YouthSpark Star

Domineisha Edwards

Crowd funding helped this South
Central LA youth get one step
closer to realizing her dreams.

YouthSpark Stars Domineisha's Story

Evening the Odds in South Central LA

On a summer afternoon, there’s a peaceful quiet to Florence, a neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles. Despite a smattering of rundown buildings, gang graffiti, and abandoned cars, the California sunshine and occasional breeze provide a brief, if only fleeting, sense of hope.


"It has its moments,” Domineisha Edwards said. The 24-year-old has spent all of her adult life in the neighborhood, living with her mom, her sister, and her sister’s two-year-old daughter in a two-bedroom apartment.

About 43,000 residents live in Florence's mere 2.8 square miles, a predominantly black and Latino neighborhood with a median household income of $29,447. The majority of residents have less than a high school education and a third are single parents. According to the Los Angeles Times, Florence has had 280 violent crimes in the past six months; violent crimes are defined as homicide, rape, battery, and assault.

“She hated the bus stop,” shared her mom, Tanesiha. “The gangbangers would yell at her, say rude things to her.”


Domineisha, 24, looks out the window of her home in Florence, a neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles

Domineisha, 24, looks out the window of her home in Florence, a neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles.

Domineisha’s family moved back to Los Angeles from Atlanta when she was 18, and the LA school system wouldn’t let her back in. “If you’re over 18, they consider you an adult. They make you go to an independent program to get your degree. I didn’t think that’d work for me,” Domineisha said.

She went to work in hourly jobs, riding the bus to and from her house. Ignoring the gang members, ignoring everyone. “She shut herself up,” confided Jessica, Domineisha’s 19-year-old sister. “She never came out of her room.”

To get her out of her depression, a friend told her about LA Conservation Corps, a local nonprofit that helps youth who have dropped out of high school. At the Corps, youth can earn their high school degree while working and getting paid for a job in conservation. They also learn job skills, like how to show up to work on time and looking adults in the eye when speaking.


Corps member Kendrick, a 21-year-old former high school dropout, helps Domineisha in the green abalones hatchery. He loves doing conservation work at LA Corps. “It has a purpose,” he says. “It will save the world.”

Corps member Kendrick, a 21-year-old former high school dropout, helps Domineisha in the green abalones hatchery. He loves doing conservation work at LA Corps. “It has a purpose,” he says. “It will save the world.”

“My first day there, we had to restore an alley. It was the kind of alley where the LAPD had to come and remove the people living in the alley just so we could clean it.” Domineisha balked a little, then laughed. “It was a good experience.”

Domineisha excelled in the Corps program. She graduated from high school with high honors, got accepted into college, and even secured an internship at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital to realize her dream to become a registered nurse. But one thing stayed the same: she was still poor. She passed up the highly coveted hospital internship in favor of her Home Depot wages, which supported her family.

“It was the hardest decision I ever had to make,” recalled Domineisha. She needed to keep the lights on at home. Her mother was unemployed and her sister struggled to find work while also raising a two-year old daughter without her father.

Luckily for Domineisha, the LA Conservation Corps is one of hundreds of nonprofits involved with YouthSpark on GlobalGiving, an online microgiving portal and a Microsoft YouthSpark program. YouthSpark on GlobalGiving provides a way for individuals to fund and follow the dreams of young people around the world.


Roxana Aguilar, Domineisha’s mentor at LA Conservation Corps, saw something in her story. Aguilar was the one who helped Domineisha transition out of the Corps, apply for college, get an internship, and prepare for living in the real world without Corps support. Augilar posted Domineisha’s story on YouthSpark on GlobalGiving.

Aguilar set the project goal at $1,000, the equivalent of Domineisha’s wages during the internship.

Domineisha's story resonated with so many donors that the project raised three times more than its $1,000 goal.

“When I saw Domineisha’s story, I felt like I knew her,” said Kristeen Kohr, a technology specialist at Microsoft who works in sales out of the New York City office. Kohr saw Domineisha’s story via a Microsoft social media channel. Kohr grew up in the Bronx, where she “saw a lot of people who didn’t stand a chance because of their circumstances.” Kohr was the first person in her family to go to college and hold down a steady job.

“You can’t give to every cause,” said Kohr. “I want to donate to people who don’t have the means to get started in their lives.”

“I can’t believe—that so many people could believe in me—even strangers,” Domineisha said. The internship will be her first experience with a job that isn’t paid by the hour. She wants to show kids like her, in her neighborhood, that there is a way out. “If I can do it, any of us can.”

“I am so proud of her,” said her mom. “We all are.”


Domineisha hugs her mentor Roxana Aguilar, a transition counselor at LA Conservation Corps. Aguilar placed Domineisha’s story on GlobalGiving to tell her story of struggle and raise money for Domineisha to pursue her dreams.

Domineisha hugs her mentor Roxana Aguilar, a transition counselor at LA Conservation Corps. Aguilar placed Domineisha’s story on YouthSpark on GlobalGiving to tell her story of struggle and raise money for Domineisha to pursue her dreams.

Domineisha hugs her mentor Roxana Aguilar, a transition counselor at LA Conservation Corps. Aguilar placed Domineisha’s story on GlobalGiving to tell her story of struggle and raise money for Domineisha to pursue her dreams.

Domineisha’s mom decorated her graduation cap. From Domineisha’s first day as a freshman to finally getting her high school diploma, it took her four schools, two states, ten years, and a lot of hard work.

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