2021 Grants Challenge

Upgrading My Game and My Brain

At Books and Buckets, we will empower Washington Neighborhood Youth with a Basketball Academy, Guided Reading and Comprehension Help, and Mentoring. Our program aims to provide student-athletes with the fundamental skills that empower them to succeed on the court, in the classroom, and in their community. Our academy undertakes place-based change that focuses on a neighborhood impact, with an aspiring and promising community of strong and powerful Black and Brown youth who have been historically underserved.


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

South Bay

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

We are seeking to address gang violence and youth engagement. The Washington Neighborhood of Long Beach has one of the highest rates of gun violence, adding to 40% of the city’s firearm assaults and murders. Nearly half of Washington School students are not adequately prepared to attend high school. The Washington Neighborhood is one of the only neighborhoods in Long Beach without a community center that youth can turn to. The 14th Street park needs are classified by LA County as “very high” and the infrastructure as “poor.” Gang violence is common, and the gang recruitment efforts have forced the community to respond and even walk Washington students to school. Students are forced to avoid gang territory streets and at many times approached by transient individuals on their way to school. Long Beach is over 80 square miles, yet the Washington Neighborhood has accounted for over 10% of all violent crime in the city, despite covering less than half of a percent of the city.

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

Our project involves implementing a Youth Empowerment Academy that will allow neighborhood youth to take charge of the issues in their community. It will incorporate an academic curriculum that involves reading, mentoring, and engaging the youth to take on issues that affect their life, family, and community. The reading component will be achieved through guided and assigned books that can inspire them to think for themselves and their community. The mentoring will be achieved through community mentorships of local residents mentoring the local youth in the community they serve. The engaging component will be achieved through guest speakers and civic engagement in local policy. Youth will be actively involved through the Atheltic Academy, a high-quality basketball academy offering an outlet to all the problems they have to face on a daily basis. This academy will incorporate a skills clinic that challenges their abilities while also training their mind. This project is a place-based program led by residents from the Washington Neighborhood. It will take systems change and collective impact into the complexities and constraints of the neighborhood. Sustainability will be achieved through the fact that local residents are initiating the program. This is not an outside-in program, it is an inside-out one where community members are coming up with solutions for dealing with the problems facing their community while relevant partners provide support.

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: 30

Indirect Impact: 1,000

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

This project will serve as a model for other neighborhoods, as the Washington Neighborhood is currently one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in LA County. Effective efforts in our community can serve as a model of place-based change focused on the culture of a neighborhood. Empowering local youth and removing the lifeline of gang violence will function as a systems change effort that changes the power dynamics of a community. This project will also serve as a model of resident sustainability, where local community leaders take on a solution to a problem and sustain that process along with their neighbors to ensure a powerful and united community. LA County neighborhoods differ drastically, however, some of the most underserved ones face similar problems and have similar demographics. If one neighborhood can overcome the historical and racist challenges facing their community, then those techniques and processes can be replicated throughout the county.

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 will define and measure success through youth surveys, parent surveys, community surveys, neighborhood crime rates, gun violence rates, illegal gang activity rates, and local school performance. Youth surveys will serve as a benchmark of the growth mindset of our student-athletes regarding their futures and community. Parent surveys will serve as a benchmark for perceived community safety through active parks. Community surveys will measure perceived community safety and school reputation. Neighborhood crime rates are being gathered by the local justice department for specifically the Washington Neighborhood corridor. School performance is gauged through a partnership with the local school district and the families involved in the program.

Which of the PLAY metrics will you impact?​

Youth sports participation

Crime rates

Perceived neighborhood safety

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to LEARN