2022 Grants Challenge

WriteGirl: Mentoring and College Support Towards Creative Careers

WriteGirl helps underserved Los Angeles County youth enter college, succeed academically and reach their career goals through year-round programming that fosters confidence in their creativity and individual voice. A dedicated community of 400 writers working in a range of fields, from screenwriting to journalism, mentor teens. Grant funds would support the WriteGirl Mentoring and College Access programs, helping us expand services and guide even more youth into careers in the creative economy.


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?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

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

Teens continue to struggle with the effects of disruption from COVID-19, both academically and socially. The majority of our mentees attend Los Angeles Unified School District schools, where students are suffering “alarming academic harm” related to staffing shortages, shifts between online and in-person learning, and other factors related to COVID-19. In addition, the student-to-counselor ratio in California of 572:1 is one of the worst in the country. Teens often lack access to individualized mentoring and coaching at a critical juncture in their lives. From deciding on a career path to graduating from college, a lack of mentorship can result in the interruption of their career goals. In fact, our teens have shared how often they’ve been discouraged from applying to college or pursuing their career goals. Many times, WriteGirl mentors are their first experience working with creative professionals.

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

WriteGirl has developed a layered approach for ushering teens into creative careers by providing a comprehensive program of mentoring, writing workshops, college guidance, publication and performance opportunities, leadership development, internships and specialized workshops in financial literacy, productivity tools, publishing and public speaking, all at no cost to youth. Overall, WriteGirl serves 500 youth annually throughout LA County and trains more than 400 professional writer volunteers annually to mentor teens. WriteGirl offers in-depth college entrance guidance to WriteGirl teens, and provides ongoing support, mentoring and resources to program alumnae, ages 18-24, to help them graduate from college and enter the workforce. WriteGirl also provides creative writing workshops at LA County alternative schools, juvenile detention facilities and community centers for co-ed teens and is a founding member of the Arts for Healing and Justice Network. WriteGirl currently supports 150 mentee-mentor pairs, offering teens the chance to work in one-on-one writing sessions with professional writers. Jamilah Mena, a WriteGirl alum, shared: “I was raised in South Central LA by two hard-working Garifuna-Honduran parents who preached the importance of education to progress in life. WriteGirl afforded me the opportunity to build technical skills as a writer and provided a safe environment so I could develop confidence in myself as a Woman of Color with a lot to offer the world.”

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

Teens in Los Angeles County are a vital resource as future leaders, producers, writers, artists, teachers and more. We see the powerful impact some of our teens have already had in the region (Amanda Gorman, several Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureates – all WriteGirl alums). When teens find careers they love, we’ve seen firsthand how they have inspired their family and community to pursue their own academic and creative goals. Companies and organizations across LA County benefit greatly from direct connections with their communities and we continue to connect our teens and volunteers with internships, panels, specialized workshops and behind-the-scenes conversations with entities such as Lionsgate, NBCUniversal, NBC4, Los Angeles Times, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Disney and Warner Bros. With additional support, we know we can propel even more underrepresented youth into creative careers and leadership roles and have an even greater impact on the landscape of LA County.

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

WriteGirl has a 20-year, 100% success rate of guiding its Core Mentoring Program seniors to graduate from high school and enroll in college, many with scholarships and as the first in their families. Program impact is measured through college acceptance letters, member surveys, interviews, focus groups, and publication and presentation of creative work by WriteGirl teens/alums. During the past year, WriteGirl published more than 150 stories, poems, essays, songs and scenes written by WriteGirl youth. Mentors and staff also helped WriteGirl teens and alums prepare their writing for public readings and prominent publications, contributing their powerful voices to vital topics. Dozens of WriteGirl mentees have been finalists of the Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate competition, with several winners and runners-up. Numerous mentees/alums have won Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Posse Foundation scholarships and prestigious fellowships within their fields.

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

Direct Impact: 1,200

Indirect Impact: 3,300