2022 Grants Challenge

Empathy and Education in Jordan Downs

Children Mending Hearts has taken over operations at the Jordan Downs Center, where we provide empathetic support for the youth and adults of this historic community with the aim of building a brighter future for the neighborhood’s incredible residents. Programming will focus on academics and professional development, but will also include art, sports, and more, as well as one-off events to celebrate holidays or provide much-needed services.


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

Other:: HUD in Watts - Jordan Downs

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?

We are trying to address systemic poverty and the education gap.The best pathways to a brighter future are professional development and academic achievement.Impoverished communities lag behind affluent areas in employment numbers.There are fewer opportunities and fewer high-paying jobs close by. Without transportation, getting jobs elsewhere is difficult. Many adults in the neighborhood also didn’t complete their education, which makes finding good jobs harder.When students get a high-quality education, their prospects for the future improve, but the education gap impedes this.There are a lot of reasons this gap exists, from the lack of funding for the internet and books at home to the inability of parents to help with homework. In Jordan Downs,only 18% of students are performing at a level in math and 17% in reading.We want to bolster academic skills and achievement simultaneously with boosting entrepreneurship and professional development in a two-pronged attack on systemic poverty.

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

We hold frequent one-off events at the Jordan Downs Center. We know many community members struggle to provide for their families, so we hold food, clothing, and other giveaways to make sure the basic needs of community members are met. We have partner organizations come to provide additional resources and support. By working together to take care of residents’ survival needs, we free up their time and energy to look toward the future. We are also expanding our offerings for adults. By the fall we will be running classes to help expand professional prospects. This will help the adults of Jordan Downs, many of whom have belonged to underserved and vulnerable populations their entire lives, to access otherwise unavailable support. We have been running after-school programs at the JDC for months. There are art classes, theater, and more. Our computer lab is outfitted with computers for students to complete homework with supervision and help. We keep students off the street, supervised, and supported. We are adapting this model for summer. Our summer school will use individualized programs to support each students’ specific needs. Students will first take tests to determine their level and what they need to strengthen their academic foundations. There will be math sessions, writing sessions, reading in our library, art, and more. Sessions will rotate frequently to keep kids engaged. This is how we will continue to confront the education gap and unemployment.

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

Building increased employment in the community will stimulate the local economy. A self-sustained community with higher rates of employment will mean less need for city and county resources. Focusing on the economic and professional needs of adults builds a community with less need and more disposable income to infuse into the local economy. By supporting students, we hope to improve understanding, grades, and test scores. With increased literacy skills, better test scores, and better grades, students are more likely to complete high school and go to college. This lowers drop-out rates and increases employment. Having a good education and a safe space to spend their free time has also been shown to lower gang enrollment rates. The more people feel supported and included in their community, the more they support their community in return. Those who get the help they need are more likely to help others.

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 track the number of attendees at events and programs to ensure we are engaging community members and measure which programs are working. We have surveys for residents to tell us what programs they want and would participate in. We also track the number of community members who volunteer and listen to feedback from volunteers and employees, particularly those who live and grew up in the community. We will also use employment and education statistics for adults to see if our programs, resource fairs, and events are having an effect on adult education, entrepreneurship, and career-building.To measure the effectiveness of our educational programs we will be looking at test scores and grades as provided by families and local schools. Our summer school program uses an individualized program that makes it easy to measure progress and track improvements in all school subjects. By looking at overall statistics, adult programs, and youth programs we will get a full picture of our impact.

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

Direct Impact: 523

Indirect Impact: 3,000