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

Help Continuation School Students Get Good Jobs

Continuation high schools represent the last chance for students who have fallen behind to complete high school in a school setting. Sharefest is unique among community-based organizations, having worked in these under-resourced schools since 2009 to build impactful programming embedded within them. In 2021, we launched a Workforce Development Program to prepare and place students into well-paying careers that do not require a college degree, such as oil refining, construction, healthcare and IT.


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?

South LA

South Bay

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?

Continuation High Schools are an under-resourced part of the school system for youth who are at the greatest risk of dropout. CS students are 2-3 times more likely than traditional students to live in foster care; use alcohol or drugs regularly; and, engage in or be a victim of violence. Sharefest began service to these schools in 2009 and is the only community-based organization embedded in six continuation schools in South LA/Harbor areas rife with violence and poverty. While college offers a pathway to a better life, it is a daunting challenge for students struggling to complete high school in communities where over 60% of adults do not have a high school degree. They want another way to achieve economic security. At the same time, local companies - including Sharefest's corporate partners - have trouble filling well-paying, career path jobs that do not require a college degree. Therefore, we retooled our Youth Leadership Academy to focus entirely on workforce development in 2021.

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

Sharefest's Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) serves students in six Continuation High Schools in the South LA and Harbor areas of Los Angeles: Avalon (Wilmington), Angel's Gate (San Pedro), Patton (Harbor City), Simon Rodia (Watts/South Gate), Moneta (Gardena), and William J. Johnson Community Day School (San Pedro). Working under an agreement with the LAUSD (that does not include funding), the YLA delivers credit-eligible College and Career Development courses that encompass foundational personal growth work in Socio-Emotional Learning, Purpose Education, Professional Development, College/Career Access, Entrepreneurship, and Financial Literacy. Our Instructors serve as Mentors, with group mentoring built into class time and 1-on-1 mentoring regularly available. Students are introduced to a variety of career paths and develop a career plan. Our Case Manager helps students connect to and navigate additional resources in the community. Our Alumni Program supports students for 12 months post-graduation, offering an intensive summer Internship for new graduates and ongoing Support Checks to help them make the transition to post-high school life. Over the past two years, we have developed our in-school curriculum, summer program, evaluation framework and an array of partnerships. In 2023-24, we will expand to two new schools, grow by more than 35%, and build our capacity to directly place students into internships, apprenticeships and other entry-level, career-path positions.

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

If we are successful: 1) Continuation school students will feel confident there is a path for them to achieve a prosperous future. By the time they enter a continuation school, many students feel demoralized and "beaten" by the educational system. The YLA will help them overcome feelings of "failure" and envision a future in which they are a valued and an important part of the community. 2) Local businesses that are in need of skilled workers will have a new pipeline of entry-level employees with the foundational training necessary to be effective, long-term assets to the corporation. L.A. County will experience a financial boost. Helping students at high risk of dropout to complete high school and find a path to economic security will alleviate the $392,000 each high school dropout costs the state of California (California Dropout Research Project, 2007) while providing local companies the workforce they need to thrive.

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

The YLA is based on objectives developed by the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty (, which goes beyond traditional measures of Economic Success to include "Power and Autonomy" and "Being Valued in the Community" as keys to helping disadvantaged populations achieve true social equity and inclusion. We have formed our outcome goals in respect to the Mobility from Poverty framework, focusing on reducing college/career barriers for participants while increasing their social capital and resiliency. As our history of workforce development grows, we will gather more data about job placement and persistence in employment. With the support of an evaluation consultant, we have built a state-of-the-art Apricot 360 student database so that we are able to track student benchmarks, analyze pre/post assessment questionnaires, and build a body of data that will help us identify program strengths/weaknesses and replicate successful strategies across the program.

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

Direct Impact: 500

Indirect Impact: