New Youth Services Improvement Grants to Strengthen New York City Nonprofits

Nine New York City community-based organizations have been awarded $25,000 grants to improve the quality of their youth programs.

Our Youth Services Improvement Grants program supports organizations that have demonstrated success but have also identified an area that if improved would enhance the quality of services. In addition to funding, grantees receive capacity-building consulting from the Youth Development Institute to support the implementation of projects and programs.

Sadie Nash Leadership Project

Dean Leadership Program

Sadie Nash wants to improve its Dean Leadership Program, which is a paid internship for young women (Deans) ages 19–25. Deans gain leadership skills and hands-on youth development experience while serving as role models, teachers, mentors, and advisors to Sadie Nash’s younger participants. The program offers two tracks: a summer institute and an after-school program. Discrepancies between the two tracks have resulted in different levels of competency and confidence between participants. Sadie Nash proposes to create a more consistent experience for Deans by redesigning the curriculum and expanding the training for the school-year Deans to better match that which the summer institute Deans receive.

Wave Hill

Improvements for Wave Hill’s Empowerment Programs for Teens: Forest Project and Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship

Wave Hill wants to improve its paid youth internship programs, The Forest Project and Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship. Participants in both programs do ecological restoration work in Bronx parks and woodlands while taking two related courses that are provided by Lehman College: Conservation of the Environment and Geographic Information Systems. Over time, the content of the courses has diverged from Wave Hill’s programming and has created a thematic gap between the academic and applied parts of the program. Wave Hill proposes to develop curricula for two courses that would be tailored specifically to its programs and would be taught on site at Wave Hill.


Strengthening the Career Readiness of Teens through Improvement of the Capacity of the Fellows Program

Pencil wants to improve its Fellows Program, which provides career readiness training and a paid internship to rising and just-graduated high school seniors. The Fellows Program uses manual application and tracking processes, which have led to errors and have taken staff time that would be be better spent preparing students for internships. Pencil proposes to purchase and implement software that would automate the application and tracking systems. The new software will foster efficiency so that staff will have more time to get to know and train fellows, which will lead to better matches between student interests and job placements.

Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House

Ravenswood College Access Program Intensive Track

Riis Academy provides college access, health, sports, and arts activities to young people drawn mostly most nearby public housing developments in Queens. Riis has had difficulty retaining its most hard-to-reach participants: 16–24 year olds who are disconnected from school and work. These youth are not on track for on-time high-school completion, or they have dropped out of high school and are unemployed. Jacob Riis proposes to reach out to older youth and provide more targeted services that will help them graduate high school or achieve its equivalency. Once the participants have graduated high school, Riis will help them pursue post-secondary education or find jobs. Intensive individualized case management along with GED/SAT prep, academic tutoring, college access workshops, job counseling and job shadowing will be some of the activities offered in this new track.

Waterwell Productions

WDP Special Education Initiative

Waterwell Productions provides the Theatrical Arts and Drama Programs for middle- and high-school students at the Professional Performing Arts School (PPAS). Department of Education mandates have significantly increased the number of special education students who attend general education classes at PPAS. Waterwell’s teaching artists are not trained to work with special education students, and are unable to meet the students’ needs in the classroom. Waterwell proposes to hire a consultant to develop a training curriculum and to create tools for teaching artists to work with students with special needs. The consultant will train Waterwell’s director of education to support teaching artists throughout the year and to provide professional development to new staff.

Chinatown Manpower Project

Project WIDE: Workplace Internship Development & Education
Chinatown Manpower Project wants to improve its Out-of-School Youth (OSY) program, which offers workforce development and education services to low-income, out-of-school Asian-American youth between the ages of 16–24. Although the OSY program has high completion rates, its participants are not successful in obtaining employment. Participants encounter barriers such as a lack of basic work skills and access to professional networks. Chinatown Manpower proposes to hire a part-time coordinator who will develop and run an internship program. The coordinator will build relationships with employers to gain contacts and to better understand the needs of the employers and their markets. The coordinator will use this knowledge during job readiness workshops to help participants improve the skills they will need to apply to and attain jobs in markets that are of interest to them.

Girls Write Now

Outreach & Enrollment Improvement Project

Girls Write Now (GWN) wants to improve its mentoring programs, which pair professional writers with girls who attend under-resourced public high schools. The goal of the program is to increase girls’ writing skills. GWN’s outreach and enrollment strategies have caused a mismatch in ethnic diversity between mentors and mentees. Also, the majority of mentors are based in Manhattan and Brooklyn, while mentees are based in all boroughs, which leads to extended travel times to get to pair meetings. Girls Write Now wants to increase the number of women of color in the mentor pool, and to redistribute mentor geographic locations to better match mentee locations in all five boroughs.

I Challenge Myself

Building Blocks Training Videos

I Challenge Myself provides physical education programs to New York City high-school students, and wants to improve its complementary X-Fit and Cycle Smarts programs. X-Fit is a crossfit exercise program that is designed to develop students’ physical strength and confidence so that they will build up to the more challenging Cycling Smarts program. ICM’s staff have observed that coaches are not able to properly model the fitness exercises for students. Students are not getting the full benefit from the programs, and are at risk of getting injured. ICM proposes to contract a filmmaker to film and edit its staff performing the exercises that make up X-Fit and Cycle Smarts. The resulting video will supplement the one-time ICM instruction, written curriculum, and still photos that are currently used to train coaches. Coaches will also be able to share the videos with students during the physical education classes.

Epic Theatre Center

Epic Remix/NEXT Service Improvement Program

Epic Theatre Center wants to improve its after-school program, Epic Remix, where high school students work with professional teaching artists to write and perform adaptations of Shakespeare plays. Although participants of Epic Remix have a 95 percent high-school graduation rate, their college attendance and retention rates are much lower. Epic proposes to partner with CATES Educational Testing Service to establish college preparatory services for all Epic Remix participants. CATES instructors will train Epic artists to deliver SAT/ACT preparation, college awareness and application preparation, while Epic artists will train CATES instructors in the Epic method of teaching. A new curriculum will be created, which will weave college prep services into Epic’s program and will be implemented by both CATES and Epic staff.

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