The Promise Zone program was President Obama’s signature anti-poverty initiative, first announced in his 2013 State of the Union address. In January 2014, on the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, the City of Los Angeles and lead implementation partner Youth Policy Institute were awarded one of the first five federal Promise Zone designations in an announcement by the President at the White House.

The goal of the initiative is to significantly reduce poverty through job creation, increased economic activity, improved educational opportunities, improved public safety, and leveraged private capital, while preserving and expanding housing affordability.

The LA Promise Zone is comprised of five ethnically and linguistically diverse neighborhoods in Central Los Angeles – Hollywood, East Hollywood, Koreatown, Pico-Union, and Westlake. With a population of just over 165,000 in the densest part of the city, 35% of Promise Zone residents live in poverty. A full 25% of households have a family income of less than $15,000 per year. High unemployment, high school dropout rates, and a shortage of affordable housing are barriers to a future of hope and promise.

The LA Promise Zone initiative is a collective impact project involving leaders from government, the private sector, and community organizations to target resources to create jobs, boost public safety, improve public education and stimulate better housing opportunities for residents and neighborhoods. We do this by identifying and implementing innovative solutions to problems that affect our neighborhoods.

With the City of Los Angeles and the Youth Policy Institute leading the initiative, 50 local organizations partner to meet Promise Zone goals; 40 more have signed on as supporters of the initiative. These organizations represent the diverse makeup of the LA Promise Zone and provide the linguistically and culturally appropriate services necessary to meet the needs of the area’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and Limited-English Proficient populations.

Since 2013, 15 federal agencies have awarded 60 new grants for a total of $306 million to support this place-based approach to fighting poverty in Los Angeles, ranging from education, workforce, health and wellness, economic development, and asset building, to Early Head Start centers and Full-Service Community Schools. Last year targeted high schools averaged a 6.6% increase in graduation rates, with academic achievement and family incomes on the rise.

Priority Projects underway and developed by the Promise Zone working groups address these four goals:

1) Create Economic Opportunity
2) Improve Educational Outcomes
3) Make Neighborhoods Safe
4) Create Equitable, Sustainable & Livable Communities

There is much work to be done and opportunities ahead, for Angelenos to help transform the Promise Zone and create neighborhoods of growth and opportunity.



YPI’s place-based saturation model shows truly impressive gains in high school graduation and college readiness, which are key to putting students on a path out of poverty.

YPI’s Promise Neighborhood initiative is located within the Los Angeles Promise Zone, and benefits from cross-sector collaboration (non-profits, businesses, government) to promote student achievement. During academic year 2015-16, graduation rates across the ten Promise Neighborhood high schools rose to 86.1%, up 5.6 percentage points from the previous year. For the first time ever, the ten Promise Neighborhood high schools have a higher graduation rate than the overall LAUSD and California rates of 77% and 83.2% – and YPI’s Promise Neighborhood schools have 90% eligible for free/reduced price lunch, compared to 76% for LAUSD and 59% across the state.

Graduation Rate

Up 5.6 percentage points from the previous year.

“For the first time ever, the ten Promise Neighborhood high schools have a higher graduation rate than the overall LAUSD and California rates.”

The schools are a mix of traditional public schools, charter schools and in-district pilot schools. Not only are Promise Neighborhood students graduating college-ready, they are being accepted to elite universities at increasing rates. For example, the STEM Academy of Hollywood, a pilot school, started the initiative with a graduation rate of 68% and within just a couple of years, has increased 25 percentage points to 93%. In fact, just last year, 35 seniors applied and 15 were accepted to UCLA, whereas only two years ago, only 5 STEM seniors applied and none were admitted. Overall, 41 students in STEM’s graduating class are attending the UC system in 2016-17, more in one year than in the entire history of the school. Moreover, Los Angeles Promise Zone partners (over 65 in total) have secured $295 million since 2013, from 59 grants from 15 federal agencies. These grants support academic achievement, public safety, transit-oriented development and economic development programming and initiatives, turning communities in crisis into communities of opportunity and resilience.