Write the Future of LA: 100,000 Stories to Connect Volunteers
By sharing student writing with 100,000 Angelenos, Los Angeles will connect as 826LA volunteers or supporters to amplify and honor the voices of young people from underserved communities.
What does your organization do?
826LA is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.
Please describe the activation your organization seeks to launch.
826LA will inspire Los Angeles residents to support local students through volunteering. 826LA will share student writing via a special-edition student-written newspaper, public readings, social media platforms, and a citywide celebration of our 15th anniversary, connecting students, families, volunteers, and educators. These steps will help 826LA grow its volunteer program, with a focus on recruiting diverse Angelenos to mentor local students.
Which of the connect metrics will your activation impact?
- Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support
- Attendance at cultural events
- Rates of volunteerism
Will your proposal impact any other LA2050 goal categories?
- LA is the best place to LEARN
In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- Central LA
- East LA
- South LA
- South Bay
- City of Los Angeles
How will your activation mobilize Angelenos?
- Trainings and/or in-person engagements
- Connect Angelenos with impactful volunteer opportunities
- Increase donations to organizations and causes
Describe in greater detail how your activation will make LA the best place to connect?
826LA is part of an ecosystem of services that help young people break out of poverty, by helping students improve their grades, apply to college, and develop the skills and confidence to express themselves fully. 826LA was founded in 2005 to address the need for academic and literacy support for Los Angeles students. Since that time, 826LA has served more than 74,000 students. More than 240 public school teachers each year benefit from 826LA’s support, and, in fiscal year 2017, over 1,230 trained, individual volunteers contributed over 21,000 hours of their time at 826LA.
Since its founding, 826LA has enlisted evidence-based practices to give students the tools they need for academic success and positive self-regard. In the 2018 fiscal year, 826LA anticipates serving 9,365 students. By offering its services for free, 826LA presents a sustainable way to provide educational programs to students from underserved communities. We believe that creativity is key for young people to develop critical thinking skills. At 826LA, students are transported to a world where writing is a form of magic, their voices are celebrated, and anything is possible.
826LA’s work is only possible with the help of volunteers. 826LA focuses on providing consistent, individualized attention from community volunteers, and in many programs, offers multiple sessions per week. This kind of educational support, from caring adults outside young people’s own families, has been shown to play a significant role in providing a number of developmental assets for students. A study by the Afterschool Alliance found that programs like 826LA’s, which are “staffed by community members, may be viewed by parents as more approachable than schools.” This accessibility “makes [these programs] an ideal partner to help schools break down barriers between parents and schools and increase parental engagement.” Not only does this engagement help parents feel more connected to their community, but it can also embolden them to seek out sufficient social and emotional support in other aspects of their lives.
To expand the reach of our programs and recruit more volunteers in our mission to reduce educational inequities, 826LA must connect with a wider and more diverse group of Angelenos. By connecting 100,000 people with the stories, essays, poems, and dreams of young Angelenos, along with a call to volunteer, 826LA’s volunteer base will grow and diversify and the rate of volunteerism in the city will increase. Support from LA2050 will enable us to focus on access and increased distribution of the over 300 student-written books and newspapers 826LA publishes each year.
The more often Angelenos hear our students speak—in their own words—about their hopes and challenges, the more often those same Angelenos will volunteer their time, donate funds, share stories with others, and advocate on behalf of LA students at the ballot box and beyond.
How will your activation engage Angelenos to make LA the best place to connect
Stories are emotional connections that create community connections—stories are what can bring Los Angeles together in service. With LA2050, 826LA will share student stories with 100,000 Angelenos to encourage residents to step up and volunteer.
Sharing student-written publications via libraries, community organizations, and local businesses will increase the number of 826LA volunteers. 826LA will recruit at least 1,000 new volunteers and will see at least 21,000 volunteer hours per year, with a 10% growth in volunteer hours over the two years of this grant. Through outreach and presentations, 826LA’s families, educators, and college and corporate partners will see how volunteering can impact Los Angeles.
826LA will also run a compelling digital recruitment campaign, featuring informational webinars, interactive posts, and powerful storytelling. 826LA will discuss the importance of volunteering with the over 9,200 students it serves each year and will launch an initiative that fast-tracks teenagers enrolled in 826LA programs into becoming 826LA volunteers. This will connect 826LA students with their own community through volunteering and will set an example for the younger students whom they’ll mentor.
Finally, to help activate 100,000 Angelenos and recruit volunteers, 826LA will turn its 15th anniversary in 2020 into a citywide, celebratory call to action through a special-edition student-written newspaper, to be distributed digitally and in print all around Los Angeles.
Please explain how you will define and measure success for your activation.
826LA uses a cloud-based platform to track volunteer attendance and retention. To ensure 826LA is recruiting a diverse group of volunteers, we analyze numbers of senior volunteers and volunteers of color. Student data is tracked with spreadsheets developed by 826 National, 826LA’s umbrella organization. 826LA conducts pre- and post-program surveys with students, families, and teachers to assess the qualitative success of programs.
To gain a more thorough understanding of its data reporting processes and results, 826LA analyzes big-picture volunteer trends. 826LA’s annual volunteer survey, biannual roundtables, and post-program volunteer debriefs help staff members understand why people volunteer in programs, what training opportunities they’d like, and ways to improve the volunteer experience at 826LA.
826LA will track the engagement of Angelenos on social media, through zip code-based surveys, targeted Facebook ads, and reports from Constant Contact, an email subscription service. To assess the reach of Angelenos interacting with students’ stories, 826LA will track the distribution of student-penned books and newspapers to local libraries, family shelters, and book festivals, including the Leimert Park Book Festival and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Measurable goals include at least 1,000 volunteers attend volunteer orientations per year, and over two years, 826LA will increase the number of volunteers of color by 10% and the number of senior volunteers by 10%.
Where do you hope this activation or your organization will be in five years?
826LA is in the initial stages of developing its strategic plan for fiscal years 2019-2021. As a result of the LA2050 activation challenge, 826LA hopes to have an expanded pool of volunteers to support its programs. With more volunteers, 826LA will be able to serve more students, increase the one-to-one ratio in each program, and scale our programs. We have identified Writers’ Rooms as the best option for expanding the depth and reach of programming while minimizing overhead costs. Volunteer recruitment is paramount to fully activating the Writers’ Room model. 826LA hopes that with the 2,000 volunteers recruited, the organization can continue to grow by expanding its classroom/Writers’ Room model into other high schools.
826LA doesn’t just impact students; the adults who participate in the programs, either as volunteers, parents/guardians, or educators, all leave with a renewed connection to their city and to each other. Juventina, a parent of three students who have participated in 826LA programs for seven years, said, “Thank you for the great job you are doing for our community. I’m so glad to find the right way to help my children to be great citizens. [826LA is] the inspiration of their life.”
Renee, an 826LA volunteer for five years wrote, “Thank you, 826LA, for being such a vibrant presence in the communities where you work. Thank you for being a place kids like to go to; thank you for doing, and not just talking; for bringing so many diverse people to one place, where we can…realize those diversities are our very strength. And, oh! How strong we are together.” With LA2050, 826LA will connect even more Angelenos with meaningful, effective volunteer opportunities, showing our city just how strong we are together.
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