learn / 2016

Youth Mentoring and Entrepreneurship Program for Middle School Students

Youth Mentoring and Entrepreneurship Program for Middle School Students

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by WeThrive

An entrepreneurial mentoring program for middle school students of under-resourced communities. All youth participants create companies of their own, earn real revenues and donate profits to charity.


Please describe your project proposal.

42% of children born to parents in the bottom fifth of the economic distribution remain in the bottom as adults. To achieve upward mobility, we require education & life skills to succeed in today’s career paths, as well as the resources, networks and tools to achieve our definitions of success. Through real-world experience from venture creation, mentorship and habit adoption, WeThrive will train and equip more than 800 middle school students with the life skills & resources for upward mobility.

Which of the learn metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • College completion
  • College matriculation rates
  • District-wide graduation rates
  • Student education pipeline
  • Suspension and expulsion rates
  • Truancy rates in elementary and middle schools
  • Youth unemployment and underemployment

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • Westside
  • South Bay
  • LAUSD

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to learn?

Imagine a world where we partner together as a community to teach young people the skills to break their own cycle of poverty and to become empowered to reach their potential. WeThrive combines mentorship with business creation to provide participants with the skills, resources and tools they need to achieve upward mobility. 100% of past participants report increases in self- agency and positive peer influence.

WeThrive works with undergraduates at local colleges and universities to establish a University-Community partnership through Los Angeles. Middle school participants create companies of their own, earn real revenues and donate all profits to community charities of their choice.

Why Middle School?

According to Johns Hopkins researcher Dr. Robert Balfanz, for most students, the process of dropping out begins in middle school, when the habits that predict whether or not a student graduates are formed. This is simply one data point of a new finding relative to the need for middle school interventions. The years leading up to high-school are make-or-break in the educational success of students. WeThrive strengthens the transition from middle school to high school by providing skills and lessons which are often not taught at all. Things like how to find and build your own mentor relationships for example. With the teaching of these life skills, our participants exit programming not only equipped with what they need to transition to high school, but also what it takes to graduate high school, attend college and obtain a college degree. Ultimately, WeThrive is part of a necessary change to create a high-quality K-16 system in LA for bringing students to a college degree. This is the most direct and reliable way of increasing educational capital.

By creating a supportive environment that encourages relationship building, learning, planning, and financial achievement, WeThrive instills the drive and motivation needed to set ambitious personal and economic goals. Through programming designed to build skills, confidence, and support networks, participants are also provided with the ability to make decisions and take actions aimed at achieving those goals. WeThrive is ultimately making LA the best place to learn by serving middle school students in Los Angeles who build companies within WeThrive while gaining mentors and a support system.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

Because WeThrive works with a middle school student population, that does not graduate high school until 4 years later, our outcomes are more long-term. We have listed long-term outcomes, short-term preconditions and accompanying thresholds, which we measure success with. Youth obtain interpersonal skills for communicating and interacting effectively with others Achieved when:

  • Program graduates achieve a successful score on interpersonal skills assessment tool
  • Program participants successfully communicate with various external participants in WeThrive (i.e. supplier, client, customer, etc.) each semester Youth obtain personal skills for developing personal agency, self-awareness, and the ability to self-manage Achieved when:
  • Program graduates achieve a successful score on personal skills assessment tool(s)
  • Program participants complete at least 60% of their learning log assignments Youth have strong self-esteem Achieved when:
  • Program graduates achieve a successful score on a self-esteem assessment tool Long Term: College completion: 95% of WeThrive participants 
College attendance rates
: 95% of WeThrive participants District-wide graduation rates
: 95% of WeThrive participants

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Advisors/board members
  • Staff
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Education/training
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support
  • Quality improvement research
  • Capacity Building