2021 Grants Challenge


Idea by AWOKE

The GR818ERS x UNITE is a creative place-keeping project that serves as a physical and virtual hub for youth and community members to grow as leaders and skilled practitioners. The GR818ERS x UNITE provides artistic and athletic leadership development programs, produces community events and cultural arts festivals, and connects community members to local advocacy efforts that advance equity and inclusivity.


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

San Fernando Valley

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

An LA Times article identified a San Fernando Valley elementary school as “the L.A. Unified campus that has more students classified as homeless than any other,” while another highlighted that local residents “breathe some of California’s worst air and suffer from asthma-related hospitalizations at rates far higher than most of the state.” Structural poverty and racial inequity plague San Fernando Valley communities. The lack of public investment coupled with the overcriminalization brought on by social inequity, has created a culture of nihilism in youth that increases at-risk behaviors, as illustrated by a 25% increase in cannabis use by young people ages 18-25 in LA County in recent years. Further, the communities primarily served by AWOKE are some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Youth in these communities are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, which has led to a drastic increase in disconnected, underserved youth in Los Angeles County.

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

Throughout the year, The GR818ERS x UNITE activates the UNITE Cultural Center to produce culturally-responsive platforms for youth engagement that include workshops, club programs, school-based programs, drop-in activities and other accessible entry points, including the leveraging of virtual platforms and social media. As participants grapple with the social isolation created by the global COVID-19 pandemic, virtual program activities keep them connected to others. Productive engagement in creative exchange reduces the feelings of nihilism and apathy that are heightened due to the prolonged conditions of social confinement during the pandemic. Program staff utilize empowerment-based approaches to mobilize the arts and athletics as tools to address trauma, transformative spaces that foster identity work, and organizing bodies that advance social change. Furthermore, through mentorships with veteran practitioners, youth are given unique vantage points through which to understand and develop their identity and learn to embrace a lifelong pursuit of knowledge. Virtual program efforts are integrated throughout the organization and provide safe, accessible entry points to services for youth regardless of physical location and ability levels. From youth arts programs to cultural arts experiences, virtual activities reduce barriers to participation and supplement in-person engagements.

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: 100

Indirect Impact: 10,000

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

AWOKE maintains that developing a supportive social ecosystem for youth—one that extends to the home—contributes to reductions of at-risk behaviors and leads to positive health outcomes. Recognizing that youth may not have a safe, productive living environment, the UNITE Cultural Center serves as a drop-in center and resource hub to a significant number of migrant first- and second-generation students. AWOKE’s approach to youth development is based on a cradle-to-career framework that prioritizes wellbeing throughout the arc of human development. Program efforts are designed to develop youth resilience, social cohesion, and community wellbeing to ensure youth can healthily navigate their community and the demands of adulthood. By intentionally fostering inclusive spaces, AWOKE leverages its creative platform to connect local and international communities to build racial solidarity, promote cultural exchange, and nurture global citizenship.

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

Programs are evaluated through staff and participant surveys and interviews tracking socioemotional wellbeing and the efficacy of program approaches. The following self-reported factors are evaluated: self-efficacy; belonging; empowerment; peer support; reactions to social challenges; leadership in activity; decision-making in activity; and cultural responsiveness of activity. Additionally, at monthly staff meetings, program staff report participant progress. Program staff also report on the efficacy of participant referrals to local service providers and community networking efforts. Furthermore, annual listening sessions and community surveys are used to uplift the voices of youth and their caregivers to reflect on program efforts and make meaning of their experiences. These listening sessions provide crucial insight for program staff to assess impact, influence design, and fine tune measures of success to prioritize community needs.

Which of the CREATE metrics will you impact?​

Arts establishments, instillations, and exhibitions

Employment in the creative industries

Global cultural and economic influence (“soft power”)

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to PLAY