Too many DC youth experience trauma and violence in their daily lives – and too few are equipped to do something about it. Using the power of the arts, OCU builds resilient, compassionate young leaders, empowering them to break the cycle of violence and become positive forces for change. Its flagship program, Fly by Light, utilizes an intensive, multi-layered arts curriculum – including after-school workshops, weekend field trips, healing nature retreats, violence prevention events, and citywide art showcases – to build participants’ social and emotional competencies. Youth learn to express themselves creatively and nonviolently, gaining lifelong skills to better cope with trauma, peacefully resolve conflicts, and build healthy relationships. Many become “ambassadors,” organizing open mic nights, performances, and workshops for their peers and for younger children. These creative young minds imagine a new, more hopeful reality.

Headquarters: DC-Ward 1

Where They Operate: DC-Citywide; Our programs are held in schools and communities across all eight wards of DC. In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, One Common Unity strives to host and hold all of our programs and activities in locations that are accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities. General meetings, program workshops and events most often take place on the ground floor of the Josephine Butler Parks Center, which is accessible as it relates to non-­ambulatory individuals. Our outdoor education retreat space at Catoctin Mountain National Park is also wheelchair accessible, and as our youth continue to produce more art showcases, we are always striving to hold these events in neighborhoods and at schools that have limited arts programming. Furthermore, films produced through the program include a menu option for subtitles, which make the films created through that program accessible to the hearing impaired.

Age Groups Served: Pre-teen/teen (12-17); Young adult (18-24); Adult (25-49)

Population(s) Served: Individuals who identify as LGBTQ; Low- to Moderate-Income Community Members; Men/Boys; Women/Girls; Students

Schools They Work In: The Fly By Light program is currently running at 14 different schools sites throughout Washington, D.C.:; Brookland Middle School (1150 Michigan Ave NE); Cardozo Education Campus (1200 Clifton St. NW ); Columbia Heights Education Campus (3101 16th St NW); Dunbar High School (101 N St. NW); Eastern Senior High School (1700 East Capitol St. NE); Hardy Middle School (1819 35th St. NW); Hart Middle School (601 Mississippi Ave SE); Kelly Miller Middle School (301 49th St. NE); LaSalle-Backus Education Campus (501 Riggs Rd NE); McKinley Technology High School (151 T St. NE); Oyster Adams Bilingual School (2801 Calvert St. NW); School Without Walls at Francis Stevens (2130 G St. NW); Theodore Roosevelt High School (4301 13th St. NW); Woodrow Wilson Senior High School (3950 Chesapeake St. NW)

  • Number of people (clients, patrons, students, etc) we serve annually:   4500
  • Hours of tutoring, mentoring, or class-time we provide annually:   115

Awards & Recognition

In October 2016, OCU received the Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in the Humanities, a highly prestigious honor granted to select non-profits in DC. “Fly By Light,” a documentary film about our unique program, has traveled to 15 international film festivals, been viewed by tens of thousands of people and received a number of awards.

In 2018, the Catalogue for Philanthropy selected OCU as one of the best non-profit organizations in D.C.

OCU has also received grant awards from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, The Whitman Institute, and Department of Behavioral Health (among numerous other grantors).

Our recently completed five-year impact study indicates that 84% of our students graduated from high school — a rate nearly 50% higher than the DC average. 0% of our participants served time in juvenile detention, jail, or prison. 71.4% of our graduates report holding the same job for more than six months. 83% report taking on more leadership roles than they did before participating in the program.

In the 2016-2017 school year, we engaged more than 100 youth participants at six after-school programs, delivering 115 hours of programming at each site. We recently issued our 183-page curriculum to guide our programming facilitators. And we graduated from the Fair Chance partnership, receiving 350 hours of capacity building services in board development, program monitoring and evaluation, strategic planning, and human resources management.


Budget (FY2022)

  • The current budget for One Common Unity is: $3 million or higher
  • $1 million to $3 million
  • $500k to $1 million
  • Less than $500k

Catalogue charities range in size from $100,000 to $3 million. This graphic indicates the budget range of the organization featured here. If you see an organizational budget above the $3 million mark, that is because the featured charity has grown in size since it first appeared in the Catalogue. We proudly present on our website the work of these "growth" charities.

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