For nearly 100 years, the California Community Foundation (CCF) has been defined by the diverse passions of the more than 1,700 donors who share a dream for a better future. CCF’s initiative, Building a Lifetime of Options & Opportunities for Men (BLOOM), exemplifies this passion by addressing some of L.A. County’s toughest challenges by bringing community and financial resources to the table to create possible solutions.
This post is part of the #CF100 Series of blog posts. The Council on Foundations is marking the 100th anniversary of the nation’s first community foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, by highlighting the roles of community foundations with this series.
Established in 2012, BLOOM aims to create a more positive future for young Black males in South Los Angeles, who are or have been under the supervision of the L.A. County Probation Department. While Black males represent 10 percent of the County’s youth population, they comprise more than 30 percent of adolescents under probation supervision. If this number can be reduced by 10 percent, taxpayers would save nearly $50 million while more skilled, employable young men would encompass a new taxpayer segment. An estimated $40 billion in savings could be achieved if one year’s worth of California’s high school dropouts could be converted to graduates.
BLOOM’s development was three years in the making. After determining the crisis facing African American males in South Los Angeles was one of the foundation’s top priorities, CCF funded a RAND study on the subject, facilitated a community listening tour and convened local leaders to evaluate potential courses of action. This advisory board took on what it considered the most ambitious approach by focusing on expanding educational and employment opportunities for African American young men between the ages of 14-18 under probation supervision.
Results thus far show incredible promise as more than 90 percent of BLOOM participants have not re-offended. BLOOM is undergoing changes to further boost its effectiveness. The strategic addition of a partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Probation is a crucial new program element as BLOOMers are guided to local support to respond to their individual needs.
Two years after launching BLOOM, we find ourselves ahead of the curve on addressing the potential of boys and men of color. In May, My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, President Obama’s initiative on the issue, conducted visits across the nation to learn more about the work being done to change the trajectory of boys and men of color. The White House sought out CCF to help guide its L.A. visit, with BLOOM as a featured model with the potential to be a sustainable, replicated effort across the nation. Not only can BLOOM help uncover the immense potential of our community’s Black male youth, it can help fully realize the population’s contribution to the region and if taken to scale, on a national level.
But the greatest promise of BLOOM is best expressed by the “BLOOMers” themselves.
“Being in BLOOM has opened my eyes,” said 14-year-old Kiki. “The mentors I have in the program want me to be better. And I want to have a better future for all the young kids in my life who are looking up to me.”
For more information, please go to https://calfund.org/bloom
Nike Irvin is the vice president of programs for the California Community Foundation.