The Greater Worcester Community Foundation’s Youth for Community Improvement (YCI) Fund has announced seven grants totalling nearly $24,000, including first-time YCI recipients Worcester State Foundation and Andy’s Attic.
The 18-member teen council, empaneled annually by GWCF, chose grant recipients that had a focus on diversity and cultural awareness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, and depression and suicide prevention — and those that best represent a “youth voice.”
“I am so proud of this group of teenagers for the level of maturity and dedication they have demonstrated over the last 12 weeks,” YCI program coordinator Amy Mosher Berry said.
“Each week they grew as leaders and, ultimately, succeeded in making difficult decisions about how to best use the limited funding available to strengthen our community. I find that young people have an incredible capacity to do great things, so long as they have opportunities available to them.”
Five city nonprofits were each granted the maximum $4,000: Southeast Asian Coalition (Youth Diversity and Cultural Awareness), Straight Ahead Ministries (Straight2Work Employment Readiness), Worcester Interfaith (Youth Jobs Pipeline), Rachel’s Table (Summer Produce Program) and Worcester State Foundation/WSU (Teen Circle).
Of the seven grants, six were fully funded. Twenty-one organizations, with a maximum program budget of $25,000, applied.
“The decision-making process is fascinating among teenagers,” Mosher Berry said. “It’s a multistaged process, so the kids submit their individual results from the grant application they’re responsible for. Each of the teenagers are responsible for at least one grant application and are responsible for presenting the key points — the strengths and the weaknesses — and create a discussion.”
The teens used a point scale from zero to three to determine a value for each application, with zero representing a grant that they would not fund and three indicating they would absolutely fulfill the grant. The applicants were first whittled to a top-ten before the grantees were chosen.
Since YCI began in 1999, 70 nonprofits in Worcester County have been awarded $285,000 from nearly 200 teenagers involved in the program.
“Whenever the kids get the chance to fund a great program, they get really excited,” Mosher Berry said. “Even though it’s not a perfect process [not being able to fully fund all seven applicants], I think it made them feel great and pretty confident now that these organizations can really effectively run their programs.”
YCI, Worcester County’s only non-school youth philanthropy program, is an advisory committee of the GWCF and is entirely composed of area teenagers.
This year’s panel includes Worcester residents Kwadwo Appiagyei-Obeng (Doherty High), Dennis Asante (Doherty), Dorean Asuako (Doherty), Lillian Cain (Massachusetts Academy of the Math & Science), Mark Coplin (Worcester Technical High School), Nina Gallagher (Robert Goddard Academy), Jada Mpawenimana (North High), Ronald Pena (St. John’s High School) and Lisset Quispe (Burncoat High); Adrian Kelly of Marlborough (Marlborough High); Trishaal Biswas and Laura Giordano, both of Shrewsbury (Shrewsbury High); Tyler Monteros of Grafton (Grafton High); Caitlyn Nguyen of North Grafton (Grafton); Kelina Smith of Princeton (West Boylston High); Sarah Riley of Sutton (Sutton High) and Niamh Anderson Toomey of Auburn (Auburn High), and Ryan Yunus of Westborough (Westborough High).
The program ended Dec. 9, but the students held a final meeting Dec. 11 to reflect on what they’ve learned and the five concepts they focused on for the past few months: community needs, communication, leadership, philanthropy and grant-making.
Teenagers interested in taking part in the program next school year can begin to apply for YCI on May 27. The interview process begins at the beginning of June and students will be notified before the end of this current school year whether they’ve been accepted.