LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Benkadi: Changing lives and building stronger communities

Idea by Benkadi

We deliver: one-of-a-kind West African drum, dance and culture programs to grade schools in areas of economic and social need in LA County; research-supported social and emotional learning; improved mental and physical well-being; and greater cultural understanding for students of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. LA2050 support will enable us to deliver world class educators, instruments and arts credit compliant curriculum to two high schools and one elementary school, resulting in 6,300 hours of student impact.


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?

Central LA

South LA

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?

We solve a school's need for quality credit compliant arts education in a complete customizable package. The impact of arts education on disadvantaged students is dramatic - 5x less likely to drop out, 4x more likely to get a bachelor's degree, 30% more inclined to pursue a profession. (Cal Alliance for Arts Ed. data). Benkadi delivers immediate satisfaction and results from the first class to students of all ages, backgrounds, abilities and experience levels in one class. Backed by scientific research we address the need to increase ESL and mental and physical health post COVID - our fun classes develop many physical, social and emotional skills and deliver immediate physical and mental benefits. We address the under representation of West African arts in educational offerings and build cross cultural competencies, appreciation and empathy which lead to less divided communities. We directly support minority businesses and artists resident in our city.

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

A full grant provides two full credit High School Arts program and one semester of an hour a week of West African focused arts and culture education to 4 grades of elementary/middle school students. It will deliver world class teachers, well maintained authentic instruments and customized cultural curriculum including student materials, assessment tools and teaching aides. The schools serve disadvantaged communities, most of the students are free lunch eligible and many are system-impacted. Student Impact Hours ("SIH") are the total of students taught x weekly hours of class x weeks. Based on 25 students per class this grant would deliver 6,300 Student Impact Hours. [Each High School semester = 2250 SIH. Two programs = 4500 SIH ; Elementary/Middle school program = 1800 SIH.] The grant would support LA based teachers from minority backgrounds and their families, with 414 hours of well-paid work and more than 40 hours of well-paid work to an LA based program manager. Instruments would be purchased from and maintained with LA based minority owned businesses. Research supports that the intensity of the programs will deliver lasting ESL and improvements in mental and physical wellbeing. Experiencing the program builds cross cultural appreciation and empathy leading to more supported individuals and stronger communities.

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

Short term: Scientific research shows we will deliver quality social emotional learnings, improvements in mental and physical well being and create greater understanding and empathy in students that need this support the most and are least likely to receive it. Those impacts extend beyond the classroom and endure in the students' lives generally. Benkadi will work with ECS's campuses in Hawthorne, Inglewood and Gardena, serving system- impacted and economically disadvantaged youth. The majority of the students qualify for free or reduced price lunch and are from minority backgrounds. Students of all abilities and skill levels will benefit from 6,000+ hours of student impact. The award will support 6 drum and dance instructors, their families and the small family/minority owned instrument business - all LA based. Longer term: Build on the track record of successful programs, provide more exposure to supporters and help program to serve more students and communities in 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?

Scientific research provides evidence of the many positive immediate and longer term developmental effects that are experienced through the regular practice of rhythmic music making and movement by young people of all abilities. contains many of these papers. The following are quotes from Principals from schools that have hosted our programs: "...Benkadi .... is not just a class, but a catalyst for personal and social transformation. It shows our students that they are capable of achieving great things and that they have something valuable to offer to the world." Selam Mekonen, Director of Programs at New Earth "Our students come to us facing significant challenges and this program brings joy, connection, cultural relevance and creativity. We are proud to partner with Benkadi and look forward to the continued evolution and growth of this incredible program." Naomi Lara, Principal at Da Vinci Rise.

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

Direct Impact: 150

Indirect Impact: 600

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

The grant is to be deployed in Environmental Charter School's High and Middle school campuses in Inglewood, Gardena and Hawthorne. The schools provide the students and the location Benkadi does the rest. The program works with the schools to customize class structure and delivery to suit the needs of the students and administration. Benkadi and the host schools are in constant communication to ensure maximum effectiveness of the programs based on feedback from all stakeholders. By partnering with existing schools and delivering in-schedule programs for extended periods of time Benkadi believes it unlocks more benefits for more students for less cost per Student Impact Hour than other ways that an arts program could be accessed (such as after school or by coming to a Benkadi location).