2022 Grants Challenge

The Friendship Campus Creative Center for Youth with Special Needs

The new 55,000-sq-ft. Friendship Campus with over 3.25 acres of usable program space is a one-of-a-kind project designed to be a safe and inspirational place that elevates the lives of those with special needs and helps them integrate with the greater community. The Creative Center of the Friendship Campus will promote career opportunities in digital media, visual arts, craftwork, and music. The campus will focus on vocational training and job placement to build careers for young adults with disabilities in an inclusive environment.


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?

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?

For the last fifteen years, The Friendship Foundation has worked tirelessly to demonstrate that inclusive environments are mutually beneficial to students with special needs and volunteers who work alongside them. The need for an innovative solution is clear: 178,511 students are enrolled in special education in Los Angeles County alone, yet 75% of high school graduates with disabilities do not meet 4-year college admittance requirements. 8 in 10 Americans with disabilities are unemployed. Founded in 2005, The Friendship Foundation offers several programs that simultaneously impact two populations: children with special needs and volunteer students. The organization serves over 1,000 children with special needs and approximately 1,500 student volunteers in 14 school districts, 40 schools, and 56 enrichment programs. Building on this experience, The Friendship Campus will help young adults with special needs find gainful employment and ways to contribute to society.

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

The Friendship Campus is designed to be a safe and inspirational place where people with special needs will engage with others to develop life skills, interpersonal relations, personal interests, and training in vocations, arts, and careers. The inclusive campus will provide vocational training and job placement, and allow these students to transform the workforce and society. The plan is to not only provide a holistic education that is designed to prepare and train young people to follow their passions and turn them into careers but also to engage the business world to recognize the potential of a workforce that includes those with disabilities. The Creative Center will promote career opportunities as well as life skills like problem-solving, adaptability, stress reduction, and confidence-building. The state-of-the-art studio will include digital media (graphic design, coding, animation, game design, entertainment design), visual arts (painting, photography, sculpting, video, filmmaking), craftwork (weaving, woodwork, jewelry making), and music (audio production, percussion & drumming, music mixing, and songwriting). Other campus offerings include a Culinary Arts Center, Recreation Center, and Multigenerational Mentoring. The groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for August 10, 2022. The LA2050 grant would specifically bridge the gap in funding to make the Creative Center a reality.

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

The campus, which will be the first of its kind in the U.S., will focus on social development, vocational training, and job placement to build careers for young adults with disabilities in an inclusive environment. Since 2005, The Friendship Foundation has been providing children with special needs the same advantages as their peers to enjoy and experience life. The organization has developed programs that allow children with, and without, special needs to play, grow, develop and thrive together. The success of our programs over the last 17 years combined with the growing demand led to the vision to include an innovative new campus, a facility centered around turning special needs into special contributions to society. The Campus will provide an engaging and inviting environment for people of all abilities. The programs will provide vocational training and job placement, giving students with special needs the tools to transform the workforce and find a lifelong passion and purpose.

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 Director of Educational Services will focus on curriculum development for different levels of abilities. Vocational development, training, and job placement are the priority for the campus. Progress will be measured by 1) creating diverse curriculum options that will meet the needs of varying abilities, 2) enrollment of students ages 18+ that live with neuro and physical disabilities into the appropriate level program, 3) successful completion of the program, and 4) launching students into the entertainment workforce with viable skills to begin a career in the entertainment industry. In order to identify gaps in services, the Friendship Foundation routinely sends out comprehensive surveys to program participants. The Program Director is responsible for implementing changes as required to increase engagement and participation during the year. End-of-the-year survey results and all other data are taken into account for building goals and objectives for the following year.

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

Direct Impact: 2,500

Indirect Impact: 10,000