play / 2014

End Violence Create Generation Empathy®

End Violence Create Generation Empathy®

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by spcaLA

Break the cycle of violence, create #GenerationEmpathy! Today #BoyleHeights, tomorrow the world!


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

We want to enable teachers to create a generation of empathetic, compassionate youth – Generation Empathy®, who break the cycle of violence.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a population of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • South LA
  • Our pilot program will be in the Boyle Heights area, then expand to greater Los Angeles, and beyond.

What is your idea/project in more detail?

The Generation Empathy® program is a collaborative effort by spcaLA and Salesian Boys & Girls Club, to allow educators to increase empathy, thereby preventing violence, by offering a pro-hero, anti-bullying curriculum in the classroom, based on spcaLA’s award-winning Teaching Love and Compassion (TLC) ™ program.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

  1. Develop and finalize Generation Empathy® curriculum, for several age groups. (by spcaLA)
  2. Hire and train 2-4 spcaLA Generation Empathy® educators, operate pilots at programs run by the Salesian Boys & Girls Club for several age groups. (by spcaLA & Salesian Boys & Girls Club)
  3. Analyze pilot programs and plan for implementation of the program on wider scale. (by spcaLA & Salesian Boys & Girls Club)
  4. spcaLA teaches educators at partner organizations (Roosevelt High School, Volunteers of America Head Start programs, St. Mary’s school, and Salesian Boys & Girls Club) how to operate a Generation Empathy® program and/or operates programs at those locations.
  5. Analyze programs in Boyle Heights and secure new educator relationships. (by spcaLA, Salesian Boys & Girls Club, & partner organizations)
  6. Create and execute a plan for implementation of the program in more areas of California, and then nationally and internationally. (by spcaLA and Salesian Boys & Girls Club)

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to PLAY today? In 2050?

Is the best place to play a place that fosters violence and cruelty, or one wherein compassion and empathy are commonplace?

For years, both spcaLA and Salesian Boys & Girls Club have been empowering youth in at-risk communities to be compassionate leaders. Now, two of Los Angeles’ finest nonprofit organizations have joined together to offer programming aimed at prevention and early intervention – of violence.

Our two groups recently collaborated to offer spcaLA’s award-winning violence-prevention program, “Teaching Love & Compassion” (TLC) ™ at the Salesian Boys & Girls Club. Kids in spcaLA TLC programs work to gain empathy, coping skills, and self-esteem through a pro-hero, anti-bullying curriculum involving work with shelter dogs. Students take pre and post surveys to measure empathy, and invariably, empathy increases. In fact, TLC has been so successful spcaLA worked with the Juvenile Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office to offer a similar program as part of probation for some juvenile offenders (often convicted of bullying, assault, and animal cruelty offenses).

But, despite the success of TLC at Salesian Boys & Girls Club, we want more.

spcaLA and Salesian Boys & Girls Club want to rekindle empathy and break the cycle of violence on a larger scale. We envision a program that would take the successes of spcaLA’s violence-prevention programs to a wider audience – giving educators the tools to teach a humane education and violence prevention course, without the involvement of an animal shelter, its staff or animals.

With your help, we will work to break the cycle of violence, and empower a generation of kids to be thought leaders in their communities. We will help them to rekindle their empathy and speak up for those who have no voice. We will prevent crime through compassion, and intervene before youthful transgressions become adult patterns of criminal behavior.

If we increase the level of empathy in a generation of children, they will be less likely to perpetrate or be convicted of violent crimes as juveniles and adults, making their communities safe places to play. They will stand up for the weak and victimized - reporting crime. Further, through a childhood of involvement in community groups, like the Salesian Boys & Girls Club, Generation Empathy® kids will be civic leaders, committed to the improvement and revitalization of their neighborhoods.

Whom will your project benefit?

Partner organizations primarily serve the Boyle Heights community of Los Angeles. Demographically, Boyle Heights is a primarily Latino (approximately 94%), young (median age 30 years) neighborhood. Residents have an increased likelihood not to have completed high school, and more of the community lives below the poverty level, as compared to rest of Los Angeles. Further, the area reports a higher-than-average rate of violent crime. The initial target population for Generation Empathy® will be a few groups of students at Salesian Boys & Girls Club. Then, after pilot testing, the target population will potentially grow to the 1,350 students in Volunteers of America Head Start programs (ages 3-5), 200 students in St. Mary’s and Resurrection schools (K-8), and 3,000 students in “After the Bell” at Roosevelt High School. Generation Empathy® can be further offered to school districts, early education centers, clubs and other institutions locally and nationally.

