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

Creative Publishing Skills for Underserved Youth

Red Hen Press seeks support for 'WITS HQ', an 8-week extension of its Writing in the Schools program, to take place onsite at the Press's 'Hen House' event space. Underserved high school students will learn the trajectory of a book's life and gain practical and technical skills in the publishing industry. Lessons, taught by staff and outside instructors, will cover creative writing workshops, book cover and interior design, social media and marketing strategies, and culminate with the printing and public reading of student work.


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

Access to Creative Industry Employment (sponsored by the Snap Foundation)

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

San Gabriel Valley

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?

National test results have shown striking drops in teenage students' math and reading scores, only exacerbated by online learning during the pandemic. Numerous studies show that arts education helps foster student engagement, attendance, and motivation to learn along with an improved school culture and climate. By participating in arts programs, economically disadvantaged and at-risk students are less likely to receive disciplinary infractions, are more likely to have higher reading and writing scores, and are more likely to be compassionate. Unfortunately, even with renewed effort in anticipation of Proposition 28, still only 11% of California schools fulfill the state requirement of providing arts classes to their students. Schools lacking these programs disproportionately affect minority and low-income students. Furthermore, the literary industry is in need of more diverse publishers and editors, but barriers to arts education keeps the industry populated by the white and wealthy.

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

For two decades, Red Hen Press has provided outstanding arts education to students in underfunded schools through our WITS program. WITS places published poets in K-12 'Title 1' classrooms, leading creative writing workshops for youth who likely wouldn't have had the opportunity to learn and express their lived experiences through creative work. Funding from LA2050 will provide support for a transformative expansion of our WITS program. RHP is in the process of creating 'WITS HQ,' an arts education hub for underserved Pasadena youth. WITS HQ will equip students with creative and practical skills in the disciplines of book publishing, new media marketing, and audio storytelling. As students enter a world in which social media, editing, videography, and writing prove more valuable every year, WITS HQ will give them practical experience to create future avenues of employment (and hopefully further diversify the arts and publishing industries). In its first year, the fellowship program will provide up to ten high school students, who have been enrolled in WITS or equivalent coursework, to join the staff onsite and learn the trajectory of how a book goes from being written to acquired to published and marketed. Students will then exercise what they learn in pursuit of their own team-led publication projects, following every step of the traditional publishing process. Additional funds will go towards serving and expanding our regular WITS program to 450 students a year.

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

We believe change starts at the local level and with the youth. Our WITS service areas have included Pasadena, Hollywood, Inglewood, Nevin, and Pacoima. We've put free books of literature in over 4,000 students' hands over the years. Sometimes these books have been the only ones in their homes. Though WITS HQ, as outlined in this proposal, will affect the lives and career opportunities of up to ten underserved students in its first year, the program has the potential to grow. Once we have our capital needs met, such as purchase of media equipment, the program will be able to run sustainably and scale to reach more students, not only in the summer and not only in Pasadena. The literary industry needs more publishers and editors, especially from diverse backgrounds. Students today are the creators of tomorrow, and if our work is successful, there will be many more employed writers, artists, and publishers from all backgrounds in LA County's future.

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

For our current WITS programming, we measure impact through polling our WITS instructors, host teachers, and students through pre and post-workshop surveys. Student evaluations include quantifiable questions about confidence in writing and public speaking, understanding of vocabulary, and interest in poetry. Host teacher surveys include questions about student performance and effectiveness of the curriculum. Of students surveyed, 69% felt more comfortable in a classroom environment, 70% developed an interest in writing poetry, and 77% of students reported improvement in their writing ability after participating in WITS. Teacher comments include: "descriptive language use has flourished," "confidence in writing has soared," and "thank you for opening the world of creative writing. They will never forget this experience." We'll have even more intensive qualitative assessments for WITS HQ, including a mid-program survey and tracking student employment or college success upon graduation.

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

Direct Impact: 500

Indirect Impact: 1,000