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

Equity Through Action: Empowering Students of Color in LA

The grant will fund a student-led conference for BIPOC students in LA independent schools to build community, explore new careers, learn financial literacy, invigorate DEI at their schools, and create action plans for social change. Voices of Identity & Culturally Empowered Students (VOICES) Conference is the brainchild of Josephine W. (Marlborough '21) who explained that "as a Black student who attended white educational institutions, I want to counter the loneliness and ostracization that students of color often feel in these institutions."


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

Youth Economic Advancement (sponsored by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation)

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

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA

West LA

City 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?

People of color are underrepresented in independent schools. Forty-five percent (45%) of California residents are Latino/Hispanic or Black, yet they make up only 10% of California independent school students (California Association of Independent Schools). This lack of representation means that students of color do not have equitable access to the educational and economic opportunities that stem from independent school education. Research shows that independent schools set students up for success. Almost 100% of graduates from independent schools go to college, and over 50% attend some of the most prestigious universities in the country (NAIS, 2018). Independent school students have access to greater networking opportunities (Akbarian, 2022) and have significantly higher test scores (Scully, 2022). Students of color need equitable access and community support to thrive in independent schools and take advantage of the opportunities that will help them achieve their full potential.

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

Axis offers a comprehensive solution to bridge the gap between people of color and independent schools. In addition to equitable access, students of color need community and systems of support at these predominantly white institutions. Axis has created a thriving community of BIPOC families, Partner Schools, and advocates to create that support system. Our VOICES conference plays a large role in connecting students of color across our Partner Schools and ensuring that they have the tools and resources to be successful after graduation. VOICES was the brainchild of Josephine W., who for her senior year capstone wanted to create an event that brought together students of color from across Los Angeles independent schools. Keynote speakers at the inaugural VOICES Conference included Van Jones and Kimberly Baker Guillemet. VOICES 2024's inspiring student-led program will focus on ensuring attendees have the tools, resources, and community they need to access academic and economic opportunities. Workshop topics will range from mental health and self-care to goal-setting and financial literacy. We will have recruiters present from large financial institutions, such as Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan, and from the entertainment industry to meet with students for internship opportunities. The day will culminate with community-building activities geared toward fostering a sense of connection and belonging among students and educators of color at independent schools.

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

The success of VOICES will unlock economic opportunity for students of color in LA County, helping to build the dynamic and diverse youth workforce of the future. Independent schools are regarded as educational exemplars and effective agents of social mobility. By expanding access to independent schools and the academic and economic opportunities within these institutions, Axis is blazing paths toward a more equitable community in LA. VOICES seeks to: Ensure BIPOC students have the resources and community needed for economic success and empowerment through career opportunities, networking, and financial literacy. Increase access to internship and employment opportunities for BIPOC students. Equip students with the tools and life skills to set measurable goals and create action plans for social change in their school communities. Establish a culture of true DEI at independent schools by building community and leadership skills among students of color.

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

Students will take both a pre-and post-event questionnaire to gather their feedback and assess their learning outcomes, goal setting, economic empowerment, and sense of belonging at independent schools. All evaluation tools will be peer-reviewed. We will also conduct a qualitative assessment of the event through informal conversations with students and DEI staff at our Partner Schools post-event and in the year following the VOICES Conference. This conference will be deemed successful if 80% or more of attendees indicated that they clarified their goals, gained financial literacy, improved their sense of belonging, met one new friend, learned something new, and would refer a friend to the conference the following year. Additionally, our conference is student-led by a group of 7 student interns, therefore we will also be evaluating the interns' growth in leadership and entrepreneurial skills through self-reported evaluations at the end of their internship.

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

Direct Impact: 125

Indirect Impact: 27,200