The LARCA intervention provided a robust array of services to youth to increase access to education and employment. Participants’ engagement with LARCA services varied by their interests, goals, and level of educational attainment. Providers of the LARCA intervention had significant flexibility and autonomy in implementing and structuring their services, including its frequency and duration. These were the core standard set of services of the LARCA program model:
- Case management. Case managers helped participants create personal, educational, and career goals and navigate resources and supportive services available through the LARCA partnerships.
- Work-readiness activities. Participants could receive supplemental training through eight hours of work-readiness preparation and certification to gain workplace, social, and professional skills.
- Soft-skills training. Program participants had access to workshops on parenting and other life skills, such as conflict resolution, anger management, and sexual health, that taught them how to navigate life circumstances.
- Financial literacy. Program participants were required to complete financial management training consisting of workshops in budgeting, earnings, savings and asset building, introduction to credit cards, understanding the credit system and checking accounts.
- Youth development activities. Participants could partake in youth development activities consisting of leadership opportunities, peer mentoring, public speaking, and serving on youth councils.
- Education services. Participants were offered education-related services to obtain a high school diploma or the High School Equivalency Test credential.
- Vocational training. Participants could receive certified vocational training in health, construction, conservation, and green technology offered by community colleges, adult schools, occupational training centers, and private schools.
- Job and postsecondary education placement. The postsecondary education placement services allowed participants to continue vocational training or postsecondary education upon receiving their high school diploma to advance in their careers and attain employment. Participants could also receive concurrent job search assistance and placement in part-time employment while attending school.
- Follow-up services. Participants who completed the program received follow-up services that consisted of regular contact with coaches for supportive services such as transportation assistance and housing, assistance with job retention and advancing education, and professional development peer support groups.
Challenges. LARCA service providers addressed implementation challenges related to securing housing for participants, engaging participants in program services, and having participants complete academic and vocational training. Service providers offered one-time housing stipends or obtained guaranteed housing for LARCA participants through partnerships with local housing organizations. All LARCA programs used Pupil Services and Attendance (PSA) counselors—who were master’s level social workers or counselors employed by LAUSD and placed at LARCA sites—to assist with recruitment and enrollment, monitoring students who were chronically absent and engaging those who dropped out. Providers and PSA counselors implemented back-to-school workshops to re-engage absentee participants. Furthermore, LARCA programs eliminated specific requirements, such as mandating academic credentials before enrolling in vocational training, in hopes of removing potential barriers to completing the credential program.
Several changes to the intervention occurred during the study period. The original design of LARCA emphasized employment placement services as the last phase of the program, but the focus shifted more toward combining employment services and postsecondary education after program operators found that the job placements alone did not generally lead to a living wage or meaningful career path. Ultimately, providers primarily helped participants find part-time jobs while they attended school rather than helping them find full-time employment. One provider increased the frequency of pre-enrollment program orientations (during which potential applicants learned about the LARCA program and eligibility criteria) and held them all in a central location to address attrition during the intake process. Furthermore, soft-skills workshops were not initially part of the LARCA model, but service providers chose to deliver these services because they were already providing them before implementing LARCA, and they believed the workshops would benefit LARCA participants.