2022 Grants Challenge

Connecting Teenage Innovators to LA’s Creative Industry

Teen Tech Centers after school programs located in the highest-needs areas in LA County to provide students with cutting-edge technology, mentorship & training to create a pipeline to the creative economy workforce & entertainment industry. This grant will support the Young Innovator’s Accelerator (YIA) program, where students develop original business plans & pitch ideas to a panel of industry leaders for seed money & scholarships. YIA provides real-world experience, unique exposure, & critical resources to students across LA County.


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

Access to Creative Industry Employment (sponsored by Snap Foundation)

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

Central LA

East LA

San Fernando Valley

South LA

West LA

South Bay

Antelope Valley

County of Los Angeles

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

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

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

LA County is a vital economic center that also suffers from dramatic economic inequity; the poverty rate is almost twice the national average. Approximately 85% of LA County schools are students of color, 80% of whom live in circumstances of poverty. The creative economy pays nearly twice the national average wage, but communities of color are largely disconnected from these opportunities, comprising just 33% of the local creative economy workforce. Black students are about 8% of the population in LA schools, but less than 5% of the creative economy workforce. YIA will occur in Teen Tech Centers that are hosted in community-based organizations who serve specific disinvested populations in MacArthur Park, Boyle Heights and South LA. The YIA combines critical resources with unique access to youth at a critical inflection point in their educational journey – providing transformational opportunity to change the face of our regional creative economy.

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

Teen Tech Centers are after-school spaces equipped with cutting-edge technology and staffed by youth development professionals who provide a safe, supportive learning environment. The Centers are vital community hubs, offering access to technology, mentorship, college advising, mental health support and critical programming such as (YIA). In YIA, students will build awareness of creative and tech industries and develop original concepts in areas such as art, media, fashion, gaming, web development and social impact. They will create business plans, a mission, a concept prototype and budget and present it to an expert panel of local leaders. Over the course of the program, speakers from aligned industries, including founders, investors and leaders will share their stories and strategies for success on a bi-weekly basis, as well as mentor and coach students as they develop projects. Students will work in teams or individually to refine their concepts. After five months of ideation, development and coaching, students will pitch their concept to a panel of industry leaders. Top projects will receive seed money for implementation, as well as scholarships. YIA will offer youth experience in high-demand careers in creative economies and coordinate local industry to build meaningful private sector partnerships – promoting real world opportunities and making them accessible. The goal is to transform students from consumers of tech to creators of tech.

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

YIA will provide new skills, exposure, access to technology and real-world experience to students who have been systemically disadvantaged. It can be a vital tool to empower students and develop LA County’s local workforce. YIA will be a competitive program over the course of five months across three Tech Centers, with participation from 100-300 students. If successful, there will be a second YIA round across three new Tech Centers. In the short term, students will receive mentorship from leaders and innovators, build new skills, gain confidence and receive fiscal support through scholarships or start-up capital. In the long term, historically disinvested communities will be transformed as students gain social capital and education. The program will bring critical industry connections, an infusion of resources and unprecedented access to underserved students. Furthermore, it will ensure that we work towards making Los Angeles County, and its economy, realize its full potential.

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

Nationally, Teen Tech Centers have served students for a decade. 91% of students reported that they are safe, supportive spaces. 96% of students said that their experience at the Centers made them more likely to explore careers in technology, and 93% reported learning about internships and other ways to get work experience. After school programs in general have shown to improve high school graduation rates by up to 50%. Spaces offering technology, extended learning time and social-emotional support are vital to address the learning loss and trauma from COVID-19. YIA is a pilot program that will be integrated into the Tech Centers. Impact will be measured in two ways. In the short-term, students will perform pre and post surveys assessing learning outcomes, and youth will have the opportunity to provide feedback and input on the program. In the long-term, program alumni will be tracked, measuring college matriculation and graduation rates and career choices.

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

Direct Impact: 300

Indirect Impact: 100,000