2022 All-America City Finalist – Los Angeles, CA

In 2014, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) entered into a data-sharing agreement with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and by 2015, received startling results showing that HACLA children were not passing the third-grade reading exam. Children were placed in Special Education with little or no chance of mainstreaming out, and by 9th grade, they weren’t showing up. In response, HACLA quickly increased access to books and literacy support, and embarked on a major overhaul of after-school program contracts. The focus in the summer months was on preventing summer slide by offering academic support and, most recently, Academic Learning Pods for virtual learning at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in parallel to low-cost, high-speed internet installation.

Digital Equity
Families served by HACLA didn’t have affordable internet access, and due to broadband zones, their options were limited. HACLA recognized the need for internet for youth and families to advance academically and economically but hit a significant hurdle with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) on the costs for installation. Then the pandemic hit, pushing families to learn and work virtually. Starry Internet raised the infrastructure funds to install high-speed, low-cost internet at public housing sites. HACLA committed to doing all the community outreach and engagement by hiring Digital Ambassadors. To date, there is a 34% adoption rate at all housing sites. HACLA, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office, is raising additional capital to invest in the transformation of 13 computer labs so that the spaces can have upgraded equipment and new furniture along with digital literacy, academic and workforce development programming.

Community Coaches and Digital Ambassadors
Community Coaches and Digital Ambassadors participate in collaborative meetings to learn about resources that are available to HACLA residents. Digital ambassadors assist with educating families on Starry Internet, co-host COVID-19 educational workshops, assist people with accessing telehealth resources, and train residents on how to navigate software and internet resources. HACLA also worked with partners to establish no-cost learning pods to help younger children navigate their lesson plans while their parents worked or when adults were uncomfortable navigating digital lessons on behalf of their children.

Additionally, all HACLA Gym Providers quickly pivoted to provide basic resources to families, such as cleaning supplies, food, clothing, academic enrichment, activity kits and virtual learning. They even created learning pods (in-person) for youth to access virtual learning because they lacked internet at home and/or their parents were essential workers. Coaches were now tutors, and mentors transitioned into outreach staff alongside Digital Ambassadors and Community Coaches doing knock and drops to pass out food or check on a family during this difficult time. As part of the knock and drops, a partnership with the LA Library and Book Rich Environment allowed HACLA to distribute over 7,000 culturally relevant books last year. Through a decade-long partnership with the University of California Los Angeles Tutoring Program, youth also received virtual tutoring after their learning pod instruction. Lastly, the LA Library provides free digital tutorial support and access to grade-level literacy resources that youth and parents can use to supplement their school support.

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