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

Empowering LA Youth through Personal Finance

Idea by Optimist

Leveraging the power of film & storytelling, we will empower high school students in LA County with culturally relevant financial resources and learning opportunities. We'll pair an educational version of our feature documentary, THIS IS NOT FINANCIAL ADVICE, from our award-winning studio, with a bespoke curriculum created specifically for Angelenos. Reaching around 100,000 students and thousands of educators with this program, we hope to improve the financial knowledge of our local youth and contribute to their long-term economic advancement.


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

K-12 STEAM Education

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

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles


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?

Financial illiteracy is an increasingly serious problem in the US. 70% of Americans are financially anxious, 4 in 5 youth fail financial literacy tests, 87% of teenagers admit to not understanding their finances, and communities of color & women are most affected. Additionally, in a time when ~80% of Millennials & Gen Zers get their financial advice from social media, young people are especially vulnerable to the inherent risks of the persuasive, pressure-filled space of "FinFluencers", crypto icons, and get-rich-quick schemes online. As the second largest school district in the nation, with more than 84% of students living at or below the poverty line, LAUSD will benefit significantly from an innovative financial education program. With no current requirements for financial coursework in high schools in California, it is urgent that we engage with youth (in a manner they will find appealing) and empower them with the tools and knowledge needed to feel financially secure/confident.

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

Our program contains four components: - An educational version of THIS IS NOT FINANCIAL ADVICE, which recently world premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film will be available in full-length (85 min) and also edited into modules specifically designed for teaching, complete with thematic discussion guides and learning outcomes. - Culturally sensitive, interactive, and fun educational resources to accompany the film and its lessons on the psychology of money and investing in an era powered by social media. - Professional development for teachers, focusing on their personal financial literacy and comfort with teaching the topic. - In-person and virtual Q&As and workshops with the film's directors, characters, and financial experts to deepen and personalize learning for students and teachers. Additionally, we will host one major public event to celebrate program participants (and honor one student and teacher in particular!) and illuminate the need for more inclusive and pervasive financial education. There has never been a more important time to advance financial education, and we believe the best way to do so is through the transformative power of storytelling. By sharing an entertaining and thought-provoking film that highlights the financial stories of four young Americans -- three of whom are Angelenos! -- and providing a customized learning journey for viewers, we believe we can activate the youth of LA County to improve their financial health and future.

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

Our vision for this program is to equip the next generation of Angelenos with a robust set of financial resources and inspire them to take seriously the pursuit of financial education. We want to empower high school students with the skills necessary to navigate today's hyper-digital economy & contribute to closing the wealth gap and breaking cycles of poverty. In the short term, our work will prove successful if we: engage 100,000 high school students in LAUSD with our film and resources, encourage 1000 teachers to complete professional development training, inspire 75% of participants to further their personal financial education through additional lessons, workshops, or other continued learning opportunities. In the long term, our work will prove successful if we: inspire other cities in California to implement a similar program in their school districts (and ultimately other states), and help educate lawmakers on the critical importance of required financial education.

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

Here are some of the metrics we will use to monitoring & evaluate our program success/impact: Basic: # of students reached # of teachers reached # of professional development hours completed # of viewers who download additional resources from our website # of viewers that seek additional information from our website (relative to local classes, training, workshops, etc.) # of LA residents reached through a social media campaign for the program Surveys/Testimonials: Pre and post-surveys to gauge lessons learned and measure participants' enthusiasm/commitment to furthering financial knowledge Follow-up surveys to participants 6-months after our program, to track progress and participant follow-through We will gather testimonials from participants as well (either through video or written response) Replicability: # of cities in California that lead a similar program, using LA as a case study # of cities in other states that lead a similar program

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

Direct Impact: 101,000

Indirect Impact: 500,000

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

Optimist will lead the program, including the overall design, development of educational resources, marketing, and impact monitoring and evaluation. Next Gen Personal Finance will help us build and prepare our curricula for students and teachers. They will offer us access to their network of teachers in LA, help track our reach within LA County, provide professional development for teachers, and conduct local and statewide outreach to help amplify our message. The Six will contribute by offering lessons from their experience working with teachers, students, and administrators in LA County. They will ensure our approach is culturally sensitive and fitting. They will help us navigate access to LA's underserved or marginalized communities.