In recent years, the country has seen a wave of youth-led activism—from the anti-gun protests led by students in Parkland, Florida, to Greta Thunberg addressing the U.N. on climate change, to the Black Lives Matter movement. To cultivate this rising generation of activists, The New York Community Trust has made $1.64 million in grants this year to 11 youth-development nonprofits, including some that specifically encourage young women to become leaders.
A two-year grant will let Adhikaar for Human Rights and Social Justice, which serves and organizes Nepali-speaking immigrants, solidify an informal program that began when teenagers came together regularly while their mothers, who were domestic workers or nail salon workers, were attending meetings at the worker center’s offices in Queens. The group will offer workshops on topics such as college admissions, community organizing, and advocacy, while involving young people directly in Adhikaar’s campaigns and helping them build out their own program ideas.
“The youth in our community and the children of our members are aware of the many issues we work on,” said Pabitra Khati Benjamin, executive director of Adhikaar. “They are the children of immigrant women workers in informal industries who face injustices every day. The grant gives us the capacity to create a space for these young people to dive deeper into their political education and organizing with a feminist perspective.”
Girl Be Heard will use its Trust grant to expand a program that builds self-esteem among young women and helps them express their social consciousness through storytelling and performing. The group will offer the program in Brooklyn and Queens, doubling the enrollment of this workshop series. The participants will create performance pieces to develop confidence in their own voices as they educate audiences.
“We help them build their leadership muscle, explore their personal stories, and guide them in harnessing their innate talent as advocates for change,” said Chiwoniso Kaitano, executive director of Girl Be Heard.
A grant to the Red Hook Initiative will enable a group of young men and women to build on a 2017 report they created about the origins of violence in their Brooklyn community. At that time, Red Hook Initiative worked with teens to take stock of the thoughts and feelings of residents, particularly in regard to violence.
Now the group will train a cadre of teens as peer advisors and advocates who can improve the neighborhood. The leaders will survey local residents about their views on reducing violence and research successful public-safety programs elsewhere. They will present their work to the public and officials and will be encouraged to attend tenant association meetings and join the local community board.
For several years, the Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project has helped newly arrived immigrants successfully navigate the American educational system. With a recent grant from The Trust, Flanbwayan will improve college access for young women. The participating teens will learn community organizing and leadership skills, write a guide on applying to college, and stage performances to educate government and families about the importance of college and college access for their community.
Grants for other youth-leadership projects will go to: