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2022 Grants Challenge

Better Youth's AIM-N-INSPIRE Media Arts Program

Idea by Better Youth

At Better Youth, we validate young people by developing life skills through mentoring and media arts training to foster and community youth ages 14-24 in Los Angeles County. We deliver technical and workplace navigation skills training in addition to professional and workforce development. We provide support services that include: computers and software, housing and wellness resources, case management, paid internships, certificates and digital badges. Our program services help close the digital divide for vulnerable youth.

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What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Support for Foster and Systems-Impacted Youth

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

South LA

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

LAUSD (select only if you have a district-wide partnership or project)

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

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Due to the effects of the pandemic, a growing number of youth are disengaged and unemployed, often referred to as NEET (not engaged in employment, education, or training). Ninety-five percent of our program youth are Latino and African-American, ages 14-24. The dropout rate is 19% with 65% of adults 25+ have not completed high school. The numbers have alarmingly increased due to COVID 19, which has created a need to help bridge the digital divide and buffer learning loss mitigation. A recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation states that in low-income neighborhoods, 84% of households with children do not own computers. As a result, many miss out on opportunities to benefit from technology by accessing information, learning valuable computer skills, and communicating with others. It is critical, now more than ever, to provide social support and development processes that help youth cultivate a rigor for learning, healthy relationships, self-regulation and resilience to adversity.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

AIM-N-INSPIRE, is a high-powered media arts training experience for foster and community youth ages 16-24 that provides professional development, intensive training, and the opportunity to showcase created content to industry professionals. The AIM program offers 3 distinct tracks in Animation, Interactive/Gaming, and Media/New Media. Better Youth’s AIM program, cultivates a sense of character, a heart for service, excellence and accomplishment for foster, TAY, homeless, and low-income youth in Los Angeles County by providing state-of-the art training in preparation for careers in the creative economy. In partnership with Skydance Media, Amazon, Supervisor Mitchell, and LAUSD, Better Youth’s program participants discover and express their personal voice and identity, develop socio-emotional strength through mentoring, use their talents to inspire creativity, network with leading media and entertainment industry professionals, and build marketable skills that enable them to pursue desired career pathways through paid internships supported by JVS SoCal, UCLA Worksource Center and South Bay Workforce Investment Board. When accepted as a program participant, youth receive a scholarship (valued at $2k) that pays for enrollment, activities and equipment needed for projects. As a result, program participation is of no cost. The media works of successful participants will be showcased at our annual Real To Reel Global Youth Film Festival and other digital distribution platforms.

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

Many racial and cultural tensions are caused by the lack of fulfilling job opportunities available to youth living in L.A.'s disadvantaged neighborhoods. Specifically, the shortage of employment and training options that allow youth to make a decent wage, establish a stable career and support themselves. We acknowledge this disparity and focus on investing in these communities by providing training and workforce development opportunities for marginalized youth. We are dedicated to creating a youth-centric culture where youth experience safe and affirming relationships and environments in which they can thrive. By relentlessly supporting vulnerable youth, LA County disadvantaged communities can be transformed to a place of opportunity. Rather than solely focusing on alleviating the lasting effects of the deficits, we create strength-based alternatives that empower youth through mentoring, training and digital storytelling that help them create a sustained livelihoods.

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 an internal tracking system for data collection, aggregation and evaluation. In addition we track successful mentor and mentee matching through the Civic Camps, through a partnership with MENTOR National. Our measurement of quantitative program impact and youth progress includes pre/post survey and formative assessments to inform best practices in program deployment. Our measurement of qualitative impact consists of youth development reflection tools, facilitator and mentor post assessments, and audience exit interviews at youth exhibition events. We carefully review feedback from our executive board, advisory council members, youth stakeholders and incorporate suggested ideas to improve and elevate our quality of programs and youth experiences. 91% of program youth have graduated from high school and are enrolled in a college or university and/or gainfully employed. 90% have produced a media project or community event for peers, parents, teachers and stakeholders.

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

Direct Impact: 238

Indirect Impact: 950