2022 Grants Challenge

Watts Rising Youth Ambassador Pilot Program

The Watts Rising Youth Ambassador Pilot Program would comprise up to 12 Watts youth focused on supporting climate and environmental issues. These students will be connected to the larger Watts Rising initiative, a collaborative of over 40 different partners and the residents of Watts with the goal of improving public health, environmental and economic outcomes in the community of Watts supported by the State of California. In total, the collaborative is working on 26 environmental sustainability projects impacting 33,000 Watts residents.


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

Climate and Environment

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

South LA

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?

Watts is a historically underserved community with low-performing schools, inadequate health care, poor housing, and high unemployment that impact community health; residents experience some of the poorest health outcomes in the City. Watts is a dense community with 30% of residents living in poverty. The community sits directly under the flight path for LAX and is surrounded by major transportation corridors, including the 110 &105 Fwys, Metro A Line, and Alameda St., a heavy rail and truck route for the Port of LA. Historically flanked by heavy industrial uses, including chemical plants, lead smelting, metal recycling, and steel manufacturing, the community is in need of addressing years of severe environmental impact. Most importantly for this project, the community is young, with over half of the population being under the age of 25. The future of the community is in the hands of these youth, and we want to provide them the tools and vision to become stewards of the environment.

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

Funds from the LA2050 grant will support the pilot of our Watts Rising Youth Ambassador program, a group of 12 high school students who focus on environmental justice in their neighborhood through community engagement, trust-building and adaption and utilization of new community investments. Over the course of a year, these Ambassadors will collect community input and shape environmental policy and advocacy for Watts. The Youth Ambassadors will be paid a monthly stipend to establish an Environmental Club in their school or residential community. The clubs will be open to all students at the schools and high school-aged students in residential communities, an estimated 5,000 students; clubs will meet regularly based on their needs and schedules. Build Hope Inc will provide each of the clubs educational workshops on climate issues and how youth can make a difference in their communities with our partners at Charles Drew University and UCLA. We will coordinate trips to state and national parks (e.g., Yosemite, Joshua Tree) to expose them to different environments and provide examples of how conservation (or lack thereof) can affect our communities. Each club will also develop a final project to showcase at the Inaugural Watts Rising Environmental Summit which will bring in local policymakers and political representatives, community members and expert panelists.This will allow us to directly inform policymakers including the new Mayoral administration.

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

Based on local and statewide reports on community health, Watts is among the most underserved and under-resourced areas. Service Planning Area 6, which includes Watts, has the County’s lowest educational attainment and the highest unemployment and poverty rates. Rates of preventable chronic disease are among the highest in the County and homicide is the leading cause of premature death. These pose critical questions related to social determinants of health. We anticipate this program to have impact beyond Watts. The Ambassador program can become a model for schools throughout the County, offering best practices and guidelines, all while keeping the model youth-centric and targeting community-identified needs. These programs can offer a direct line to local, state, and federal policymakers. Collectively, these locally-designed environmental projects can unlock new funding, environmental projects, and change policy impacting communities across the County and even the United States.

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

Watts Rising is currently working with three institutions of higher learning, USC, UCLA and Charles Drew University on various studies and indicator tracking over the next four years that will identify and assess the impact of the initiative on the health and environment of Watts. Given that this project is in its infancy and being piloted at this stage, we anticipate the following measurable indicators of success: 1. Recruitment of 12 Youth Ambassadors and facilitation of monthly Youth Leadership meetings from October 2022 – September 2023 2. Establishing Environmental Clubs in up to 4 schools or residential communities 3. Implementing regularly scheduled club meetings at each of the sites November 2022 – May 2023 (minimum of monthly at each site; 1-4 meetings a month, 12-48 meetings per site) 4. Development and piloting of climate action curriculum across clubs 5. Holding the Watts Rising Environmental Summit 6. Recruiting 200 students into clubs

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

Direct Impact: 200

Indirect Impact: 5,000

Describe the specific role of the partner organization(s) in the project, program, or initiative.

The Watts Rising Collaborative’s implementation work is divided up based on four areas: (1) Sustaible Housing; (2) Active Transportation; (3) Urban Greening; and (4) Low Carbon Transportation Hub. Below are a few of our partners who support our shared goal of leveraging environmental solutions to improve public health outcomes in the community of Watts: • Green Commuter • CD 15 • Habitat For Humanity of Greater LA • LA Clean Tech Incubator • LA Department of Transportation • Michael’s Development Company • LAUSD • Partnerships For LA Schools • TreePeople • Urban Peace Institute • Watts Century Latino • Watts Labor Community Action Committee • Watts Clean Air Action Committee • Eastside Riders • Children’s Institute Intertiol • Watts Neighborhood Council • Watts Gang Taskforce