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

Legacy LA Youth Leaders for Environmental Justice

Legacy LA youth leaders from the Ramona Gardens public housing development in Boyle Heights will continue an Environmental Justice campaign to build the Ramona Gardens Natural Park Air Pollution Solution with a focus on advocacy, career readiness and exposure to natural resource education. The program will provide youth leaders with professional and technical skill training, so that they are well equipped to lead and effect systemic change, and to become stewards for increased access to natural resources, parks and open space in their community


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

Green Space, Park Access, and Trees

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

East LA

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?

Air quality in Ramona Gardens (in northern Boyle Heights) is among the worst statewide, according to a CalEnviroScreen map, due to transit pollution. The 15-lane Interstate-10 Highway, El Monte busway, and Metrolink rail line are immediately adjacent to Ramona Gardens. Per US Census data, 37.7% of families in the area have income below poverty & 86.5% of residents identify as Latino (zip code 90033, census tracts 2031 and 2033). In comparison, those figures are 14.3% and 48.2%, respectively, countywide. In addition, at-promise youth from our community have historically had a lack of entry level employment opportunities where they can gain the skills and education needed to pursue long term employment. This has perpetuated a cycle of poverty that leads to potential gang involvement, drug use, and little opportunity for upward mobility. Often such barriers mean youth are less likely to explore their local natural and cultural resources. This project will address these root issues.

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

Legacy LA will train and engage 45 youth leaders to continue the campaign for the Ramona Gardens Natural Park. Once built, the Park will serve as an anti-pollution green buffer to reduce the impact of air pollution from the Interstate-10 Highway adjacent to Ramona Gardens. Legacy LA youth began this campaign by conducting environmental studies on air quality (2016); and conceptualizing a Natural Park to mitigate air pollution. Youth engaged 500 community residents, who provided input on park design. The Park campaign is now in the design development phase including obtaining environmental clearances. Advocacy efforts will focus on raising funds needed to begin construction. With the LA2050 grant, Legacy LA will continue to advance the Park campaign while also educating youth on the necessary skills needed to gain an entry level position in the parks/conservation industry. We will provide 45 youth with 80 hours of career readiness, leadership, and environmental justice training over 10 months including (a) 30 workshops on leadership, environmental justice, and how to engage stakeholders, and elected officials in natural park advocacy efforts; and (b) Career Readiness trainings/outings and exposure to various careers through Annual Legacy LA Career Week event (c) Youth will update residents on the Park campaign through Youth Leaders in Action meetings and events including a culminating town hall meeting for community, elected officials, and environmental justice organizations.

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

The proposed project will advance environmental justice in a low-income primarily Latino community in Boyle Heights. Key project outcomes will be enhanced community capacity to address emerging environmental justice issues, promoting youth participation in civic life and local decision-making to help advance the campaign for the Natural Park. The career readiness trainings and outings will raise awareness of the economic opportunity presented by careers in the environmental justice field, teach the youth valuable/marketable job skills, and increase the community's exposure to natural and cultural resources so that they can pass this knowledge on to their community during Natural Park advocacy efforts and within programming. Once built the Natural park will help protect 2,000 low income, primarily Latino residents from chronic health conditions due to transit-related air pollution, while providing jobs, green space for play and fitness, restoring native habitat, and recycling stormwater

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

Legacy LA measures impact at the community and individual level. At the community level, youth leaders conceptualized the Natural Park campaign and successfully outreached to over 900 community members through events and surveys to gather input on park design. As a result, the community now has a resident-driven design for a Natural Park including features that will reduce air pollution, increase green space, and provide job opportunities. At the individual level, Legacy LA has trained 40-60 youth/year in leadership skills and environmental justice over the past three years. In 2022-2023, 95% of youth agreed "I have learned about the benefits of the Natural Park Anti-Pollution Solution". We also plan to conduct pre- and post-participation written tests, as well as a self-evaluation form, for all youth clients. This will allow us to gauge both the effectiveness of the program and the retention of information provided during training, career readiness, advocacy and education sessions.

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

Direct Impact: 45

Indirect Impact: 2,000