It has been about one year since the United States began lockdown measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, there have been 1.15 million cumulative cases in Los Angeles County (not including Pasadena and Long Beach) according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. And some areas in Los Angeles were hit harder than others. South L.A. has had a 40% higher case rate compared to the entire county’s rate.
JULY 7, 2021 — National nonprofit VELA Education Fund announced today that Los Angeles-area
families and organizations will receive $142,500 through Meet the Moment 2.0, a grant
program that supports innovative, nontraditional education programs. The funding is spread
across 15 grantees, a collection of students, parents, educators, and community leaders from
Los Angeles and Orange counties who are designing custom education solutions for their
Grantees include Genevieve Chin, an 18-year-old who founded the Los Angeles Youth
Changemakers Initiative to encourage other teenagers to pursue interdisciplinary exploration
and social entrepreneurship. Chin, who will enroll in UCLA this fall, and her sister, Roselyn, who’s
a high school student, are working with the public library system to engage students across the
city in hackathons and workshops to expose young people to the myriad of careers they could
“This inspiring group of grantees are everyday entrepreneurs who are taking action to ensure
children in and around LA have educational opportunities that meet their needs,” said Meredith
Olson, VELA’s president. “The pandemic underscored the importance of adaptation, and VELA’s
grantees are developing nimble, creative approaches to education that put families in the
The $142,500 in funding to Los Angeles-area residents is part of more than $2.1 million being
awarded to 233 recipients across the country. These grantees are developing a range of
nontraditional approaches, including microschools, homeschool co-ops, and after-school
programs, that reflect how families are rethinking their children’s educational experience.
Los Angeles-area grantees include:
Yolande Beckles, activist and founder of The Knowledge Shop
When Beckles moved to California from her native England, her son asked her a question. “My
8-year-old little Black boy asked me if I loved him, because if I loved him, why would I put him in
those schools?” Beckles became an education advocate, and today she is the co-founder of The
Knowledge Shop, a nonprofit in south Los Angeles. The grant from VELA will support a new
initiative from The Knowledge Shop focused on providing early childhood education training
and programs for parents, grandparents, community members and childcare providers.
Iris Chen, author of Untigering
Iris Chen is an author and unschooling mother of two children. Unschooling is a consent-based
lifestyle and educational approach that values children's self-direction and autonomy. Chen
received a grant from VELA to support writing a new book about her experience with
unschooling, especially as an Asian American who grew up in a highly structured, traditional
school environment where academic achievement was emphasized. The book is expected in fall
Sam Starnes, founder of Learning Individual Studies Academy
As student engagement ebbed during the pandemic, Sam Starnes had one goal: to do “anything
that would make a child not hate learning.” At her learning center, which hosts pods and
tutoring sessions, Starnes started offering mixed martial arts, fine arts, piano, and basketball
classes. It became a “homeschool school,” with many programs and opportunities all happening
in one location. As the pandemic subsides, Starnes received a grant to transition her program to
an accessible after-school program.
These Los Angeles grant recipients were chosen from more than 500 applications that VELA
received. Applicants came from 47 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin
“We are impressed by the ideas that caught fire during the pandemic and by the humanity that
everyday entrepreneurs are bringing back to education,” said Olson, VELA Education Fund
President. “VELA’s Meet the Moment 2.0 investment will help to sustain and expand this
innovative education movement going forward.”
Please contact Lisa Cohen if you are interested in a story on these education innovations in the
Los Angeles area.
About VELA Education Fund
VELA Education Fund is an independent national nonprofit that invests in nontraditional
education innovations that meet the needs of learners and families. VELA partners with
organizations and communities to administer grants to eligible individuals and organizations
that are innovating outside of the traditional education system. VELA connects its grantees to a
national network and provides them with a platform to elevate their work and learning.
Through Meet the Moment 1.0, VELA worked with five partners to distribute more than $2.7
million to 450 grantees, who were located in 43 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
Together, the Meet the Moment 1.0 grantees impacted more than 225,000 children and