SoLa Technology and Entrepreneurship Center
The SoLa Foundation works to end intergenerational poverty in South Los Angeles by closing the racial digital divide through the state-of-the-art SoLa Technology and Entrepreneurship Center. The Tech Center is on a mission to train and inspire the next generation of Black and brown tech and entertainment leaders and entrepreneurs. Through certifications, apprenticeships and job pipeline programs, thousands of students are equipped with needed job skills to enter lucrative careers right out of high school.
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?
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?
In order to curb intergenerational poverty in South Los Angeles the racial digital divide must be closed through new investment in STEAM and entrepreneurship education that prioritizes cutting edge tech career skills. In 2018, SoLa found that 9 of the 10 largest South LA high schools lacked access to tech related electives and equipment. Furthermore, 47% of South LA households lack reliable broadband internet connectivity making the region the least internet connected region in LA County. It is well understood that technology access for K-12 students directly impacts academic performance, which in turn affects higher education achievement, earning potential, and life-long financial stability. These systemic access gaps in South LA place Black and brown youth at a structural disadvantage to accessing economic opportunity and can be seen in woeful representation of Black and brown workers in the tech industry. The Center aims to help close this gap.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
SoLa is bridging the racial digital divide through the SoLa Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, a state-of-the-art 13,000 sq ft space in the heart of South LA working to train and inspire the next generation of Black and brown tech leaders and entrepreneurs. The center offers youth (ages 8-21) training and skills building opportunities in four career pathways: 1) Technology; 2) Entrepreneurship; 3) Arts, Media and Entertainment; 4) Video Game Design and Production. Classes include coding, video game development, graphic design, robotics, engineering, video and music production, entrepreneurship and more. The center has served more than 3000 students since opening in January 2022. SoLa is growing a robust employment pipeline program by partnering with leading brands Riot Games, Live Nation Entertainment, Cisco, Roland and others to design curriculum, apprenticeships and certificate programs that teach in-demand tech career skills. Expanding these programs is a key strategic priority for the center. The facility includes creative and learning labs, a production and recording studio, esports and video game design arena, content streaming studio and community gathering space. All programs are free and the center's goal is to serve at least 2500 students annually. With the support of LA2050, SoLa can achieve this goal and help fundamentally change the trajectory of young people's lives in South LA.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
Our vision is to build new pathways for inclusive economic development where everyone - no matter race, wealth or geography - has access to the region's STEAM industries and high wage careers. Our definition of success is for every student who enters our career pathway programs to emerge with job ready skills to enter the workforce at 18 or help propel their college education. LA's $92B tech industry is woefully unrepresentative of the county's diversity, which helps to widening the racial wealth gap. A more diverse tech workforce supplied with trained professionals from the center will attract capital to historically underinvested areas of South LA. We envision South LA, Watts, Compton, Inglewood and surrounding neighborhoods fully integrated into the broader economy, helping to raise wages. To fuel this urgent work and answer demand, SoLa is building a second center in Leimert Park with expansions planned thereafter.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
Impact is recorded in surveys tracking both quantitative and qualitative metrics, including technical proficiencies, psychological well being, teacher skill and more. Focus groups of special populations (ex. parents, partners, schools) helps ensure programming matches the needs of the population. Data is then used to ensure each student's success. Apprenticeship and certificate graduation rates and job placement are also tracked. >3000 students have taken part in SoLa's tech programming with 72% interested in pursuing careers discovered at SoLa and 80% are interested in more study. 83% reported positive psychological effects. 40 students have completed live entertainment apprenticeships, 20 have achieved Cisco Cyber Security Certification and 200 have been trained by Snap Inc in virtual and augmented reality. The center serves students from 102 different educational institutions, proving the existence of systematic deficits in tech programming in traditional educational settings.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 3,000
Indirect Impact: 30,000