2023 Grants Challenge

Students of Los Angeles Write the Future

Idea by 826LA

The youth of Los Angeles tell the best stories about our city, but many of them aren't given the opportunity. That's why 826LA provides free writing and tutoring programs for those students, most of whom are from under-resourced communities. Working one-on-one with caring volunteers, students are given the opportunity to follow their imaginations, develop their voices, improve their academics, work on college application essays, learn about the creative economy, and become published authors, with 826LA's free programs and support.


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

South LA

West 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?

Thousands of LAUSD students have disengaged from school during the pandemic. A recent LA Times series on LAUSD had these major findings: The gap in grades (academic achievement gap) that was already pronounced before the pandemic between Black and Latino students, on the one hand, and white and Asian counterparts on the other, widened to as much as 21 percentage points. Over a third of the students in the demographics that 826LA serves do not have an appropriate, quiet place at home to study. Perhaps the most concerning statistic comes from the office of the LAUSD Superintendent, who has identified chronic absenteeism as a top concern. At the end of the 2021-22 school year, Los Angeles Unified's chronic absenteeism rate was 45.2%, and in March of this year, 36% of students were chronically absent.

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

With support from LA2050, 826LA will expand its Young Authors Book Project (YABP), a project traditionally reserved for one cohort of students, to seven cohorts. In schools, we will partner with teachers to develop book-length projects that support their curricular needs. In our writing centers, we will work with students to identify the theme for the anthologized volume. This will upgrade "zine-quality" publications to professional-grade books. YABP involves sustained student engagement over the course of a semester or school year. We will also continue our work with book-making field trips, in which classes of students attend a 3-hour field trip at one of our writing centers,where they co-author a zine-quality book together. YABP and our Field Trips meet the goals of LA 2050's program by exposing students to creativity across a wide range of writing, culminating in the production of professional-grade published anthologies, or zines, in which each student has contributed a unique, meaningful piece. 826LA's creative workshops are made possible by the exceptional teaching artists who lead them and the trained community volunteers who support them. Teaching artists include writers, poets, artists, designers, photographers, and professionals, and student work is objectively assessed along two distinct trajectories.

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

Student voices and stories are nearly invisible in publishing and entertainment, not only in Los Angeles, but throughout the United States. When students worked on the 826LA publication Mapping Our Roots, for example, they conducted oral histories within their families and neighborhoods. When they wrote Through the Same Halls, students interviewed elders to generate a local history of the neighborhood around their school. Most recently, when they wrote Holding On to the Future, they engaged in creative envisioning of their and LA's future. 826LA helps students develop a lasting, positive relationship with writing that catalyzes their ability to live fully included in the halls of power, in the creative economy, and wherever their paths may lead. 826LA is building a future in which our students can see themselves as participants in the creative power of LA's world class museums, universities, film, television, streaming, gaming studios, and publishing houses.

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

In our tutoring centers, students participate in pre-and post-program Analytic Writing Continuum (AWC) assessments designed by the National Writing Project. For two years now, our students saw an average 6% gain in the AWC from pretest to post-test, a notable, statistically significant improvement. The same writing samples are assessed for creativity and, likewise, reflect 6% gains. Because our In-Schools programs support the teaching goals of our partner teachers, formal assessment comes in the form of grades, while informal assessment is provided by dedicated volunteers. Moreover, 826LA conducts post-program surveys of students, teachers, volunteers, and many parents. 100% of teachers surveyed noted an increase in creativity with their students, 97.4% noted marked improvement in their students' motivation to write and persistence in the writing process, and 75% noted pronounced student improvement in writing conventions (grammar, syntax, punctuation, etc.).

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

Direct Impact: 2,400

Indirect Impact: 300