Education Winner / 2013

1000 Mentors for Students: Build a Greater City of Angels with 826LA!

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by 826LA

Imagine Los Angeles in the year 2050 when we all play a part in educating our city’s youngest citizens. Volunteering is as common as going to the gym. Adults feel fulfilled because they are connecting with others. School children are thriving because they have a community of role models who serve as mentors. Los Angeles is flourishing because everyone lends a hand.

In this vision of Los Angeles, education reaches beyond the classroom. Children have a wealth of teachers because adults volunteer a few hours of their time each week. With so many caring adults cheering them on, students are more focused and excited to learn.

To make our vision of L.A. in 2050 a reality, 826LA will inspire over 1,000 Angelinos to make volunteering part of their lives in 2013. By sharing their talents and their time, these volunteers will help students across Los Angeles to make great leaps in learning. Studies show that students who receive one-on-one attention from adults improve their academic outcomes, behavior, and self-esteem. All of these attributes are crucial for the future parents, workers, and leaders of our city.

This idea will not only improve the existing problems in Los Angeles’ education system, it will encourage a culture of compassion in our city. As volunteer Kelly told 826LA, “It feels good to give yourself to something else.” By sharing their experiences with their friends and families, these 1,000 volunteers will encourage even more people to volunteer to lead a workshop, to coach a soccer game, or to help a child with their homework. Pretty soon, everyone in L.A. will be doing it, and we’ll all be the better for it, too.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Since opening our doors in 2005, 826LA has served more than 30,000 students from across Los Angeles County. Thanks to the hard work of over 3,000 volunteers and countless supporters, 826LA has increased its reach substantially over the past few years. In 2008, 826LA opened a new center in Echo Park. This fall, 826LA moved its Westside operations to Mar Vista. This new Mar Vista center increases 826LA’s capacity significantly, providing 2,625 square-feet of creative space for students as well as better visibility and accessibility for the organization. 826LA will have the capacity to serve 30% more students each day through After-School Tutoring in Mar Vista; to add a series of evening workshops targeted at middle and high school students; and to recruit and train up up to 35 volunteers per week.

Last year, 826LA served 10,105 students last year--a 23% increase from the previous year. We are not only serving more students, but we are increasing the benefits of our programs across the academic curriculum. Over six years of assessments and surveys demonstrate that 826LA’s programs build self-esteem, teach literacy skills, and improve educational outcomes. Last year:

- 93% of students reported that they understood their writing assignment better thanks to the help of 826LA volunteers;

- 90% of students reported that working with an 826LA volunteer in their classroom increased their confidence about writing;

- 95% of students reported that they were proud of what they created during an 826LA workshop;

- 100% of students reported that their grades have improved since receiving tutoring at 826LA.

Other notable achievements include:

• In 2006, 826LA received a Proclamation of Recognition from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and in honor of our 5th Anniversary in 2010, 826LA received an award from the Los Angeles City Council, acknowledging 826LA’s dedication to the community;

• 826LA received a Proclamation of Recognition from Los Angeles Supervisor Eric Garcetti for our work in the Echo Park community in March 2010;

• 826LA was named a “Nonprofit to Follow” by Philanthropy magazine in 2012;

• On April 9, 2013, 826LA will be honored during the Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service at City Hall by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for our work with the Corporation for National and Community Service and Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA).

Thanks in part to recruitment, training, and retention practices strengthened by AmeriCorps VISTA members, hours contributed by volunteers at 826LA increased by 40% last year!

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

826LA will collaborate with AmeriCorps VISTA; local colleges and universities including Cal State LA, Cal State Northridge, USC, and UCLA; and its volunteer corps of over 3,000 individuals in order to successfully implement this project. To recruit volunteers, 826LA will collaborate with LA Works as part of their California Volunteers Service Enterprise Initiative.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

To evaluate this project, 826LA will measure its success towards reaching the following goals:

1) Recruit, register, and train at least 1,000 volunteer mentors in 2013; 2) Share volunteer stories through 826LA’s website, blog, events, and external communications in order to promote volunteering in Los Angeles; 3) A minimum of 85% of students participating in 826LA’s in-school programs will report that the adults they worked with cared about their success in school.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

Los Angeles students attend some of the most overcrowded schools in the United States. With so many students in their classrooms, teachers are unable to offer the one-on-one time that is crucial for young people. 826LA seeks to give students the individual attention they need to become effective learners, confident leaders, and engaged citizens. 826LA’s project will do this by inspiring over 1,000 citizens to get involved in our community and mentor local students. Even a few hours of volunteer time can have a huge impact on a child: studies show that with 35-40 hours of tutoring, a student can increase his or her reading by an entire grade level!

Beyond the educational boon to students, this project will benefit the whole city by encouraging a culture of compassion. The impact of helping others is significant: studies show that volunteering reduces stress and alleviates depression. The impact of receiving help can be transformative, too. Students will grow up knowing that they are an important part of a community that cares about them. Volunteers become mentors to the children they work with, and, by modeling good citizenship, they will teach children that giving back is just part of what we do in Los Angeles.

Our vision of a connected future starts today. The more we volunteer in 2013, the more we perpetuate this cycle of giving. And by 2050, today’s students will become tomorrow’s mentors for a new generation of Angelinos.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

If 826LA is successful in shaping the future of the city, every student in Los Angeles will receive the one-on-one help they need to succeed. Individual attention helps students build leadership skills that are essential for 21st century life, including focus, strong communication, decisiveness, self-respect, and compassion. Volunteers will make it possible for every student to receive individual attention regardless of their socio-economic status. Talent, experience, and kindness abound in the City of Angels, and by volunteering just a few hours a week, Angelinos can share this wealth with young people.

It’s projected that there will be more than 39 million people in Los Angeles County in 2050—that’s a lot of volunteers! By making volunteering part of our lives, we will give our students a diverse group of role models. Students will have opportunities to explore filmmaking from film professionals; to visit science labs; to discover other cultures; and to practice their English-language skills with their neighbors.

By 2050, citywide volunteering will create a more united Los Angeles. Generous adults not only provide the one-on-one attention that students need, but also show them that they are part of a community that cares. It’s important that young people find the inspiration and guidance that they are seeking; and see first hand what the work of volunteers can do for others, and ultimately, for themselves. As 826LA volunteer Vicente explains:

"I [volunteer] because I can relate to the students. I grew up this way. I struggled with English writing and English speaking. I know the importance of receiving positive reinforcement, and that's what students get when they come to 826LA. I volunteer because my heart is in helping students."

By giving our attention and volunteering our time, everyone will contribute to the education of our children in 2050. Our students—and all of Los Angeles—will benefit from this culturally rich, engaged, and united city.