2022 Grants Challenge

Promising Talent for Professional Futures

Idea by Seen&Heard

In this intensive training opportunity with our top graduates, Seen&Heard will prepare at-promise youth to deliver fast-pitch style presentations to potential employers representing various industries in L.A. Having successfully completed our professional character development program, graduates are ready to embark on meaningful employment opportunities. This program provides historically marginalized system-impacted youth with access to professional futures and increases employer's capacity to build an effective and diverse talent pipeline.


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?

County of Los Angeles

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?

Many youth in foster care experience the trauma of repeated attachment and detachment throughout their lives. Frequently, they develop maladaptive behaviors in order to cope. These behaviors do not disappear once a young person turns 18 and begins looking for work. Seen&Heard exists to provide social emotional education to build professional character for system impacted youth. What has been observed in this population is the repetition of childhood patterns of attachment and detachment at work. If youth in foster care do not possess the social emotional tools to tolerate stress, communicate clearly, set boundaries or advocate for themselves, this may lead to repeated job loss and the inability to reach sustainable and secure employment. This seems to be a blind-spot in DCFS requirements for TAY, where focus lies mainly on "technical" life-skills like budgeting and safety, while overlooking the importance of learning how to handle your emotions at work or communicate with colleagues.

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

Seen&Heard supports system impacted youth in LA county in developing the social emotional skills needed to succeed in a professional environment. Our trauma informed evidence-based program operates in small cohorts that meet weekly for 18 weeks. Ongoing program evaluation indicates participating youth demonstrate increased interest and ability to pursue a professional career path. Over the past 3 years, our work has focused on youth development, and we are ready to deepen Seen&Heard's impact by connecting our graduates with employers they would not typically have access to. Seen&Heard will launch a specific work-development track for our graduates called "Promising Talent for Professional Futures" geared towards preparing them for this opportunity. Through a specialized curriculum during this 6 week intensive, students will continue to hone professional tools while creating individual fast-pitches.These presentations will highlight the strengths of each student, their area of interest, and the value they can add to the community. Youth will have 5 minutes to present to an audience of employers in a variety of fields for meaningful access to careers and internships. Once connected to paid internships or employment, our team will provide monthly peer support groups and one-on-one support with our staff. We're expanding our work from training to implementing, with the desired outcome being an opportunity for creative and meaningful work for a young person lacking connections.

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

Seen&Heard believes that everyone who expereinces our program is capable of setting a fulfilling trajectory in work and life, one that also positively impacts families and communities. One young person equipped to thrive is a model for others around them. We believe change doesn't only happen through mass solutions, it comes slowly though intentional individual work. Too often youth in care are seen as a file or case number. We've found large-scale programs can sometimes feel impersonal to youth in care. With graduates given an opportunity to enter a new stage of professional development, meaningful change can occur and ripple out from individuals into communities. We may not be able to change systems, but we can equip the youth we serve with tools to change their own life. Given the chance to be in front of an audience of employers with opportunities they normally would not have access to, we believe L.A. will be changed on a micro level, leading to outward expansion to the macro.

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

Seen&Heard's current programming which carries cohorts through 18 weeks of training utilizes a variety of measurements both observational and self-reported. We use surveys and focus groups with specific survey questions from the Depression Anxiety Scale and OES-S. From self reported data in 2021, we have found two thirds of participants (66%) reported decreases in depression and anxiety markers, 84% identified improvement in communication and we have a 70% retention rate. Based on this encouraging data, Seen&Heard is excited to pilot a new program designed specifically to prepare students placed in work opportunities with a specialized 6 week intensive with monthly support groups and data survey to ensure success. Given our existing relationships we feel equipped to make these connections sustainable and would see student's employment stability as the main measure of success.

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

Direct Impact: 30

Indirect Impact: 90