BSSCA Alumni Awarded $10,000 Grant to Start Social Justice Arts Program in Los Angeles

headshot 2016

Kelly Hernandez, BSSCA Class of 2014 alumni and Millennium Gates Scholar, has been selected to receive a grant from Davis Projects for Peace. This grant awards $10,000 to students who show initiative for social change to use to create and implement a project of their own design. Kelly is a rising junior at Swarthmore College and is studying studio art and education. With this opportunity, she will be taking a year off from her studies in order to pursue her research project – an innovative arts program for minors who are first time offenders in Los Angeles.

Kelly found out about the grant through Swarthmore’s Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. In March of 2016, she submitted an application with letters of support from the organizations she would be working with, a budget, and a project description. Kelly was then interviewed at Swarthmore, and the college selected two finalists to move on to an interview round with the national organization. In order to complete her application, Kelly had to reach out to the organizations she wanted to work with through emails and phone calls. She has now secured a partnership with the City of Los Angeles DA’s office and an LAUSD art teacher. Together, they’re building a curriculum for combining art and social justice.

“It is basically for minors who are first time offenders to express their concerns for their community through art. It’s supposed to show that even though these young people are considered society’s troublemakers, they actually possess a lot of intellect and insight. It’s supposed to be transformative for them to be given an outlet to speak their mind and voice their concerns for their community,” Kelly said. She also mentioned that upon successful completion of the program, the participants will be able to have their records sealed, meaning they may legally deny having a criminal record. Additionally, their art will be displayed in an exhibit at the Compton courthouse.

Kelly will be doing a lot of the administrative work but will also be working directly with the participants. The goal of her program is to set best practices for alternatives to incarceration for juveniles and for this model to be replicated.

“At Swarthmore there’s a huge emphasis on social justice and social change and being active in your community, so that’s what inspired me to come back to LA.” Kelly said. “I have a lot of insight from growing up here so that motivated me to come back and work with youth from this community.” The inspiration for her specific program was seeing her brother’s experience as a member of a gang when she was growing up. “He was labeled a troublemaker and wasn’t given a lot of resources,” Kelly explained. “A lot of the resources given to inner-city schools go to a select group of high-achieving students instead of the students who need it most. I am motivated to help re-allocate those resources to reach all students instead of a select few.”

We are extremely proud of Kelly’s achievements and would like to offer our sincerest congratulations to one of our amazing alumni. We can’t wait to see the positive change she’s able to create with this grant, and we know this is just the beginning of Kelly’s impact.

To keep up with even more stories on Bright Star students and alumni, please subscribe to our blog on the right-hand side of this page. To share your thoughts on this story, leave a comment below!


  • Andrew Murr says:

    A great story about a wonderful project — and a wonderful alum!

  • Roth Herrlinger says:

    Wow — I am so excited to read about this project! Great work, Kelly! Please keep us posted on how it goes — I know you will make a huge difference in these kids’ lives.

  • pamela Horowitz says:

    What a fine example of someone being given an opportunity ( an excellent education) and growing that opportunity into an incredibly awesome idea with important community impact. Congratulations to Kelly. Wise and insightful at her young age to be sure. Here is wishing you great success .

  • Melendez says:


    This is a great project. I wish the best for you and your partnerships, hope you are able to reach out to many of these youth who are in great need of the support, very talented teens that need someone like you who see through the label that society has given them. Keep up the good work!

Leave a Reply