One girl found her voice and a love of public policy. A young man pursuing a rap career learned urban farming. Another uplifted his community while finding his safe haven.
These are the stories of youth grantmaking.
Grantmaking is a process in which a foundation awards money to a charitable organization, a practice normally handled by nonprofit professionals. Today, many groups are passing that power to young people — transforming their perspective of community.
On the receiving end: Urban Creators
Urban Creators, a North Philadelphia organization teaching urban farming and leadership, was on the receiving end of the youth grantmaking process.
The teens at YOUTHadelphia, a youth grantmaking nonprofit, part of The Philadelphia Foundation, gave Urban Creators $10,000 last spring to help continue their youth-led initiatives.
Exclusive Video of FREEWAY's visit to the farm!… https://t.co/J1XGmGDWok
— PhillyUrbanCreators (@urbancreator215) December 16, 2016
When Malik Williams, 20, isn’t laying down some verses over beats, the North Philadelphia native and aspiring rap artist works at Urban Creators.
Williams grew up across the street from the nonprofit, so for him, the work is personal.
“I would rather give back to my community first before I would go do something for another community, because I know how bad the people around here need stuff,” Williams said.
He started out composting and planting. Now, he helps with the farm’s event planning, intersecting his love of music and agricultural work. He’s helped planned a concert there.
Samuel Harris, 21, is one of the farm’s managers. He’s been working at the organization since high school, Imhotep Charter, where his senior project focused on the difference between GMO versus organic foods.
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Harris designs farm plans, purchases seeds and tends to plants of his own.
“Urban creators was a like a safe haven for me coming up out of high school” Harris said. “It gave me a sense of purpose and the ability to attain the things that I wanted to learn and the skills.”
Urban Creators not only teaches farming techniques, but also about education and justice within their community. They also pay their youth participants while they’re learning.
Their grant money was used to help purchase supplies, off-set educational field trips costs and fund staff trainings and stipends.
“YOUTHadelphia teaches young people about grantmaking and engages them in social change,” Phil Fitzgerald, their director of grantmaking, said. “Through the program, youth participants acquire 21st century skills like critical thinking and creativity while investing in the leadership development of youth across Philadelphia.”
"Urban creators was a like a safe haven for me coming up out of high school."
Last year, YOUTHadelphia awarded $50,000 to organizations throughout the city.
Teenagers, from 14 to 18, identify issues of public concern, field applications from organizations within those topics and go on site visits before choosing who to award funding to.
“YOUTHadelphians gain knowledge of the local nonprofit sector as well as historical and cultural context of community issues,” Fitzgerald said. “Most importantly, they learn that young people are capable of addressing issues that impact their community and the lives of their peers.”
YOUTHadelphia gives organizations like Urban Creators the power to continue to provide programming to youth in Philadelphia during high school and college, an often uncertain time.
On the giving end: Girls Advisory Board
Ananya Muthukrishnan faced this ticking clock. Like many high schoolers, she didn’t know what she wanted to do in college after tossing her cap and emptying out her locker.
The now 17-year-old senior at Henderson High School in West Chester found her answer (she’s an incoming political science major at the University of Pennsylvania) after helping to give away thousands of dollars in the process.
Muthukrishnan participated in the Girls Advisory Board, a youth grantmaking program within the Chester County Fund for Women and Girls, where a collective of 20 young women from the Greater Philadelphia area give grants to organizations based on a yearly theme.
“I think it opened my eyes to the bigger problems that we had in our community that I had no idea existed,” Muthukrishnan said.
GAB is a two year program, where the first-year participants discuss, evaluate and award grants to community organizations, and the second-year girls mentor their younger counterparts.
The girls also participate in networking opportunities, panel discussions and workshops. A recent talk was on advocacy and civic engagement.
“I think with young people, it can be really easy for them to stay in their orbit, in their bubble of their life that they see and that they experience in their high school and with their families.” said Michelle Legaspi Sánchez, Chester County Fund for Women and Girls’ executive director. “Seeing them become exposed to these greater issues. And seeing them respond has been very rewarding.”
"It opened my eyes to the bigger problems that we had in our community that I had no idea existed."
Muthukrishnan either wants to go to law school or run for public office after college. Her favorite topic to work on with GAB was with women facing domestic violence. Now, she volunteers in her community, feels confident to speak out more on social issues and still keeps in touch with many of the GAB girls.
For her, seeing the work other girls were doing funding projects and meeting with legislators in Harrisburg, helped her find her voice, she said, and the change it was possible for her to effect.
“The other thing we really stress is hopefully they’re learning that they don’t have to wait,” Legaspi Sánchez said. “They’re getting involved and they’re learning about all these things now. They don’t have to wait until college, or they don’t have to wait until they’re adults to put a lot of these things in motion.”
“It’s really formative and powerful for them to engage in that and know that they control that,” she said.-30-
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