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Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024

Community Champions: The SoLa I CAN Foundation


Since March 2020, SoLa employees and community volunteers continue to deliver weekly food and supplies to South LA families in need.

How One Organization is Offering South Los Angeles a Glimmer of Hope 

South Los Angeles is no stranger to overcoming challenges. But with COVID-19 surging across the county, the pandemic has acutely devastated communities across South Los Angeles. 

Nowhere has the impact of the pandemic been felt more intensely than across the communities of South Los Angeles even as it has battled the effects of poverty and the inequities of healthcare long before COVID-19.

With the hope of the new year still present, the numbers however paint a sobering reminder of how deep of a crisis the community faces.

SoLa partners with St. John’s Medical Center to ensure access to free COVID-19 testing for South LA residents.

The area’s recorded unemployment rate has hovered close to 20% for nearly an entire year – the highest in California. Meanwhile as some jobs slowly returned in the fall of last year pushing unemployment down, South LA’s COVID-19 infections skyrocketed in the opposite direction.

Since December, the area’s main COVID-19 testing site in Willowbrook, an unincorporated area between Compton and Watts, has seen a 32% positivity rate — nearly twice the average of Los Angeles County.

As bleak as the picture appears however, one organization is offering South LA immediate assistance to its residents and providing hope for the next generation. 

The SoLa I CAN Foundation provides educational, technological and economic opportunities to South LA youth and families. The Foundation is the non-profit organization of the South LA-based opportunity zone fund, SoLA Impact. 

SoLa provides annual college scholarships to deserving South LA high school students.

In July of last year, The SoLa I CAN Foundation established the COVID Retraining and Recovery (CORE) Fund. CORE will provide up to 200 scholarships to South LA residents who have been furloughed or laid-off due to COVID-19. It will specifically be focused on enabling vocational degrees in healthcare and technology in an effort to create jobs and pathways to economic advancement for South LA’s predominantly Black and Latinx community.

“The goal of SoLa I CAN is really to break the cycle of poverty in South LA. The students, youth and families we serve, 63% of them live below the poverty line,” said Sherri Francois, Executive Director of the SoLa I CAN Foundation.

It is this immediate assistance that is giving South LA a new lease on life in the present while also providing a glimmer of hope for what the future can look like in a post-pandemic world. 

SoLa’s first CORE recipient, Trena, will use her scholarship to fulfill her dream of becoming a Licensed Vocational Nurse.

The SoLa I CAN Foundation plans to open a tech and entrepreneurship center by this summer, according to Francois. The center will provide classes in robotics, coding, recording music, and graphic design with a goal of teaching youth and students the business behind each discipline, how to be a part of those businesses and how to work in those industries.

“We think that providing access to education and opportunity is a game changer. Part of that is bridging the digital divide. There’s an enormous gap when it comes to access to technology and online classes,” says Francois.

In addition to providing STEM education, the center will also provide students a financial literacy program, supported by JPMorgan Chase, where it will teach students not just lessons about savings and budgeting but also teach how to build wealth and understand investing. 

“We call the center broccoli on the chocolate,” says Francois. It's a way to get our kids to understand things they love, like Esports but also teach them how to manage a business. We need to prepare our children in South LA for a post-pandemic future. We are hoping that we can open those doors for them.”

Visit The SoLa I CAN Foundation Linkedin Page

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