Education / 2013
Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men (BLOOM)
BLOOM is a bold initiative of the California Community Foundation (CCF). BLOOM seeks to support Black male youth (14 – 18 years old) who have been involved with the L.A. County probation system. By 2017, BLOOM will serve 2,000 of these youth with a specific focus on steering them away from the justice system and helping them complete high school, enter post-secondary education and earn taxable income. The end game is simple: school completion and jobs! BLOOM represents a landmark as the ONLY major philanthropic initiative in the country focused on Black male youth involved in the juvenile delinquency system. BLOOM seeks to have a minimum of 60% of youth served complete high school and pursue post-secondary education/training. This projected outcome is considerably higher than the current rate of 25% (high school completion) for probation-involved youth. Additionally, our expectation is that as more youth complete high school, more of them will be prepared to obtain meaningful employment and earn taxable income. To accomplish this, CCF intends to open avenues of access to educational and employment opportunities for 14-18 year old Black males, real and immediate opportunities such as academic support, scholarships, internships and jobs. BLOOM targets Black male youth who have been on probation because this is arguably the most vulnerable of any sub-group in Los Angeles County. The statistics reveal a grim reality: • Black youth make up a disproportionate percentage of youth on probation and in prison. Specifically, while they represent 10 percent of the county’s youth population, they comprise 33 percent of all youth under probation supervision; • In general, only 25% of youth on probation graduate from high school; • It is projected that one in four Black males will be involved with the criminal justice system in their lifetime, while only one in 10 will graduate from a four-year college; • It is estimated that for each cohort of 120,000 young adults each year that become part of the population that will never complete high school, they will cost California $46.4 billion in total economic losses over their lifetimes; and • In general, 45% percent of Blacks in Los Angeles County are either unemployed or not in the labor force, the highest among any racial/ethnic subgroup in the area. BLOOM invests in promoting Educational and Job Opportunity for youth in three ways: (1) academic/vocational advancement; (2) creation of a jobs pipeline; and (3) career-based mentoring. Investments are made through sub-grants to local nonprofit organizations serving this population, and in partnership with other nonprofits, foundations, corporations, and concerned individuals. Through these grants, nonprofit organizations and the local business community make an intentional, concentrated effort to reshape the trajectory of these youth by supporting them complete school, getting them job ready and ultimately placed in jobs. BLOOM provides the support and direction organizations need to embark on such efforts. Often times, efforts to support young Black men and boys are pursued one of two ways: (1) within a general framework to serve people of color in general or (2) under the auspices of a specific issue area (e.g., education). However, the wide disparities that persist in outcomes for Black male youth signal a need to take on a more concerted, focused effort. BLOOM is poised to demonstrate what a concentrated, intentional, and focused effort can achieve for young Black men.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
Since implementation in May 2012, our five service partners have enrolled 105 BLOOM youth into their respective programs. We are planning to add at least four more service partners in June 2013. We will continue to add partners over the next couple of years to help us reach our projected target number of 2,000 youth served by 2017.
Our “BLOOMers” are being provided with unique opportunities. As part of our partners’ program models, BLOOMers not only have positive connections to male mentors but also spend more than 100 hours undergoing self-actualization training which includes leadership development, cultural enrichment, and guidance on succeeding in school and the workplace and other important topics.
Two BLOOMers earned an exclusive opportunity to participate in the six-week AEG Job Shadowing program. The program takes place from February 20 through March 15. This exclusive opportunity is only offered to one out of every 2,000 high school students in Los Angeles. The program will allow BLOOMers an opportunity for regular exposure to the daily operations behind one of the most successful entertainment companies in the world while learning critical job skills that will make them competitive in the workplace.
The following profile provides just one example of our BLOOMers (the name has been changed to protect confidentiality of the youth).
James is completing his senior year at Evans Community Learning Center in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. James is on probation for being involved with a grand theft auto incident. He would like to attend San Diego State University in the fall. His interests lie in Human Behavior and Philosophy. James has participated in community service activities such as feeding the homeless and neighborhood beautification projects. People who meet James find it hard to believe he has any association to Probation. However, James recently shared that, “I thought I was living life the way it was supposed to be lived in the inner-city. I just didn’t know better. I now realize there are options and opportunities.”
