connect Finalist / 2019

Every Story Matters: Training 1,000 Volunteers To Share Their Stories With The Youth of Los Angeles

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by PLUS ME Project

PLUS ME Project will recruit and train 1,000 individuals to share their stories with youth throughout Los Angeles. Through our partnerships with various school districts and charter organizations, we will bring our volunteers into hundreds of classrooms throughout the city to inspire the next generation through the power of storytelling. Together, we will help connect 1,000 relatable role models through our training sessions with over 25,000 students in one year.


What does your organization do?

PLUS ME Project believes everyone has a story that matters. We are a community partner dedicated to empowering youth to build their confidence by teaching the art of storytelling.

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

PLUS ME Project was launched by former Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) graduate, Richard Reyes, in July of 2013. While earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in Critical Theory/Social Justice from Occidental College, he began sharing his journey of becoming the first in his family to attend college with local middle and high school students. After visiting over 70 schools, speaking to over 12,500 students, and conducting research in the nonprofit landscape of student-centered motivational speaking programs, the need was clear. A narrative-based outreach program to students could satisfy a great need in Los Angeles. Thus, PLUS ME was formed.

PLUS ME Project has built partnerships with dozens of school districts, charter organizations, after-school programs, and other nonprofit organizations who serve youth in Los Angeles County. Since inception, we have positively impacted the lives of over 80,000 students from over 250 underserved middle and high schools throughout Southern California.

This past year on GivingTuesday we launched our 100 Volunteers. 100 Stories. campaign that recruited and trained 100 volunteers to share their stories with students throughout LA at 7 LAUSD schools. This experience brought so many wonderful individuals together to share their stories and we received amazing feedback from the volunteers and students. With this success, we are inspired to continue to grow this element of our work and provide more opportunities for individuals to learn how to put their stories together and inspire the youth of LA.

Which of the connect metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support
  • Rates of volunteerism
  • Total number of local social media friends and connections Angelenos have

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

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • LAUSD

How will your project make LA the best place to connect?

PLUS ME Project will help make LA the best place to connect by providing meaningful volunteer opportunities for our diverse community to participate in through the art of storytelling.

Our team will recruit and train 1,000 individuals throughout the city to share their personal narratives with youth throughout LA. These relatable role model volunteers will participate in a 2-hour training that will provide them with the tools and support to help build their own stories and connect with their fellow participants. Throughout the training, volunteers will have the opportunity to share their stories with each other and foster meaningful connections. Once trained, they will be scheduled to present their story at one of our partner schools.

Recruitment for this project will begin in July through various outreach and social media efforts. Our marketing will drive interested volunteers to our website to learn more about the opportunity and sign up for an upcoming training session. We will host weekly trainings starting in August that will take place at our multiple Cross Campus office locations in Downtown LA, Pasadena, El Segundo, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills. Throughout the year, our trainings will take place in the evenings and on weekends at different locations to accommodate our diverse volunteer community.

At our training, participants will receive one of our ‘My Story Matters’ journals to support them in discovering, developing, and articulating their own stories. Our volunteers will reflect and highlight some of the important characters, settings, struggles, accomplishments, and lessons that impacted them from their lives. These activities and conversations will allow participants to connect with each other, piece together their important stories, and offer social and emotional support.

At the end of our training, volunteers will have the opportunity to finalize the 10 - 15 minute story that they will share with students. Volunteers will be required to submit their story to our team before they present to ensure it is appropriate and completed.

Once their story has been approved, each volunteer will submit their availability and our team will schedule them to visit a local middle or high school in LA to share their story with a classroom of students during the school year. This opportunity will allow them to share their life experiences with students and connect with them directly. Students will have the opportunity to ask them questions and learn from their lived experiences.

This project will serve a diverse population of volunteers and students. Everyone will have the opportunity to apply to become a volunteer and every school will have the opportunity to apply to receive some of our volunteer guest speakers at their sites. Through this experience, we will make measurable progress towards making LA the best place to connect by using our stories to bring us all together because everyone has a story that matters.

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Post-pilot (testing an expansion of concept after initially successful pilot)

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

Every volunteer will complete a series of surveys to gauge the impact of our work through pre, post, and 6-month follow up surveys. We plan to address the following:

Volunteer Engagement

Social and Emotional Support

Storytelling Experience

Community Built Through Experience

Total Number of Local Social Media Friends