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WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. – A decade ago, Alliance for Community Empowerment (ACE) was established in response to Canoga Park being identified as an under-served community because of rates of poverty, high school dropouts and a major level of unemployment among ages 14-25 – what is considered transitional aged individuals.

The 501 (c)3 non-profit got its service contract with YouthBuild Charter School of California in 2013, then held its first graduation the following year. Since its establishment, it has helped thousands of people whose lives have been impacted by trauma and poverty.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer Michelle Fuentes-Miranda's work helping facilitate that programming and assistance is why she was recently recognized as the Rams' fifth "pLAymaker" honoree of 2023.

"I am in complete shock," Fuentes-Miranda said. "What an amazing honor. Truly, truly. We love the Rams. We're such fans of the Rams, and you all do a lot of great work and uplift organizations that do meaningful work, and so just to be within this space with other amazing leaders, it's truly an honor."

ACE empowers marginalized communities by providing education, workforce development, gang intervention and prevention programming integrated with counseling, mentoring, case management, and other support services for those individuals and families. Those education/vocation programming, personal enrichment and supportive services include:

  • YouthBuild, which offers high school diploma, tutoring, and small classes; work readiness training and placement; college and career preparation, among other services, for ages 16-24.
  • G.R.Y.D. (Gang Reduction and Youth Development) Prevention, which is designed to decrease negative behaviors and promote positive youth development and family support for youth ages 10-14.
  • G.R.Y.D. Intervention, which offers case management services for gang-involved youth ages 14-25.
  • SECTOR, which offers training in advanced manufacturing or construction, life and career goal planning, and job placement, among other services for ages 18 and older.

"Our mission is to empower marginalized communities by providing education workforce development through strategic partnerships and collaborations," Fuentes-Miranda said. "Our overarching goals are to be able to create a space that individuals can come in and rebuild their life, and then turn around and rebuild their communities. And so our organization is a place of healing and empowerment."

For Fuentes-Miranda, inspiring change means to create an impact that causes a positive domino effect.

"Inspiring change, it's about leaving legacy," Fuentes-Miranda said. "It's one thing to help an individual transform their life, but it turns into legacy when you're inspiring those to turn back and then serve, helping individuals find voice so that they can then advocate for themselves as well as their community."

Besides taking that approach, Fuentes-Miranda said one can inspire change in their own community by being present and helping those organizations.

"I believe the Rams are doing that by being here, right, and providing space where members within the community feel seen, and the transformation they're making in their life. Your organization being here, it validates that transformation."

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