Her nonprofit, which offers educational and mental health services — with a tech component — recently earned her an award from a former President…
by Penelope Rivera
Growing up in South Central LA, Dynasty Taylor had to face a number of obstacles. Her parents were still teenagers when she was born, resulting in her being raised by her grandparents.
Domestic violence, gang activity, substance abuse, and gun violence insidiously infiltrated her entire community.
Exacerbating the situation, her father was incarcerated and her mother experienced homelessness.
She was forced to accept the situation of her parents’ absence and act as her own biggest motivator. So, she did.
She persevered with resilience and forged her own path — including a college degree, a Master’s in social work, and ultimately, the creation of a nonprofit that provides tutoring and other educational services to underserved communities.
Dynasty’s United Youth Association (DUYA) also offers mental health services to LA County’s vulnerable youth.
She was recently recognized by Points of Light, former President George H.W. Bush’s legacy foundation, as an “Inspiration Spotlight.” That honor came during the foundation’s annual George H.W. Bush Points of Light Awards ceremony.
She was honored for her effort in trying to close the opportunity gap in low-income communities in LA County.
Taylor grew up in a neighborhood where gang activity led to persistent threats of violence. During junior high —a typically vulnerable period for adolescents — she hung out with peers who would ditch school. So, she started doing the same. Over time, she also experienced anger from her parents being absent.
Taylor said being an African-American also made the journey feel more difficult.
“Growing up, it felt as though minorities were always more behind in education than others,” she said.
Representation of all races and ethnic groups is important to her. And, her association also focuses on building character, confidence, and self-esteem.
Intrinsically motivated, Taylor figured out, on her own, how to fill out a financial aid application to attend California State University, Northridge.
Her high school guidance counselor helped her submit the college application.
She also received guidance and support from her teachers, who believed in her potential.
Since she knew that she wanted to give those living in poverty increased opportunities to succeed, she then got an M.A. in social work from USC.
Catalysts for Creating Her Nonprofit
The experience of her own youth made her aware of the need for “quality afterschool programs in impoverished communities.”
It also made her aware that mental health is a critical component of self-esteem and self-empowerment, along with a good education.
She launched her nonprofit in 2014 when she was 23. She recruited tutors and mentors from USC and partnered with the Baldwin Hills branch library to get the program started.
The association has since partnered with five other LA public libraries and signed contracts with two public schools. It also works with an LA public park on its summer camp programs.
Its HQ is in Inglewood.
The association currently has more than 80 volunteers, who are on-call when needed and also assist with community events.
“The tutors are primarily youthful, with a lot of engagement and hands-on learning,” she said.
Students can find out about Taylor’s nonprofit via county agencies, the juvenile court system, LA County schools, family service community centers and mental health case workers.
Mission of Her Nonprofit
Its mission is “to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality programs that promote character and cultural competence.”
The association is focused on helping underserved K-12 students, along with juvenile delinquents and foster youth.
“My goal is to close the gap on educational inequalities, expose career opportunities, advocate for resources, and keep youth off the streets,” Taylor said. “[My nonprofit] is helping to define a universal problem; the only difference is that we are solving it in a different way. Our strategic and innovative model helps students achieve and break the cycle of poverty.”
Taylor said DUYA does this by providing wrap-around programming in a safe and structured environment. In addition to tutoring, it offers services including daily study halls, mentoring, family counseling, and leadership workshops. It also provides community service projects, career exploration and trips to college campuses.
DUYA also presents workshops in areas including natural resources, global warming, environmental preservation, and STEAM/STEM career pathways. (STEM is science, technology, engineering and math. STEAM is the same, but also includes the arts.)
“I tell my students to find their purpose, their ‘why,’” Taylor said. “Success is just as powerful as the person working towards it.”
DUYA recently launched a hybrid model that provides online services, in addition to the in-person services it was offering before the pandemic.
“This will allow DUYA to meet students where they are in LA County,” Taylor said. “Students can access free educational, career and mental health programming, which will increase students’ chances of breaking the cycle of poverty.”
Funding Her Nonprofit
Taylor completely self-funded the nonprofit in the beginning, going into debt by taking on more than $100,000 in student loans from USC.
She then started raising money through fundraisers, including annual charity auctions and benefit dinners. A fundraiser via GoFundMe raised $115,000.
Prior to the pandemic, DUYA was located at five public libraries in Los Angeles County, where it had access to more than 500 families per week.
But, during the pandemic, the nonprofit lost access to both those who were receiving free services, as well as members, who had made a monthly fixed donation for private tutoring services.
As a result, revenue for 2020 experienced an approximate 39% loss of more than $99,000.
A current fundraiser has already exceeded its goal of $30,000. Donations are still being accepted.
The specific goal of this fundraiser is to combat “learning loss” caused by the pandemic, which “exposed the long-standing historical inequities in education,” Taylor said.
It did this by widening pre-existing opportunity/achievement gaps, which hit historically- disadvantaged students the hardest — both academically and emotionally.
“These students are in danger of falling behind grade levels, dropping out of school and restricting opportunities far into adulthood,” it says on her GoFundMe page.
A study on “unfinished learning” by McKinsey & Company shows that 97% of educators reported their students are in jeopardy of being held back a grade or struggling to keep up with their current grade level.
All funds raised will go towards recruiting high-level tutors with expertise in math, reading and language arts.
The demand for tutors has increased as the number of students Taylor’s nonprofit serves has doubled recently for two reasons: the pandemic-related learning loss and a new partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District.
As a result, DUYA is adding a customized learning program to assess each student’s current level and needs going forward. This includes both in-person and online services at its new learning center, along with a bevy of other services.
Rewards of Her Nonprofit
During monthly meeting with parents, Taylor said she’s often told that students are now working at their grade level or above — because of the tutoring DUYA provides.
Also, students say they are excited to see their tutors and counselors.
And, she, herself can see an impact on the kids.
“Students and families both report that DUYA is more than just a tutoring program, but also a support system for the entire family,” Taylor said. “[Parents] believe that their children are attached to an organization that really cares about them. Not only do the students show progress in school, but they also show progress in their self-confidence and social skills. Students are able to hold conversations and advocate for their needs.”
To learn more about Dynasty, see one of her YouTube videos here.