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

Students Build LA's Future

LASA provides a year-long intensive introduction to the infrastructure and institutions of greater LA for high school juniors who have expressed an interest in public, civic, and civil service. LASA students live across the county, and include systems-impacted youth. Funding supports student trainings - from transportation to books and food; speaker and teacher/staff support; and the development of new modules to add to existing series on water, housing and food insecurity, justice, youth mental health and public health, and more.


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?

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA

West LA

South Bay

Antelope Valley

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

Other:: Gateway Cities

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?

LASA addresses the lack of pairing educational opportunities for high school students around civic engagement and public service with encouraging students to bring their neighborhood expertise to LA's challenges. LASA works with high school juniors to give them the foundational knowledge and tools to address numerous issues across the county. LA's students are experts in the realities their neighborhoods and families face. They have ideas for civic improvement and the future. LASA responds to the need to provide understandings of how the county works now and the need to have a county-wide discussion about the differences in lived experiences. LASA addresses both: by providing access to experts on LA's infrastructure from water to health and housing to politics and justice and by providing a space where high school juniors from across the county who would not otherwise meet each other discuss a collective future.

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

LASA begins with a three-day intensive in the summer where in-coming juniors from across the county - and all kinds of school arrangements - meet each other and begin to share their stories. The first three days of learning routinely tackle water - historical questions about access and development, current infrastructural issues, and environmental concerns. They meet with experts and, when conditions permit, visit a Metropolitan Water District treatment and testing facility. From there, students meet one Saturday a month to take on additional topics. As they move through the year, they pair their neighborhood knowledge with this infrastructural information to strategize how they can address their concerns. LASA has been doing this work since 2012 and continues to build and evolve. The groups of high school juniors change year to year and graduate into a growing group of LASA alums. Yearly, we add new schools and cover new neighborhoods. We have a community of experts who work with us to guide, mentor, and support the students. The issues we address, and the experts we invite, are constantly evaluated to be responsive to the moment while still addressing longer range infrastructural concerns. In the past few years, LASA has added segments on public health as well as fire management, and has engaged with efforts on water-recycling as part of LASA's more traditional water studies. LASA students assist with pinpointing areas of concern/opportunity for their future work.

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

Our vision for success is to see LASA graduates use the information they gain and the connections they forge to create a more equal, environmentally sustainable, and just LA. When we launched LASA more than a decade ago, we had a vision that, someday before long, LASA graduates would be professionally involved in civic service across the LA Basin. That these young people might choose professional directions in part because of this program was thrilling to contemplate. Today, we have proof-of-concept data that points to this hope and this vision. But our dreams about LASA run deeper than the joy of seeing this or that graduate find work and fulfillment in civic and civil service. What is now even more exciting to ponder (and hope for) is that LASA graduates would find problemsolving connections across sectors, that their history of civic engagement from the time that they were sixteen years old, will pay hopeful and helpful dividends years later. There's the change we want!

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

LASA's successes are measured in both short and longer term gains. Yearly successes are measured via student feedback. We look for reports on realizations and discoveries based on LASA participation, increased engagement in the areas they individually are most drawn to, and reflections on both the state of their neighborhoods and possibilities for the future. Longer term gains are measured in alumni feedback on choices for majors based on LASA experiences and career developments. The broader impact of LASA is inseparable from the specific aspects of the future our students choose to address. They have become environmental engineers and architects. They have decided to study environmental studies and engineering based on their experiences in LASA. With each class, we hear of those drawn to law enforcement, public health, and history. While our mission is to serve LASA students, we also see their impact on the experts and institutions they visit based on their questions and concerns.

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

Direct Impact: 40

Indirect Impact: 1,350

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

USC, The Huntington, and LAPL are essential institutional partners. They act as home bases, as well as archival and personnel sources. Through our ties to USC, we draw academic and other partners into LASA's programs; we also bring collegiate and admissions counselors into direct dialogue with our students. The Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) is our downtown home base, and students are made aware of that institution's young adult and tutoring programs - as well as their critical work in serving those experiencing homelessness. The Huntington is LASA's primary base of operations; we introduce students to that institution's mission, curatorial personnel and collections, and Huntington education/outreach programs are brought to LASA attention throughout any given year's work.