create / 2021

Filling the Gap

Filling the Gap

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Novus Think Tank

Filling the Gap provides underprivileged high school students in South Central Los Angeles with mentorship and the resources to cultivate self-agency, confidence, and purpose. Combining a curriculum centered around human development with a robust program for developing and implementing passion projects, Filling the Gap gives students access to rich and empowering experiences. Graduates of the program will have executed a project of their own, and in doing so will have developed confidence in navigating the world and their place in it.


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

  • Central LA
  • South LA

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Filling the Gap is a direct response to the current cultural climate, which lacks in its ability to support the passions of students in ALL areas of life. Especially in underprivileged communities, we recognize a deficit in the belief that student ideas can change the world, and they often don’t pursue creative, entrepreneurial, or social change fields out of fear of not being “successful” and often don’t have the experience or resources to pursue these endeavors. Without conversation around personal boundaries, consent, healthy relationships, and financial planning, they ultimately won’t be able to make their passions a reality that is compatible with our current cultural climate. Recognizing that cultural capital is as important as monetary capital, these restrictions ultimately limit social progress, as it keeps important and marginalized voices from participating in creative and innovative spaces.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

This grant will primarily fund student projects, especially underprivileged students, increasing representation in creative, technological, entrepreneurial, and social change fields, as these are the most underrepresented in this cultural climate. The curriculum consists of workshops on personal boundaries/consent, healthy relationships, and financial planning, which provides a basis for project development and implementation (grant proposals, piloting, and reassessment), empowering them through a holistic background, guidance, and experience. These students spearhead a project independently, receive mentorship for their passions, and develop their ideas. These skills modeling research, entrepreneurship, and social change methods are useful long after their individual project is completed and applicable to many fields. We give them a safe place to create, which will ripple through their lives and community, ultimately affecting many through this social change.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

150
Direct impact
2,000
Indirect impact

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Our empowerment of underprivileged students to pursue passions that may not be supported in school curriculum would lead to more informed citizenship while also bringing communities together through mentorship, specifically USC with the surrounding low income, marginalized neighborhood. Their experience in the program builds self-confidence in actualizing an idea of their own creation but also a launching pad for their future endeavors. The students would know firsthand the entire process of project development from research and grant proposals to implementation and refinement. The mentorship, resources, and experiences within this program extend to adulthood with USC connections, thus broadening representation in technological, creative, and innovative industries where diversity is lacking. Ideally, these social change projects would take off as independent initiatives, winning external funding, improving the schools, local community, and broader city of Los Angeles.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

This project began as The Why Project in 2020 but has expanded to include a more holistic curriculum and purpose. Our pilot program targeted New Designs Charter School in South Central LA and garnered extensive student interest of 40+ students (~75% of students approached). Unfortunately, after our pilot meeting, schools were shut down due to COVID. We used this time to refine and expand our curriculum. With vaccination updates and student safety in mind, we will continue the program in person this upcoming school year. Moving forward, considering our past numbers, we plan on involving at least 3 schools to reach our intended direct impact. Based on the interest generated from our pilot project, it is clear that we meet a real need experienced by students. Initial measures of success involve student engagement but would later expand to include project milestones (research, funding/grants, pilot, implementation, refinement) and survey results of student satisfaction and confidence.

Which of the create metrics will you impact?​

  • Employment in the creative industries
  • Federal research grant funding
  • Global cultural and economic influence (“soft power”)

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

  • LA is the best place to LEARN