News & Event
If Worcester’s residents are searching for a glimmer of hope for the city’s future in the wake of recent international terrorist attacks, and the city’s own battle with opioid abuse, major crimes and racial tension, they won’t have to look any further than a small group of area teenagers ready to tackle social issues as community leaders.
For the past 16 years, members of Youth for Community Improvement (http://www.greaterworcester.org/AboutUs/YouthforCommunityImprovement) (YCI) have been making a difference in Worcester and have been responsible for the distribution of much needed funding to nonprofit organizations throughout Worcester and the surrounding areas.
This year is an important year for the YCI program because the majority of the 18 teens involved in the program were born in 1999 — the year the program was founded.
These teens will be responsible for deciding which nonprofits will be awarded a maximum of $4,000 each from $24,000 in available funds.
Twenty-one nonprofits have applied for funding, and those that best represent a “youth voice” will benefit from the generous funding of the Greater Worcester Community Foundation (http://www.greaterworcester.org/) . “There’s 18 members, so there’s 17 members other than myself, who feel that we have the ability to make an impact,” said Laura Giordano of Shrewsbury, a junior at Shrewsbury High School. “We might be in high school, but we have so many opportunities and different perspectives that we can give on what we think should be funded.”
Since YCI began, 70 nonprofits in Worcester County have been awarded $285,000 from nearly 200 teenagers involved in the program.
YCI, Worcester County’s only non-school youth philanthropy program, is an advisory committee of the GWCF and is entirely composed of area teenagers. The program is based on the idea that youth philanthropy and youth grantmaking experience is effective in youth development and this experience needs to be expanded to contribute to economic development.
Each nonprofit that applies for the funding has to have a total project budget of less than $25,000.
Recruiting and interviewing teenagers for the program is nearly a yearlong process. The program coordinator, Amy Mosher Berry, spends much of the spring recruiting students from local high schools and sending an email campaign to youth centers. Each student is interviewed in June before the school year ends and is alerted of their acceptance into the program before the following school year begins.
“They [the students] have a lot of self-awareness. It’s that kind of awareness that kicks them into action as leaders. So many people, particularly adults, don’t view young people as leaders. And I honestly think that some of these young people have the best ideas to solve big, complex problems in our community.” — Amy Mosher Berry, YCI program coordinator
YCI is a two-year program for high school students. This year half the students are from Worcester while other students come from Marlborough, Westborough, Shrewsbury, Grafton, Princeton, Sutton and Auburn.
Over the past few months, Mosher, who has been running the program for eight years, has noticed that the students involved in YCI are “genuinely interested in each other’s perspectives.” “They’re actively leading the discussion and they take it very seriously,” said Mosher, who said members of this group actively govern each other and make sure they’re each fulfilling their end of the responsibilities.
Mosher told a story of a particularly difficult meeting this fall when the students weren’t all on the same page, weren’t focused and came to a realization at the end of the meeting that they needed to do better in order for this program to work. One of the students really impressed Mosher when the student called her and took full responsibility for the entire group’s behavior immediately following the meeting.
“They [the students] have a lot of self-awareness. It’s that kind of awareness that kicks them into action as leaders. So many people, particularly adults, don’t view young people as leaders. And I honestly think that some of these young people have the best ideas to solve big, complex problems in our community,” Mosher said.
As part of keeping each other in check, the group created the “Just A Reminder” Jar — a poster of a jar that they all agreed to sign with words representing what the group not only wanted to get out of the program, but even more important, what they wanted to put into it. Phrases in the jar include “Respect,” “Safe Zone” and “Listen to Each Other.” “It’s almost like a social contract of how they want to run their meetings,” Mosher said. “We have that visually and I find that they’re really taking it pretty seriously. I find that it’s a testament to their own words. They’ve created the thing, so they want to hold each other accountable.”
For the teens selected this year, the areas of interest that will be funded include nonprofits with a focus on diversity and cultural awareness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, and depression and suicide prevention. Nonprofits that promote access to greater economic opportunity — including better education, housing and nutrition — will also be considered for funding.
Giordano, along with Lillian Cain of Worcester, a junior at the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science, and Rayaan Yunus of Westborough, a sophomore at Westborough High, agree that proper nutrition is one of the most important issues Worcester residents are facing right now.
Yunus, who was born in Massachusetts but spent the early years of his childhood in Pakistan, said his experiences have shown him just how important proper, and affordable, nutrition is for not only people in Worcester, but everyone around the world. “For me, one main focus on our RFP (request for proposal) was nutrition, because that was a big problem in Pakistan,” Yunus said. “And it’s an issue in Worcester.”
