After sorting through about 20,000 applications from around the world, the Obama Foundation awarded one of its first fellowships to the founder of a local nonprofit that mentors thousands of incarcerated, foster, and at-risk youth, helping them change their lives for the better.
“I am honored to be part of the inaugural Obama Foundation Fellows class and join this diverse group of passionate civic innovators,” New Earth founder Harry Grammer said. “Through the Obama Foundation Fellowship, I look forward to continuing to help more youth realize their dreams and become unstoppable.”
Grammer knows all too well the struggles that his students face. At age 16, he was arrested and sentenced to five years of probation, but he managed to turn his life around and began operating New Earth out of a coffee shop in 2004.
Now, New Earth offers free mentor-based education, counseling, job training and other services to about 500 youth per week in probation camps, juvenile halls, group homes and other placements throughout Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The youth are also given an opportunity to explore writing, music, poetry, performance and art in an environment of creativity and introspection, which are critical to fostering new perspectives while incarcerated.
Upon their release, the youth join the New Earth Arts and Leadership Center in Culver City, which offers career training, a fully accredited high school education program, mentorship, case management, nature expeditions, arts programming, and wrap-around services. New Earth also has a campus in Gardena that offers vocational education in the fields of construction, culinary arts and early childhood education, as well as other services.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas honored Grammer at a Board of Supervisors meeting in late 2017, shortly after he was named a CNN Hero and after the California State Legislature recognized New Earth as Nonprofit of the Year.
“With their dedication and commitment, Harry Grammer and New Earth have helped 10,000 young people overcome tremendous obstacles and turn their lives around,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “They are making Los Angeles County safer by investing in youth and promoting second chances.”
New Earth has a 95 percent success rate in preventing its students from returning to the juvenile justice system, thanks to programs that help them reenter their communities with the support and nurturing they need to make a successful transition.
The Obama Foundation Fellowship will help Grammer and New Earth take their work to the next level. It is a two-year non-residential program that brings together the next generation of civil leaders creating transformational change on many of the world’s most pressing problems. The Fellowship offers hands-on training, leadership development, and a powerful network for participants to amplify the impact of their work and inspire a wave of civic innovation.
Out of the inaugural class of 20 Obama Foundation Fellows, Grammer is the only one chosen from Southern California, and one of only 10 working in the United States.
“The 2018 Obama Foundation Fellows come from diverse backgrounds but share a common desire to make positive change and create the world as it should be,” said Obama Foundation CEO David Simas. “By bringing these individuals together to work with the Obama Foundation, we hope to help amplify the work of our Fellows so it has a widespread impact. On behalf of President and Mrs. Obama and the Obama Foundation family, I congratulate our new Fellows and look forward to working with them.”