Member Spotlight – Antonia Hernández
What is your vision for California Community Foundation’s work in Los Angeles and the region?
Our mission is to lead positive systemic change that strengthens Los Angeles communities. We envision a future where all Angelenos have the opportunity to contribute to the productivity, health and well-being of our region. And we believe that our common fate will be determined by how successfully we improve the quality of life for all of our residents. The impact we help create is of, by and for Los Angeles, because the community is our foundation.
We have a deep understanding of Los Angeles County’s complex challenges and extraordinary potential. That is why we are dedicated to creating systemic change and fulfilling the promise of a greater Los Angeles for all of its residents. We are committed to empowering communities to determine their own destiny. As a leading L.A. advocate, grantmaker and partner, we support these efforts with everything we have. Through partnerships with donors, nonprofits and community members, we will continue working to create a strong, healthy and prosperous future for all Angelenos.
What is your vision for boys and men of color across California?
A robust youth development system that integrates across agencies, non-profits and school systems to address core development and unmet needs of boys and men of color, especially for boys and men of color who face hardship related to poverty, abuse, prejudice, over-policing and/or neighborhood violence.
What are the most pressing issues facing boys and men of color in the Los Angeles and across California today?
At a time when a bachelor’s degree leads to a $1 million increase in lifetime earnings, only one in 10 young Black men graduates from a four-year college. And though they are only 9 percent of all young people living in L.A., Black youth make up nearly 33 percent of those on probation. Once in the system, it is hard to get out, with more than 80 percent facing re-arrest within three years. With access to educational opportunities, caring mentors and positive options, there’s no limit on what these young men can achieve. And when they succeed, all Angelenos benefit.
The school to prison pipeline is one of the most pressing issues facing boy and men of color. There is a lot of work happening on the policy and philanthropic fronts to reduce the number of young boys and men falling into the criminal justice system. One example is the public-private partnership between the Los Angeles County Probation Department, Liberty Hill Foundation and the California Community Foundation. This landmark collaboration will dramatically increase services and opportunities delivered by local, community-based organizations to youth currently in the probation system and to at-risk youth to divert them from entering the County system altogether. The Probation Department allocated $3.2 million from the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) funds to the respective foundations, which will in turn set up a grant process for grass-roots and emerging community-based organizations. This will allow for faster distribution of the funds and an opportunity for smaller organizations, which may not normally have had the infrastructure to compete for county contracts, to access these funds.
How is California Community Foundation addressing the barriers facing boys and men of color in the Los Angeles?
There is the above public-private partnership with the County, but before that partnership happened, CCF invested in the creation and implementation of BLOOM.
In 2012, CCF launched BLOOM (Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men) to help young Black men who are involved or at risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system onto positive paths towards success. By combining mentorship, character development and specially-tailored programming, BLOOM helped young men succeed in high school, higher education and life. Though the initiative was not without its challenges, our partners Brotherhood Crusade and the Social Justice Learning Institute worked hard, were patient, took smart risks and committed themselves to learning along the way. The result is a powerful, new model for expanding opportunities for young people who face steep and entrenched barriers.
Over the course of seven years, nearly 800 young men transformed their futures through the program, which has been recognized by the White House as a promising model to be replicated nationally. Ninety percent of BLOOMers upheld the terms of their probation and have not reoffended, and 93 percent earned their high school diploma or GED.
Additionally, CCF and the College Futures Foundation, along with investors across Los Angeles and the country, have committed more than $20 million to establish the Los Angeles Scholars Investment Fund (LASIF).
LASIF combines need-based scholarships with intensive services before and during college to address the financial, academic and personal barriers that have sparked L.A.’s graduation crisis. While the fund is one of the largest scholarship providers in Los Angeles County, we also understand that scholarships alone aren’t enough. Acting as part high-performing mutual fund and part innovation incubator, LASIF works with innovative organizations to combine multi-year scholarships with additional support and resources proven to help students graduate.
LASIF’s holistic approach connects low-income Angeleno students with support programs and agencies that increase college readiness, help students and families access all available public financial support, and provide counseling, mentorship and other supports designed to get students to and through college.
Recognizing that young men of color are underserved and underrepresented in college preparation programs and at most local four-year colleges, in 2017, LASIF launched a targeted two-year, $2 million initiative. The initiative supports promising practices to better help young men of color access college and succeed once they are in college.
What lessons can you share with funders about supporting racial equity and systems change work in our communities on a local and state level?