Giordano agreed with Yunus, saying “I’m a big advocate for nutrition. That’s one of the biggest things. Access to food and access to healthy food is huge, especially in a city as big as Worcester. Some people can’t afford to buy healthy food. Buying a bag of chips is sometimes less expensive than buying an apple.”
“If you make nutritional food less expensive, people are more encouraged to buy it,” Cain added. The students of YCI went on a one-day retreat to the Community Harvest Project (http://www.communityharvest.org/) on Sept. 19 to get to know each other, spend time with one another, and learn about the importance of growing fresh fruits and vegetables as a way to fight hunger.
On Oct. 28, YCI students joined students from South High’s youth philanthropy project and went on a bus tour to visit two Worcester nonprofits — the Worcester Housing Resource Alliance and Pernet Family Health Service — to observe how funding from the South High kids was spent and how the funding impacted those organizations and programs.
For YCI students, it was a good experience to see how nonprofits utilized funding and listen to leaders of nonprofit organizations. On Tuesday night, Nov. 16, Giordano, Cain and Yunus presented to the GWCF board of directors (http://www.greaterworcester.org/AboutUs/OurPeople) their group’s choices for the organizations they would like to see receive funding. The nonprofits that will be awarded funds from the YCI will be announced in mid-December. “I was really proud of all of them up there. You could really tell that they wanted to be up there and that they wanted to share their experience in the program,” Mosher said. “They received some really positive feedback.”
Jake Messier, a public relations and outsourced marketing director for the program, said, “Those people on the board are really rooting for them. That is a room full of cheerleaders. They’re people that want them [YCI students] to do well. They’ve been in their position as junior leaders a long time ago, and they’re impressed that kids nowadays are actually doing something like this instead of being in front of an Xbox.
Nonprofits that have previously received funding from YCI include Rachel’s Table, Southeast Asian Coalition and the Regional Environmental Council.
Just finishing its 16th year, YCI has engaged nearly 200 teens from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds since 1999 and awarded approximately $310,000 to 75 nonprofit organizations in Worcester County. The only non-school, youth grant making committee in Worcester County, YCI empowers area teens to make important funding decisions in the community and develop grant making and leadership skills.
Entering its 17th year, YCI has engaged nearly 200 teens from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds since 1999 and awarded approximately $310,000 to 75 nonprofit organizations throughout Worcester County. The only non-school, youth grant making committee in our area, YCI empowers teens to make important funding decisions in the community and develop grant making and leadership skills. Last year, YCI granted more than $23,000 in funds for local organizations.
Students should apply if they are eager to make a difference in their community, motivated and reliable, interested in teamwork and available Wednesdays 4-7PM 9/14 - 12/14. Contact Sarah Shugrue, (508) 755-0980 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Foundation announced the 139 awardees of its 2018 Community Grants: a total of $1,747,900. Community Grants support nonprofit organizations that build healthy and vibrant communities throughout Central Massachusetts. Areas of interest this year included Civic Life, the Arts and the Environment; Early Childhood Development; Economic Security; Healthy Communities; Youth Development & Education.
Of the 159 grants awarded, 22 were dedicated solely to projects that focused on early childhood development. Through its Early Childhood Initiative, the Foundation has invested in programs that improve the quality and availability of early childhood education and care, reduce summer learning loss, and support families as primary nurturers and teachers. The initiative aims to ensure that all children in the community gain a sound start during their formative first years.
“We are honored to be a part of a strong and thoughtful network of strategic donors that are committed to making positive change in Greater Worcester. I am especially excited that of the over $1.7M granted, over $400,000 went specifically towards early childhood projects, a Foundation priority,” said Ann T. Lisi, GWCF President and CEO. “Our Community Grant program is the largest funding cycle we have, and annually provides meaningful support towards the better of the community. We look forward to seeing the impact, especially for our community’s children, in the year ahead.”
Shelter, Housing, and Advocacy Operations
African Community Education Program (ACE)
Family Outreach & Education Programming
Youth Academic & Social-Emotional Programming
Alzheimer's Association Massachusetts New Hampshire Chapter
Increasing Core Services through Volunteer-Powered Program Delivery
American Red Cross
Disaster Cycle Services
Angels Net Foundation Inc
Educational and Social Programs for Immigrant and Refugee Youth
Anna Maria College
OpporTUNEity® Music Connections
Appalachian Mountain Club
Youth Opportunities Program Worcester Summit Site 2019
Apple Tree Arts*
Head Start Preschool Music Outreach Program
Art in the Park Worcester (fs Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston)
Art in the Park, Worcester
Ascentria Community Services, Inc.