In conjunction with LAGRANT COMMUNICATIONS, CCF has produced print and radio media placements and materials to expand BLOOM’s messaging. Examples of such placements include: KJLH radio (radio spots by BLOOM spokesperson Larenz Tate), The Huffington Post, California Crusader, and coverage on KABC7 Eyewitness News at 6 pm. BLOOM is also one of five philanthropic initiatives featured in Where Do We Go from Here?: Philanthropic Support for Black Men and Boys, a report published in October 2012 by The Foundation Center. The report examines U.S. foundation giving explicitly in support of Black males by issue area, type of support, and geographic area served. The analyses explore patterns of giving by larger U.S. foundations over the past eight years, with a focus on giving from 2008 to 2010.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
The BLOOM Alliance consists of five service partners:
- Brotherhood Crusade
- Los Angeles Urban League
- Youth Mentoring Connection
- Community Coalition
- Youth Justice Coalition
Three other partners are focused on specific aspects of BLOOM:
- Liberty Hill Foundation (providing capacity building support for our service partners)
- LAGRANT COMMUNICATIONS (conducting outreach to the community and increased visibility to BLOOM)
- An evaluation team from UCLA (responsible for ongoing tracking of overall progress)
Some of our partners that have committed to provide job opportunities for BLOOM youth include:
- United Parcel Service (UPS)
- Buffalo Wild Wings
- LA Metro Transportation Authority
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
To measure the BLOOM’s impact, CCF enlisted an evaluation team from UCLA’s Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities (CHCFC), a multidisciplinary research, policy and training institute with faculty from the UCLA Schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Public Affairs. The team has a combined record of more than 60 years of community-based evaluation, with clients including the Probation Department, Department of Children and Family Services and Homeboy Industries. The purpose of the evaluation is not only to assess the effectiveness and impact of BLOOM’s strategic investments but also identify any potential adjustments needed during the course of the five-year initiative. Short-term progress is based on a quarterly data collection and tracking process. This aggregated data will allow ongoing tracking of youth related to school enrollment, school achievement, job training/readiness, job placement and income. This data will be used in various ways to inform key stakeholders about BLOOM’s progress toward the long-term vision of school completion and jobs for Black male youth. Long-term progress will be tracked based on a set of specified outcomes and indicators. These outcomes include: (1) 60% of youth will complete high school, (2) 50% of youth 18 years and older will earn taxable income, and (3) 60% of youth will develop a sustained relationship with a health adult male role model. Throughout the five years, the UCLA evaluation team will produce an annual evaluation report and other reports as needed. Based on the findings, there could be strategic refinements, which in turn could result in revised metrics.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
Support for BLOOM benefits Los Angeles in three ways:
There is a growing movement in philanthropy to invest in a more focused way to address the challenges facing young Black men and boys. Along with The California Endowment’s Boys and Men of Color focus and The California Wellness Foundation’s Violence Prevention Initiative, BLOOM is an instrumental part of L.A.’s philanthropic efforts to address the disparities in outcomes for Black male youth.
Given Los Angeles often sets the pace for identifying solutions to challenges that impact our nation in general, lessons learned from Los Angeles can serve as a testing ground to address two of our nation’s most pressing needs: (1) cost effective alternatives in the face of fiscal constraints; and (2) the urgency to positively alter the trajectory of system-involved Black youth.
Lastly, there are more than 800,000 Blacks residing in Los Angeles County. We can ill afford to have a significant segment of this population (i.e., Black male youth) continue to underachieve and missing the opportunity to become self-sufficient, taxpaying citizens of our community. L.A.’s national and global competiveness is inextricably linked to these outcomes as we approach the year 2050.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
How are young Black men supposed to become self-sufficient, taxpaying, contributing members of society when quality education, job training and full-time employment constantly take a back seat to community violence and discrimination against them?
Imagine a community in which all young people have hope and opportunity to be gainfully employed and contributing members of society.
What if we could save California’s economy $40 billion by redirecting just one percent of the state’s dropouts to become high school graduates?
In 2050, I envision educational outcomes for Black male youth (and all other outcomes that are indicators of positive well-being) that are proportionate to their percentage within the general population. For example, if Black male youth make up 5% of the overall L.A. County youth population, they will comprise 5% of the county’s high school graduates. If the general high school graduation rate for L.A. County students is 70%, I envision at least 70% of all Black male youth graduating from high school. Only when this occurs will be able to make a legitimate claim that all young people have equal access and opportunity to thrive and participate in mainstream community life.
BLOOM is about instilling confidence and ambition into all Black male youth, beginning in South L.A. This is not a program for the best and the brightest – it’s about putting aside our stereotypes and prejudice, and investing in the potential of all kids, regardless of what has happened to them. It’s about believing that we all deserve REAL opportunity and support at being a productive citizen. L.A. County and our nation have billions in savings riding on it.
The following video clip tells the story of just one of many BLOOMers who deserve such an opportunity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwTdlLLmqZg