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

Gardening and Wellness for Justice-Impacted Youth

With an earth-based program of healing, self-efficacy, and connection to community and nature, we provide a trauma-informed gardening and mindfulness curriculum for justice-involved youth (ages 14-26). Our work was founded to address the underlying issues that prevent many young people from finding stability and positive long term change. Our theory of change seeks to move young people out of trauma responses and dysregulation and into a healthier more aligned emotional state, through teaching and fostering a connection to nature and self.


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?

CA continues to close its three youth detention centers and shift the responsibility of juvenile justice onto the state's 58 counties, ending an 80-year history of detention facilities that have been criticized for violence and racial disparities. The opportunity for change now comes to LA County and its communities. In addition, food justice and access to healthy food is an ongoing, integral issue for many in LA County that not only impacts individual health and wellbeing but also the sustainability of our marginalized communities and their opportunity to thrive. Food justice is racial justice. We recognize that the roots of disproportionate harm comes from socialized behaviors, racial disparities from the justice system, a disparate educational system, trauma and generational poverty. With a rising increase in mental health issues in the past two years we believe this program is needed now, particularly as the County wrestles with a new approach to working with these youth.

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

Our programming is designed for opportunity and transitional aged young people (age 14-26) impacted by the criminal justice system, specifically the disproportionate number of black and brown young people. Other programs solely focus on outcomes- employment and housing- rather than the underlying issues that prevent many of these young people from finding stability and positive long term change. Our trauma-informed approach uses cognitive, somatic, and nature-based practices to help individuals regulate their nervous system and build greater resiliency. Gardening becomes the center and the physical touch point for our classes. Research indicates that not only does touching earth and caring for a plant offer deep energetic healing on its own, but gardening also allows for a slowing down and pausing that is often skipped once these young people are in the "real world" and forced into the rush during their transition of getting out of prison and back to community. For the upcoming year, we have five more interested sites at organizations that support system-impacted, gang impacted, and unhoused young people. Each site we partner with provides land or space to create garden beds or greenspaces; we provide the resources, gardening supplies and curriculum. Additionally, we are developing a Training the Trainer program that will lead to job opportunities for our young people and a creation of additional revenue streams for the organization.

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

We envision Los Angeles County to be the center of a nationwide movement that provides youth with an opportunity to reclaim themselves and their future following involvement with the justice system through the healing power of nature. We want to see the County move away from a blame and punitive based system to one that seeks to repair the individual, the collective and structural norms that led to harm. We envision this leading to a recreation of what the justice system looks like for youth and young adults in our region. Instead of removing and shunning people from the community where they've caused harm we aim to bring them back into connection and belonging to the land and the self. To aid in this, we seek to support young people harmed by systemic injustice, structural racism and a societal disconnection by re-learning the importance of care, compassion, and connecting them to income opportunities for long-term stability.

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

We evaluate success through ongoing participant and teacher feedback, pre- and post- written surveys, and one-on-one interviews. Our current impact: -Served 15+ young men and women at our 2 sites already underway, (Anti-Recidivism Coalition's Magnolia House and New Village Girls Academy) -Participants note feeling included, better prepared for holding a full-time job, and more aware of environmental and racial justice. Our indicators for success in the coming year include: -Identify a Community Garden Plot for training program -Launch our Training the Trainer program for 10 trainees -Adding a site at a center serving youth experiencing homelessness and other opportunity youth, impacting 25-50 -75% graduation rate from the year long program -100% participants report a positive self-change based on at least 3 self-identified goals at the beginning of the program participation -75% of participants remain free of involvement with the justice system, within two years of participation

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

Direct Impact: 60

Indirect Impact: 200