Immigration Legal Assistance Program
Auburn Youth & Family Services
Youth and Family Support Programs and Services
Audio Journal, Inc.
General Operating Support
Best Buddies Massachusetts
Worcester County Friendship Program
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest, Inc.
Worcester Area Mentoring Program
Blackstone Valley Boys and Girls Club
2019 Summer Program Camperships
Boys & Girls Club of Lunenburg
Boys & Girls Club of Webster - Dudley
Junior Staff Development Program
Boys & Girls Club of Worcester
Youth Development Programs
Building Futures, Inc. (fs Worcester Housing Authority)
Lakeside Summer Camp
Camp Putnam, Inc.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Worcester
Citizenship Services and Education for Families
Center for Health Impact
Supporting Early Childhood Development Through Cultural and Linguistic Navigation
Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance, Inc.
Public Education & Advocacy
Adam Achiever Program
Clinton Adult Learning Center
Coalition for a Healthy Greater Worcester (fs YWCA of Central MA)
Strengthening and Diversifying Community Engagement in the CHIP
Community Harvest Project
CRAVE (Class Room Agriculture and Vegetable Education)
Volunteer Farming Program
Community Healthlink (fs UMass Memorial Healthcare)*
Together For Kids
Community Legal Aid, Inc.
Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project
Nutrition Program for Critically Ill Individuals & Families
Creative Hub Worcester
Discovery Science: Worcester
Dismas House of Massachusetts, Inc.
Prisoner Reentry Program
Dress for Success Worcester Inc
More Than a Suit
EcoTarium (Worcester Natural History Society)
EBT Access Program
EcoTarium (Worcester Natural History Society)*
Countdown to Kindergarten 2018/2019
Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center
Linguistically and Culturally Competent Care for Arabic-Speaking Patients
Edward Street Child Services*
Early Childhood Matters
Master Teacher Consultation Program
Elder Services of Worcester Area, Inc.
Family Health Center of Worcester, Inc.
Summer Jump Start 2019
Healthcare for Homeless Families Program
Dental Care for Un/Underinsured Low-income Individuals
Family Health Center of Worcester, Inc.*
Fathering Fathers Inc.
Fresh Start Furniture Bank, Inc.
Furniture Distribution Center
Friendly House, Inc.
Frances Perkins Transitional Program
Friends of St Luke's, Inc
St. Luke's Guesthouse
Friends of the Shrewsbury Public Library
English Conversation Circle
Genesis Club, Inc.
Supported Education with Young Adults Focus
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts
It's A Girl's World
Girls Incorporated of Worcester
Support for General Operations
Greater Worcester Land Trust
Community Based Environmental Conservation
Growing Places Garden Project
NCM Food Hub Connector
Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Greater Worcester
General Program Support
Hope Coalition (fs UMass Memorial)
Peer Leadership Program
Hope Coalition (fs UMass Memorial)*
Worcester ACTs (Addresses Childhood Trauma)
Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Worcester (fs Friendly House)
Joy of Music Program, Inc.
Financial Aid Program
Fostering Early Connections - Building Parenting Confidence and Competence
L.U.K. Crisis Center, Inc.
Latin American Health Alliance of Central Mass. Inc.
Latino Education Institute (fs Worcester State Foundation)
ENLACE (Encouraging Latinos to Achieve Excellence)
Latino Education Institute (fs Worcester State Foundation)*
Early Connections Program
Let's Get Ready
Worcester Access to Success Program
LGBT Asylum Support Task Force (fs Hadwen Park Congregational Church)
LGBT Asylum Task Force
Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester
English Language Literacy for Job Seekers and Other Adult Immigrants & Refugees
Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester*
English Language Literacy for Immigrants and Refugee Parents Helping Schoolchildren
Literacy Volunteers of South Central Massachusetts
ESOL Tutoring Programs
Main South Community Development Corporation
Youth-Police Dialogue Program
Massachusetts Audubon Society Inc.
Nature Education and Recreation Programs for Worcester Youth
Massachusetts Education & Career Opportunities, Inc.
Collegiate Success Institute (CSI)
Massachusetts Education & Career Opportunities, Inc. (MassEdCO)
On Our Way
Matthew 25, Inc.