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

Partner: Salesian Boys & Girls Club of Los Angeles has been inspiring and enabling the young people of East Los Angeles and the surrounding communities to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens, and supporting their families in this effort since 1966 (Tax ID 95-2430743). spcaLA has been working with Salesian Boys & Girls Club for some time, to weave violence-prevention lessons into ongoing programs.

Three factors critical to the success of our proposed collaboration.

  1. Common goals - to help rekindle empathy in a generation of youth.
  2. Proven track record - spcaLA and Salesian Boys & Girls Club work well together to offer violence-prevention programs.
  3. Community involvement - the partnership and potential program is supported by the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Coalition, affording Generation Empathy® the support of the Boyle Heights community at large.

Collaborators - Salesian Boys & Girls Club has ongoing relationship with collaborator organizations, who serve the greater Boyle Heights area.

Volunteers of America Saint Mary’s Church Resurrection Church Boyle Heights Neighborhood Coalition Roosevelt High School

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Play” metrics?

  • Number of children enrolled in afterschool programs
  • Per capita crime rates
  • Percentage of residents that feel safe in their neighborhoods
  • Bryant Empathy Index

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

After School Programs: The pilot Generation Empathy® program will be held at the Salesian Boys & Girls Club (most offerings are over the summer or after-school), and the success of the program will help to enroll more kids in similar programs.

Per capita crimes: If the program is successful in reigniting empathy in a generation of young people, they will break the cycle of violence, and be less likely to commit violent crime. Further, they will be more likely to want to stand up for those who are victimized or hurt, and may be more likely to intervene and/or report crime happening in their neighborhoods.

Percentage of residents that feel safe in their neighborhoods: communities in which a generation of youth is comprised of compassionate individuals will lead to more people feeling safe in their neighborhoods. Not only will these youths be less likely to commit crime, and more likely to intervene when they see it happening, they will also have the added benefit of understanding the importance of proper pet care and animal handling. They will know how to correctly handle the issues of stray or dangerous animals. As adults, they will be more likely to have their pets spayed/neutered, and will be more likely to treat pets as members of the family. Bryant Empathy Index: students who participate in Generation Empathy® will express a higher degree of capacity after having completed it (pre-/post- surveys)

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

With your help, we can effectively operate the pilot Generation Empathy® program in Boyle Heights, measure its impact, and its potential for implementation on a wide scale. Data points will include: • Pre-/Post-Surveys (Bryant Empathy Index) And may also include: • Rate of juvenile crime • Incidents of dog bites • Reports of animal cruelty • Animal Care Services data (intake/dogs reported by kids) • Adoptability/return rate for dogs in the program • Community initiatives started by kids (fence fixing, spay/neuter, etc)

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Students in spcaLA TLC sessions take pre- and post- surveys to measure empathy, and invariably, empathy increases. In fact, TLC has been so successful spcaLA worked with the Juvenile Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office to offer a similar program as part of probation for some juvenile offenders (often convicted of bullying, assault, and animal cruelty offenses), called jTLC.

Students who completed spcaLA’s jTLC as a condition of their probation reduced their recidivism rate by half, as compared to their peers who did not (from a 15% rate to a 7% rate of recidivism).

As part of her doctoral dissertation research, spcaLA Director of Humane Education Melanie Wagner, Ph.D., M.S. Ed, evaluated the pre- and post- surveys participants in jTLC took, to measure empathy (Bryant Empathy Index). The results are compelling: students expressed an increase in empathy after completing jTLC (p<.01 for all cases).

Results of TLC survey evaluation also indicate that TLC students increase their knowledge of responsible pet care, diminish their fear of dogs, and learn that there are alternatives to violence. An ancillary benefit of the program is that many of the TLC participants have increased their reading and writing scores on standardized tests.

These findings, coupled with years of anecdotal evidence of children considering the feelings for others after being given access to violence-prevention education, suggest that reigniting empathy will help to improve the safety of our communities, and make ours a more humane world.

After the success at the Salesian Boys & Girls Club, we determined these lessons could be given to kids in at-risk communities on a larger scale.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

spcaLA and Salesian Boys & Girls Club, as well as our partner organizations, are committed to increasing empathy in kids in at-risk communities, like the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles. As such, we are firmly committed to the project, and are ready to begin implementation as soon as funding is secured.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

Current challenges we anticipate for Generation Empathy® include funding and onboarding for new educational institutions.

spcaLA and Salesian Boys & Girls Club are dedicated to the program, and work both independently and collaboratively to solicit and secure program-specific funding.

spcaLA and Salesian Boys & Girls Club plan to leverage existing relationships with educational institutions, and show successes of pilot Generation Empathy® sessions, to grow the program to the greater Los Angeles area and beyond.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)