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SoLa I CAN Foundation

SoLa Technology & Entrepreneurship Center: Bridging the digital divide in South LA by opening new access points to cutting edge digital skills training and entrepreneurship education with the goal of inspiring the next generation of Black / Latinx tech and business leaders.

Nonprofit

South LA’s Black and Latinx youth live in a technology desert and lack equal access to tech education and opportunity. The SoLa Technology and Entrepreneurship Center (the first in South LA) will close this digital divide, provide access to high quality, cutting edge technology and entrepreneurship education and open new pathways for Black and Latinx youth to become the next generation of tech leaders and entrepreneurs. We aspire to systemically address these game-changing outcomes with support and input from the LA2050 community.



Describe the mission of your organization.

If you CAN see it, you CAN be it. Working to end inter-generational poverty in South Los Angeles through community development and access to education and economic opportunity.

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

  • South LA

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

The lack of access to tech at home combined with underinvestment in public schools have created an urgent need to bridge the digital divide, invest in STEAM programming and provide new access points for Black and Latinx youth in South Los Angeles. 30% of students don’t graduate high school. 64% of residents have no access to technology at home. In 2018, SoLa I CAN found that 9 of the 10 largest South LA high schools lacked access to tech related electives. Furthermore, 47% of South LA households have no broadband internet connection making it the least internet connected region in LA County. It is well understood that technology access for K-12 students directly impacts academic performance, which in turn affects higher education achievement, earning potential, and life-long financial stability. These systemic access gaps in South LA place Black and Latinx youth at a structural disadvantage in accessing economic opportunity. The Center aims to help close this gap.

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

We are expanding youth programming and bridging the digital divide by building South LA’s first Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, a state-of-the-art 10,000 sq ft safe space based in the heart of South LA to spark our community’s next generation of diverse tech workers and entrepreneurs. At the Center, Black and Latinx youth will be able to learn skills in coding, video game development, e-sports, graphic design, robotics, video and music production, and entrepreneurship. The Center launched virtually in July 2020 with a grand opening of our physical location scheduled for Fall 2021. At the Center, youth will gain access to sophisticated, high powered tech equipment, an esports gaming arena and full video / music production studios that students would not otherwise have access to. There, they will be able to explore their full creative potential while learning tech and entrepreneurship skills from experts in the business sector. We have developed partnerships with schools, women and minority-owned program partners, and corporations to provide hands-on experiences, mentors and internships. The Center is positioned to be a leader in tech education and workforce development, bringing new opportunities for 21st Century skills-building to South L.A. We are currently seeking funding to expand our STEAM programming free of charge to more than 1000 students annually as we believe the Center will be a game changer that sparks creativity and innovation in our students.

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?

500
Direct impact
1,500
Indirect impact

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

Our vision for Los Angeles County is built upon inclusive and sustainable economic development where everyone - no matter their race, socio-economic position or geography - has access to the region’s leading STEAM industries and high wage careers. The Center will build new educational pathways towards enacting this vision by helping LA County residents access new and inclusive opportunities via the Center’s expansive after-school and weekend entrepreneurship and technology focused education programs and partnerships, directly contributing to higher educational achievement, high school graduation and college attendance. We see South LA, Watts, Compton, and similar neighborhoods fully integrated into the broader economy, producing small businesses and startups integrated with large corporations and emerging industries in the region. Through educational achievement we will see new wealth-creation employment opportunities, business ownership and creation.

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

SoLa I CAN is a data driven operation and the Center’s impact will continue to be recorded in pre- and post-participation surveys tracking technical and psychological impacts. Additionally, impact data from partners (including several higher education institutions) are shared. Since our virtual launch, 115 students have entered the program. Impact data shows 75 students were exposed to subjects for the first time with 80% expressing interest in additional course study. Also, 72% expressed interest in pursuing careers in fields they discovered at the Center. 83% reported positive psychological effects (such as, new self esteem trust and stress management skills)., Jennifer, 17, told staff, “I will use this curriculum later in college to major in a STEM course that includes coding. I plan to use the analytical and problem solving abilities in the real world.” Another student Jehu, 12, loved his coding class because “it is a new experience for all and a new world to explore.”

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

South LA Robotics Black woman led educational company providing robotics, coding and engineering classes. Hidden Genius Project Black-led educational non-profit providing coding and computer education programming. Black Girls Code Coding education nonprofit working with Black female youth. Otis College of Art & Design SoLa I CAN is the first partner of Otis in South LA, which provides classes in graphic, animation and video game design. Film2Future Film industry immersion experience exploring creative careers in Hollywood; inspiring more people of color to enter the industry. LAUSD Southern District The Center is in talks to become an authorized curriculum partner. WeThrive A youth entrepreneurship and leadership training nonprofit.

Which of the learn metrics will you impact?​

  • Employment in the tech industries
  • Income inequality
  • Minority- and women-owned businesses
  • Enrollment in afterschool programs
  • High school graduation rates
  • Proficiency in STEM

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

  • LA is the best place to CREATE
  • LA is the best place to CONNECT
  • LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

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