Montachusett Interfaith Hospitality Network
Family Pathways Project
Montachusett Opportunity Council, Inc.
Homework Help Center at Green Acres
Muslim Community Link Inc
Black Seed Farmers Market
Nativity School of Worcester
Graduate Support Program
Service Dog Training
New Hope, Inc.
MJ Leadenham Center Supervised Visitation Expansion
North of Main Neighborhood Initiative
North Brookfield Youth Center
North Quabbin Citizen Advocacy, Inc.
Protecting Vulnerable People
Notre Dame Health Care
Educational Bridge Center
Oak Hill CDC
Operating Support for Neighborhood Development
One Can Help
Open Sky Community Services
South County Homeless Assistance Program
Opera New England of Northeastern CT
Opera and Symphony Programs for Schools
Our Father's House, Inc.
Ensuring Health & Wellness in Homeless Children
Pakachoag Music School of Greater Worcester
Financial Assistance for Children from Low-Income Households
Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PPAL)
Outreach and Navigation for Families
Pathways for Change
Sexual Assault Prevention & Survivor Services
Pernet Family Health Service, Inc.*
Early Childhood Development Program
Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts
Sex Education for Youth and Parents
Preservation Worcester, Inc.
Pride Productions Inc
Millennial Media Group
Quinsigamond Community College Foundation
Brothers & Keepers Summer Bridge Program
Women in Technology STEM Program
Support for Food Programs
Rainbow Child Development Center*
Early Education Program
Reach Out and Read*
Worcester Rx for Success!
Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC)
ESOL System Navigator
Comprehensive Case Management
Regatta Point Community Sailing, Inc.
Boating Program Scholarships for Youth
Regional Environmental Council, Inc.
Restorer of Broken Bridges, Inc.
Net of Compassion - Main Street Saturday Program
Rise Above Foundation
Activities for Foster Youth
Salisbury Singers Inc
Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts
Building Healthy Asian and Arabic Speaker Communities
Spanish American Center, Inc.
Nos Estamos Ayudando (Helping Ourselves)
Straight Ahead Ministries Inc
Worcester Youth Re-Entry Center
Tasks for Transit, Inc.
Free WRTA Bus Day Pass
Summer Tennis & Reading Program
The Barton Center for Diabetes Education, Inc.
The CASA Project*
Early Childhood Support Services
The Salvation Army - Worcester Citadel Corps
The SHINE Initiative (fs Community Foundation of North Central MA)
Student Wellness Advisory Team (SWAT)
Tower Hill Botanic Garden (Worcester County Horticultural Society)
Youth Refugee Gardening Program
Nutrition Program for Seniors
United Way of Central Massachusetts
YouthConnect Worcester - 2019
United Way of Central Massachusetts*
Summer Learning Collaborative
Open Door Gallery at Worcester Art Museum
The Sounds & Stories of Worcester
Whitin Community Center
Youth Outreach Programs
Summer Scholars Program
Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team (fs Worcester Common Ground)
Program Support for WAFT
Worcester Center for Crafts (WCC)
Youth Craft + Creativity
Worcester Center for Performing Arts (Hanover Theatre)
Adopt-A-School WPS Partnership
Worcester Common Ground, Inc.
Community Building and Affordable Housing
Worcester Community Action Council, Inc.
YouthWorks Year-Round Jobs Program
Worcester Community Housing Resources, Inc.
Confronting Critical Housing & Financial Needs for Long-Term Solutions
Worcester Cultural Coalition
Building Community Through Creativity
Worcester Earn a Bike Inc.
Worcester Education Collaborative (fs United Way)
Worcester Impact on Sexual Health (WISH) (fs Center for Health Impact)
Putting Worcester to Work
Worcester Jewish Community Center*
Scholarships for Afterschool and Summer Childcare Programs
Worcester Public Library*
2018 Summer Reading Program
Worcester Public Schools (fs City of Worcester)
Building Student Leadership through Youth Philanthropy
Worcester Regional Research Bureau, Inc.
Worcester Youth Center
Support for Core Programs
Worcester Youth Orchestras
Financial Aid & Scholarship Program
Yes We Care, Inc.
YMCA of Central Massachusetts
Minority Achievers Program
Youth Opportunities Upheld (YOU), Inc.
Dynamy Youth Academy
YWCA of Central Massachusetts
Racial Equity Program
Domestic Violence Services
* Indicates Early Childhood grant
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