2021 Grants Challenge

Reestablishing Connection & Confidence For LA’s Youth

PLUS ME uses the art of personal narrative storytelling to empower youth in LA. Through our self-reflective journaling and dialoguing process, students increase their self-awareness, realize they are not alone, and learn how to vulnerably share their stories. Our project will help underserved high school youth reconnect with their peers while engaging with diverse role models, strengthen their oral and written skills to prepare for college applications and job interviews, and build confidence as they transition back to in-person learning.


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

Central LA

East LA

San Fernando Valley

South LA

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

According to UCLA in 2020, over 70% of young people felt isolated or alone. Research has shown that the impact of COVID-19 has likely increased this number and the need for social and emotional support for teenagers will be greater than ever coming out of this pandemic. When youth feel isolated or alone, they are less likely to build connections, initiate conversations, or feel comfortable expressing themselves to others. This results in youth disengagement, apathy, and a lack of confidence for them to pursue their academic, personal, and professional goals. As students in LA transition back to in-person learning, many will need tools to process through the traumas that they faced throughout this pandemic. We must immediately facilitate safe spaces where youth have the opportunity to self-reflect on the past year, articulate their experiences in group settings where they feel supported and celebrated, and gain tangible skills that will support them as they advance in their future.

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

Our program begins by having a volunteer role model share the struggles and accomplishments they experienced while navigating through their academic journey. Our goals for this five-hour program are to first connect with youth by sharing how relatable stories can look, sound, and feel. Second, we empower youth by telling them that they have a story that matters. Our intended impact here is to plant a seed of confidence and get youth inquisitive about their own journeys. Next, we facilitate safe environments by having youth create community agreements and defining the space they need to showcase vulnerability. Once established, our facilitators direct youth through our My Story Matters Journals. These 100-page personal narrative guides won UCLA’s 2019 Social Enterprise Venture Competition and walk students through identifying the characters, settings, struggles, accomplishments, and lessons that comprise their stories. Through our self-reflection activities and intentional dialogues, students build deeper connections with their peers and realize they are not alone. Our program culminates with a community circle where students unapologetically own who they are and share their lived experiences with their classmates. Through our in-person or virtual program, youth increase their self-efficacy, empathy, and confidence while gaining practical written and oral skills that will help to strengthen their college applications and job interviews.

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: 1,000

Indirect Impact: 5,000

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

Reestablishing connection and confidence for youth in LA will bring hope back to our city in a much needed way. After high school students are given the opportunity to self-reflect, empathize with one another, and understand how they showcased resiliency throughout this pandemic, LA will be filled with more youth who are not afraid to use their voices. There will be an increase in engagement at schools throughout the city and youth will feel more confident and eager to pursue their aspirations because they will now know how to articulate their stories into college personal statements and job interviews. Our city will feature a diverse set of storytellers who proudly embrace their authentic identities and serve as role models in their communities. Together, we will build stronger connections among one another and empower future generations to learn how to unapologetically own who they are and proudly articulate why they matter to themselves and the world.

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

We have been measuring impact and gaining participant feedback since we launched our program in 2016. Our intended impact is for youth to increase their connection with self and others and their confidence toward future goals. In 2019, we are proud that 76% of our youth increased self-awareness, 80% expressed higher confidence, and 93% recommended their peers participate in the program. In addition to surveys, we also have conducted interviews with participants. Many of our students have claimed that our program helped them to realize they had a story that could be adapted into their college personal statement. They also raved about how they learned more about their classmates that they have known for years and increased their empathy for one another. One student shared, “This program not only changed by life by helping me understand and vocalize my story, but it saved my life by surrounding me with a community of peers that I now can call my friends.”

Which of the CONNECT metrics will you impact?​

Social and emotional support


Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to LEARN