Arts & Mentorship for Underserved Youth
Through its Arts & Mentorship program, The Outkast Academy provides high-quality dance and mentorship classes to underserved, low-income youth ages 5 through 21 throughout Los Angeles county. Participating youth receive various opportunities to train professionally, and perform in events, showcases, and productions. Outkast has its own Home Studio and also provides its services to schools, afterschool agencies, and other organizations located in historically under-resourced areas.
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?
It is no question that youth are facing trauma and emotional disturbances deeply affecting their quality of lives, including their ability to socialize, concentrate in school, and connect with their peers and beyond. From 2019 to 2020 alone, suicide rates amongst kids aged 10-18 increased by 20% and in California, over 284,000 youth deal with depression with over 66% of these youth who do not receive any help. (see LACOE, 2023) In our organization alone, at least 95% of youth who have entered our programs have come in with one or more mental and emotional disturbance in their lives. Upon surveying our youth, we have found that a number of factors contribute to these disturbances, including but not limited to: poor living conditions due to poverty, absence of either one or both parents, lack of access to physical and/or expressive activities, domestic abuse in the household, and continual "addiction" to social media.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
The Outkast Academy provides an Arts & Mentorship program that was created to provide our underserved youth an outlet of expression and the opportunity to be mentored to develop both their character and leadership. We offer professional dance training that is designed for all levels, requires no prior experience, and helps participants discover their artistic capabilities. Classes consist of warm-ups, training exercises, team-building activities, and choreography training in a variety of dance styles. As youth progress in their dance training, they also receive the opportunity to perform in different events and showcases that our organization hosts or participates in for other partnering organizations. Our team of Teaching Artists/Mentors head our classes and we also partner with local LA-based artists to bring their training and diverse backgrounds to our youth. In doing so, we expose them to professional opportunities in dance and offer a pipeline where graduating students can pursue an arts career by completing our internship and becoming a paid staff member to teach. To bind our programming altogether, we focus on integrating a mentorship curriculum suited for developing our youth's character and leadership, while our Teaching Artists/Mentors build steady and trusting relationships with them to help guide them through tough circumstances that can deteriorate their attention from growing.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
With an increase in accessibility to the arts and a decrease in mental and emotional health issues amongst our youth, we envision a more vibrant Los Angeles filled with young creatives and leaders who are also passionate about serving the communities they come from. Our youth will become strong young leaders who are ready to use their own personal experiences as a means to impact the next generation. As leaders, our youth will advocate further for the well-being of those negatively impacted by poor mental health and poverty, creating a new generational wave of healing and opportunity. As creatives, arts accessibility will increase as the youth who complete our internship and become Teaching Artists/Mentors will be able to lead at different sites throughout the city to continue bringing high-quality dance classes, especially into regions that lack it. Los Angeles will continue its standing as a diverse city where all career options, even those in the arts, are viable and sustainable.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
Our Arts & Mentorship program has served as a core program since 2013. We have measured our impact through three different metrics: 1) attendance and participation, 2) qualitative feedback, and 3) student retention. Time and again, students have returned to our program consistently and have reported a number of changes in themselves, including increased: positivity in their thinking, motivation for school, and confidence in themselves. As such one student reported the following: "There isn't a day that goes by where I don't contemplate the impact Outkast has had on my life. Every time I think about Outkast, I think of hope. I am always left in awe that there are people in the world who are willing to give a portion of their time to the youth. They are not obligated to be a part of our lives, but they have made it their priority to continue to empower us."
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 50
Indirect Impact: 2,500