2021 Grants Challenge

Youth, Front and Center: A Media Platform By and For Youth

Youth, Front and Center will be a youth-led online platform for LA youth and young adults who have experienced homelessness, foster care or the criminal justice system. Since 2016, FMC has been training young people with such experiences in producing journalism, and paying them for their work. This platform will be a showcase for youth with similar experiences to connect and elevate their voices to a broader audience.


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?

Youth-serving systems must be informed by the perspectives of the people most impacted by them, especially because they have the most at stake. L.A. County is home to more than 18,000 foster youth, thousands of whom “age out” between ages 18-21. The 2017 Cal Youth study found almost half of 19-year-old foster youth surveyed had experienced homelessness or housing instability. It is common for young people exiting foster care to also face other challenges like unemployment, unplanned pregnancies and the struggle to find educational and career success. Part of the challenge in addressing the negative outcomes and disproportionate effects of the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles is the lack of information available to the public. Despite pressing need for sustained public attention, budget cuts in local media mean the challenges faced by Los Angeles’ foster or justice-involved youth receive little coverage. FMC fills the gap in information by elevating youth perspectives.

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

FMC intends to build a media platform dedicated to amplifying at least 60 youth voices in Los Angeles and connecting a network of youth leaders and stories across the county. Los Angeles is FMC’s headquarters, and the center for all our work under our Youth Voice Program. This program, launched in 2016, hired its first full-time program manager in 2020. Since, the program has expanded and published nearly double the number of stories compared to 2019. This included series on police brutality and racism, COVID-19’s impact on education and reflections on LGBTQ+ challenges intersecting with the foster care or justice system. This project will build on Youth Voice’s growth by linking Los Angeles’ young content producers on an easy-to-use website and connected social media channels -- all designed to feature youth-produced content in these main areas: -Reflections, personal narratives or essays -Opinions and analysis on policy, practice and law -Creative writing such as poetry and fiction -Video and audio projects While the basic maintenance of the site would be handled by a nonprofit, and would always require a professional copy editor, its operation and direction will be governed by a board of directors made up entirely of current and former homeless, foster or justice-involved youth. We believe that every youth who has been overlooked by media and policy should have the chance to tell their story. We hope to build a platform that offers them that opportunity.

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: 60

Indirect Impact: 3,000

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

Our ultimate goal is to develop greater awareness and deeper understanding of youth justice and child welfare issues in Los Angeles and beyond. The project will be shared to our core audience in LA, which consists of people who are working directly with young people or are in positions to make decisions that can impact youths’ futures. This includes policymakers and their staff, social workers, probation officers, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders and foster parents. Success will mean leveraging and expanding our existing Youth Voice program, empowering youth to develop a complete platform for creative expression. This may mean integrated social media pages, photography or places to create short filmmaking that can be shared on platforms like TikTok. In the end, the voices lifted up through this project will add context to conversations on policy and practice in child welfare and youth justice areas of work in LA County in a way they haven’t before.

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

The success of this project will be defined in the short term by the completion of a basic website to amplify the voices of system-involved youth in LA, and in the mid-term by our ability to engage partners and youth to produce a steady supply of written, visual or artistic work. Our aim is to provide a safe, online space for these young people to share their perspective with the world -- and develop lifelong storytelling skills. Ultimately, the success of this venture is contingent on sound design and effective connections between the site and the people it is built for. We will also measure success based on how many regular followers are engaging with the work that is produced on this new platform. We intend to conduct an aggressive social media campaign to raise awareness around the project, seek other media partners willing to feature the work of young contributors and hold public events around subjects of importance to LA youth with lived experience in these systems.

Which of the CONNECT metrics will you impact?​

Social and emotional support

Government responsiveness to residents’ needs

LGBTQ+ equity and inclusion

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to CREATE

LA is the healthiest place to LIVE