Southern California Program

Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles

Civic and Community
Los Angeles, CA
June 2019

Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) provides mentoring, camp experiences, college guidance, and scholarships for vulnerable youth.  To address the social, emotional and academic stressors many teenagers face, the agency has developed a smartphone application for the iPhone called Teen Talk that is designed for teens to seek advice from other teens.  Volunteer teen advisors go through a rigorous application process, are trained to respond empathetically, and are supervised by mental health clinicians.  Nearly 13,000 iPhone users downloaded the Teen Talk app during the pilot year and the numbers posting a question or concern increased throughout the pilot.  A three-year W. M. Keck Foundation grant will enable JBBBSLA to expand access to Teen Talk.  The agency will increase the number of teen advisors and the staff who train and supervise them and expand the hours of operation.  It will also develop the app for Android smartphones whose users tend to be from lower income families.  Based on usage during the pilot, JBBBSLA expects that the app will be downloaded 90,000 times during the grant period, providing teens with access to emotional support that can prevent an issue from becoming a crisis.  The advisors will also benefit from the experience by gaining compassion and empathy for their peers, learning about resources, and feeling more comfortable helping someone who is struggling.

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