Over the course of seven years, BLOOM provided many opportunities for CCF to learn how to do our work differently. And we have just begun to see the systemic changes we hoped to see at the local and state level. However, we learned several key lessons:
· Big change takes big commitments: We would encourage others to be realistic and up front about just how big an undertaking this type of change is and to structure their work accordingly.
· Empower your community: We believe foundations should not lead by themselves, but rather should enable the success of those who are closest to the community.
· Build capacity and infrastructure: Community organizations know the landscape and the population, but they may not have the infrastructure and the resources to implement what needs to be done.
· Cultivate trust between donors, grantees, and the community: Creating more opportunities for youth to engage directly with donors is often the most powerful and compelling way to garner donor support. However, if these opportunities are not carefully structured, we risk objectifying marginalized communities or wasting partners’ time and resources.
How else is California Community Foundation responding to the threats facing our communities in the current political and social landscape?
At the heart of our work is a belief that all people deserve the opportunity to fulfill their potential, contribute to society and have their voices heard. Our work tackles the systems that keep those opportunities out of reach for many communities.
In systems change, everything we do is tied to a coalition in which government, private sector, philanthropy and nonprofits all come together to build trust, come to an agreement on what the issue is, and come up with a strategy to address it.
Making real head-way on the most intractable issues facing LA County’s most vulnerable requires that we leverage our strengths and connection to community as a community foundation to help amplify the reach and impact of public resources. Over the past several years, CCF has worked to partner with local government to address critical needs in Los Angeles.
For example, we launched the Los Angeles Justice Fund to increase access to free legal representation for individuals in deportation removal proceedings and detention. The fund leveraged $5 million in public funds from the City and County, along with more than $2 million in philanthropic dollars. In one year, the Fund has represented hundreds of people and their families who come from some of the most harrowing situations—everything from human trafficking, homelessness and domestic violence. Today, 68 percent of detained immigrants and 26 percent of non-detained immigrants in Los Angeles represent themselves in court alone, without the assistance of an attorney. Immigrants who have lawyers are more than 10 times likely to be released from detention and to succeed in challenges to their deportation, with many obtaining permanent relief.
As another example, homelessness is a persistent, highly visible, heartbreaking community challenge in Los Angeles. CCF helped lead funders and nonprofits to support Measure HHH in the City of Los Angeles, which will produce 10,000 supportive housing units. At the same time, we supported the polling, research, and community education and outreach that led to voter approval in of County Measure H, a $355 million per year sales tax measure to fund rapid rehousing, interim shelter and services to end homelessness. We continue to support community-based organizations and the City and County in implementing these measures. CCF hosts these nonprofits quarterly in meetings to highlight implementation challenges, and provides funding for research, communications, and advocacy to bring problems and solutions to the public partners. If we hadn’t approved HHH, we’d have 900 units of supportive housing
in the pipeline today—instead we have 5,948. It takes time to move from buying a piece of land to acquiring permits, finishing construction to moving people in. We’ve cut that time down significantly with innovations to the process, and we expect to have 700 new units open by the end of this year, 1500 units by the end of 2020 and another 3,300 units by the end of 2021.
Finally, change is only possible when every one of us can stand up and be counted. Once per decade, the U.S. Constitution requires the count of every living person in the nation. The results of this count help ensure that federal funds go to populations in need. Funding for schools, hospitals, public transit, and vital programs such as Medicaid and Head Start are heavily shaped by census data. In 2015, 80 percent of California’s federal funding was tied to the census. The count also defines our voice, determining the apportionment of Congressional seats.
L.A. County is the nation’s hardest-to-count region. Nearly half our residents meet the hard-to-count criteria, including racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, mixed-status families, young children and the homeless. For the first time, the census will be principally administered online, creating major concerns around privacy and digital literacy. The proposed citizenship question leaves many immigrant communities suspicious of how their information will be used. Compounding these issues is anticipation that bad actors will emerge to suppress participation.
The California Community Foundation is working with community and government partners to ensure that no Angeleno goes uncounted. This will require unprecedented coordination, collaboration and resources. We formed the We Count L.A. 2020 Fund with $8.4 million in funding from the state of California and support from Weingart Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, Ballmer Group, The California Endowment, the Libra Foundation and committed donors. Together, we are supporting regional coordination, planning and outreach; communications; and evaluation. Participation in the census is our right and our responsibility, and our ability to advance positive social change is strengthened through collaboration.