewood, and Compton. These communities report high poverty levels and low high school and college graduation rates; the structural inequities that exist lead to under-resourced schools, creating huge opportunity gaps for athletics, academics and extracurricular activities. While lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in America, its growth has barely penetrated the invisible boundaries between affluent suburbs and low-income, urban neighborhoods. HL-LA brings lacrosse to local parks and schools that would otherwise never be exposed to the game. HL-LA’s student-athletes are asked to overcome obstacles like poverty, housing and food insecurity, and trauma with fewer programs and tools at their disposal than their more affluent peers. HL-LA levels the playing field by ensuring all participants can be part of a team, compete, and have fun. Harlem Lacrosse seeks to be part of the solution, by offering free programs to teach students how to Aim High.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

At Harlem Lacrosse, success is a team sport. Program Directors complement the work of students and families, school staff, community members, and peer programs to create robust high school playing opportunities for youth. HL-LA currently serves its high school students through a community program, but seeks to expand its staff to develop more locally-based programs to better serve students who are alumni of our middle school programs and reach new students. The expanded HS Programs will include: dedicated staff members who serve as coaches, mentors, tutors, and counselors, regular lacrosse and fitness training and playing opportunities, access to academic support, college counseling, and career exploration. Our unique model is particularly well-suited to meet our players' specific needs. Program Directors are professional coaches with years of experience in trauma-informed practices, education, and youth development. HL-LA’s programs foster meaningful relationships between PD’s and players, leading to higher engagement and trust. HL-LA programs combine SEL activities with customized study skills, leadership training, and character-building lacrosse activities. Since reaching your goals never takes a season off, Harlem Lacrosse plays year-round and the average participant enjoys over 250 hours of programming annually. HL-LA is a transformative program for students and families, and the true impact is realized when students stay in the program over a long period of time.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 300

Indirect Impact: 1,000

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

If Harlem Lacrosse’s work is successful here in LA County, hundreds of students who attend under-resourced, underfunded high schools will know the joy, challenge, and sense of accomplishment and achievement that being part of a lacrosse team can bring. Our expansion will mean we can double the number of high school aged youth we serve. HL-LA will contribute to LA2050’s goal of improving the number of youth participating in sports, since most of our players have never played any sport before joining our teams. LA City schools will increase the number of HS lacrosse teams as more youth learn the sport through Harlem Lacrosse and other community-based lacrosse organizations. Graduates of Harlem Lacrosse’s programs will be impact players on college rosters, will improve the college acceptance and persistence rates of their neighborhoods and schools, and will go on to become socially-conscious, engaged citizens and community leaders.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

HL-LA uses data to evaluate our organization's effectiveness and to inform program design. We collect program feedback annually from staff, students, parents, and community partner surveys. Lacrosse competency is measured in skill challenges and regular feedback on player performances. The PACER and other fitness tests measure fitness; most students report weight loss and overall health gains beyond improved times. Academic performance is tracked using grades in core classes, and attendance records. We use Hello Insight surveys to measure SEL skills and use the results to create customized plans for individual participants. To evaluate the depth of participation we look at a few key metrics; hours of participation per year per participant, annual rates of attendance, year over year retention, and graduation rates. Success means HL students stay in the program over a long period of time, attend school more regularly, earn better grades, make friends, and improve their lacrosse skills.

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

Harlem Lacrosse is not submitting a collaborative proposal, but our work would not be possible without the important contributions of our program partners and our local Advisory Board. Harlem Lacrosse works alongside the staff at Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) Schools and the Compton Unified School District. Harlem Lacrosse - Los Angeles is incredibly grateful for partnerships with the City of Inglewood, local high schools and colleges, lacrosse leagues, corporate partners, and the dedicated work of volunteers who all contribute to meaningful experiences for our players.

Which of the PLAY metrics will you impact?​

Youth sports participation

Prevalence of trauma and adverse childhood experiences

Easy access to a safe park

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to LEARN