The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation

Foster Youth Writing and Education Project

Grant Information
Categories Education
Location United States
Cycle Year 2012
Organization Information
Organization Name (provided by applicant) Youth News Service Los Angeles Bureau dba L.A. Youth
Organization Name (provided by automatic EIN validation)
Contact Information
Contact Name Donna C. myrow
Phone (323) 938-9194
5967 W Third St, Ste 301
Los Angeles
Additional Information
Used for (1) improve the reading, writing, and job preparation skills for participating youth; (2) provide a forum where foster youth can voice their opinions regarding the foster care system and other issues; and (3) raise awareness in foster communities and non-foster communities of the experiences disadvantaged youth face and to ultimately affect foster youth policy.
Benefits Over the years, the foster-youth written articles have provided a great service to their "mainstream" peers, to policymakers, and to the community at large; they have de-stigmatized certain issues (such as mental health), and they have shined a light on shortcomings in the system. They have become their own advocates.
Proposal Description Our mission states: L.A. Youth is a leading advocacy voice for teens through journalism.. We use media as a tool for young people to examine themselves, their communities and the world at large.
Students need experiential education; teachers need assistance in leading issue discussions; and the public needs to know what’s going on in the hearts and minds of young people. L.A. Youth answers those needs, and few youth-serving programs in the Los Angeles area can make that claim.
While the organization engages in a variety of activities that serve the mission, the 28-page newspaper that is published six times per year is the programmatic centerpiece. The expanding website,, allows us to reach a wider global audience. A core staff of 70 students works on each issue of the newspaper, their efforts ultimately reaching an offline readership estimated at 350,000. Recaptured on our website for our growing cadre of “virtual readers,” L.A. Youth represents the news that area students want to talk about, and that subject matter is never far away from the topics discussed in mainstream, adult media.
Over the years, our student staff has explored public education issues, political processes, mental health challenges, juvenile justice policies, social mores and concerns, and topics relating to nutrition and physical health. They also have reviewed movies, music, books, and restaurants, and they’ve learned and displayed the power of editorial photography and cartooning.
The adult staff of L.A. Youth and the professional journalists who serve the program as mentors work closely with student staff members to facilitate the process of publishing a state-of-the-art newspaper. This one-on-one guidance helps participants gain critical skills that will serve them throughout their lives. In addition to the literacy skills The adult staff of L.A. Youth and the professional journalists who serve the program as mentors work closely with student staff members to facilitate the process of publishing a state-of-the-art newspaper. This one-on-one guidance helps participants gain critical skills that will serve them throughout their lives. In addition to the literacy skills developed by virtue of writing and editing a newspaper article, student staff members learn how to:

• conduct in-depth research
• work with a team
• conduct interviews
• meet deadlines
• fact-check
• engage in critical thinking
• respect diversity
• use technology

Given the opportunity for skills development, L.A. Youth can be viewed as a viable job-training program. And because participating youth are given ownership of the process, they also acquire strong self-esteem that they can apply to the development and delivery of those skills. In addition, for youth seeking a more intensive experience, L.A. Youth offers an annual 6-week Summer Writing Workshop.
Both in print and on the web, L.A. Youth is much more than simply a youth media project that promotes journalism skills. It is a tool for educators, a resource for the community, and an advocacy vehicle. More than 1,050 middle and high school teachers subscribe to the newspaper, and they regularly use the lesson plans that we post on our website. Community agencies throughout Los Angeles also look forward to their copies of the newspaper, and over the years, an increasing number of appointed and elected officials have come to appreciate the candid information that L.A. Youth provides.
L.A. Youth’s mid-Wilshire headquarters has become a center where opinion is valued, exploration is encouraged, and conversation is facilitated. To ensure balanced and effective dialogue, the organization frequently hosts roundtable conferences where participating youth can discuss critical issues with the adults whose professional responsibilities and actions could have the strongest impact on their lives. In recent years, for example, roundtables have focused on such issues as: relationships between youth and police/probation officers; adolescent mental health issues; community violence and our most recent event, held last week, which brought together inner-city teachers to discuss how they use L.A. youth in the classroom, what the teens like most and what issues they feel should be covered in the future. Invariably, these roundtables attract key stakeholders who appreciate that L.A. Youth is the only voice for young people in Los Angeles.
Among our greatest strengths is our demonstrated capacity to bridge the gaps between youth who are considered “marginalized” and those who are viewed as “mainstream.” Beginning in 2003, when we piloted the Foster Youth Writing and Education Project, it became increasingly clear that the participating students from the foster care system were hungry for an opportunity to share their visceral accounts of painful childhood and adolescent experiences. As they revealed their challenges, particularly with mental health issues, the youth in the “mainstream” felt freer about sharing their more personal challenges. The ensuing journalism – along with a mental health survey the organization conducted to accompany the newspaper’s content – removed the stigmas that are too often associated with mental health issues, and as community stakeholders and decision-makers took notice, L.A. Youth proved once again to be a source of important, policy-oriented news.
Now fully integrated into our core programming, the Foster Youth Writing and Education Project has engaged more than 170 foster youth recruited through our well-established partnerships with more than 12 area agencies. And while L.A. Youth has not historically included student staff members once they’ve graduated from high school, our decision to open the project to foster youth up to the age of 21 reflects the acute needs these youth face after emancipating from the system. This decision also reflects our position as an advocate. We strive to promote policy changes that will extend public benefits to emancipating foster youth.
We partner with Alliance for Children’s Rights, the Children’s Law Center, Dept. of Children and Family Service, L.A. County Probation, private residential facilities and non-public schools and other agencies that provide services to foster youth.
Having administered this project for eight years, and having benefited in 2009 from a formal evaluation conducted by the Evaluation and Training Institute, we know what outcomes to expect for the youth who participate. Anecdotal information shared by representatives of partnering agencies who serve foster youth corroborate our expectations. As a result of their participation on the student staff of L.A. Youth, foster youth demonstrate improved academic skills, improved job-preparation skills, and increased self-esteem.