2021 Grants Challenge

Uni(verse), the world's first interactive classroom poetry platform

Get Lit’s Uni(verse) is the world's first interactive poetry platform designed with youth voices and stories at the center. Based on our award-winning curriculum, this learning management system invites students to dialogue with the past, bring it to the present, and build new worlds through the gravity and impact of their voice. Our hybrid, deeply personal call-and-response model enables students across L.A. to share art in and outside of school with peer-to-peer feedback, and engage in activism to affect change in their classes and community.


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

County of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

According to The Literacy Project, 25% of California’s 6 million students lack basic reading skills. With such poor readers, 44% of students entering Cal State schools need remediation. Without the ability to read at a proficient level, our youth face great impediments to their success, including roadblocks to careers, to full participation in their communities, and to comprehension of national and global issues affecting their lives. Add to this the COVID-19 pandemic’s traumatic effect on our students, teachers, and schools, interrupting the education of those already struggling, widening the achievement gap between economic strata, and creating skyrocketing rates of depression among isolated youth. Uni(verse) offers youth a straightforward entry into literacy and self-expression. It provides academic rigor and structure that many online learning programs lack, with opportunities for intellectual challenges, feedback, discussion, meaningful connection, and deeply addressing emotions.

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

In August 2021, Get Lit will launch Uni(verse), the world's first interactive poetry platform for the classroom. Based on “Words Ignite,” our award-winning, impactful poetry, literacy, and youth empowerment curriculum, Uni(verse) will give L.A. students the ability to access our curriculum online and to exchange ideas within and outside of school. Uni(verse) provides deeply personalized, hybrid learning through video and written modules, peer-to-peer feedback, and engaging content with Get Lit alumni. It features teacher professional development, guest speakers, contests, a library of resources, performances by our award-winning youth poetry troupe the Get Lit Players, virtual visits between classrooms, and a poetry exchange through which youth poets can share their work and score and converse about one another's art. It includes our annual poetry Anthology (getlitanthology.org/) with videos, bios, and downloadable poems filterable by poet, theme, literary device, etc. Uni(verse) participants may also compete in our annual Classic Slam, the largest youth classic poetry competition in the world. Uni(verse) will give students and teachers, especially in under-resourced areas, the broadest educational access and options. It will support and make connections between youth who feel isolated; facilitate collaborations; provide vital socio-emotional outlets; and enable us to reach the greatest number and widest socio-economic strata of L.A. youth with our life-changing services.

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

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

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

Direct Impact: 48,000

Indirect Impact: 800,000

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

Uni(verse) reimagines the student experience for L.A. youth, will transform the format of education, and will improve literacy on a broad scale. It will close the achievement gap by providing online personalized learning experiences to all students regardless of socio-economic level. Students’ voices and students’ stories are at the center of Uni(verse). It will ignite their love of language, support college readiness, and change classroom dynamics allowing all students to share and engage in cross-county dialogue. With our call-and-response model, students claim a classic poem that resonates with their own stories and write original responses, placing the greatest poets in history in dialogue with L.A. youth. Uni(verse) guides students in discovering, developing, and amplifying their voices, supports communicating both among youth and to a larger ecosystem, fosters empowerment, and develops leaders prepared to generate tangible change in their communities.

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

Our goal in 2021-22 is for Uni(verse) to be utilized by at least 48,000 L.A. County students, with availability to all students in 2022-23. Our curriculum is aligned with CA Common Core, VAPA, and CASEL Social and Emotional Learning Standards, approved by the University of CA as an “A-G” college preparatory credit, and by LAUSD as an Intervention Course. The platform incorporates our Scoremetrics app for tracking student growth in writing, performing, articulation, and emotional connection to material. Using real-time teacher and peer-to-peer evaluation, this game-like app improves Level 4 Depth of Knowledge skills and builds relationships among youth. We will also administer student surveys at the start and end of each semester. In addition to artistic skills and knowledge, surveys will measure retention rates, engagement, and overall depth of learning. Evidence of our impact will include significant improvement in students’ attendance, grades, and literacy after participation.

Which of the LEARN metrics will you impact?​

Arts education

High school graduation rates

Student proficiency in English & Language Arts