We are pleased to announce that the Foundation has awarded five community-based organizations in New York City $25,000 grants to improve the quality of their youth programs.
The Youth Service Improvement Grants (YSIG) program supports activities to improve the quality of direct services for young people ages 5 to 25 in the five boroughs of New York City. The long-term goal of YSIG is to strengthen existing services by helping youth-serving nonprofit organizations address challenges or remedy problems at the point of service, where staff and youth interact.
Kingsbridge Heights Community Center
LGBTQ inclusivity Project
Kingsbridge Heights Community Center (KHCC) wants to improve its Teen Center, which serves Bronx high school students ages 13-21. Teen Center provides academic support, STEM, arts and sports programming, college access activities, internships and leadership development. Community Center staff have observed that Teen Center participants display negative feelings about youth in the LGBTQ community, and this has made it difficult for KHCC to recruit and retain LGBTQ youth in Teen Center. Further, KHCC staff lack the necessary training to effectively address bias incidents when they occur. With this grant, KHCC will engage two external consultants, Horace Mann Institute and Transgender Equity Consulting, to update curricula and provide training to staff to make the program more inclusive to LGBTQ youth. The organization will also aim to launch a new LGBTQ Youth Council to engage students to promote voice and choice, which KHCC hopes will facilitate recruitment of more LGBTQ youth. Ultimately, KHCC seeks to create a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQ youth.
BioBus for Spanish Speakers
BioBus wants to improve its introductory Discover programs and its Explore Lab courses, which provide hands-on science education to K-12 students in New York City. The Discover programs are 45-minute science lessons that take place in BioBus’s mobile laboratory, which is equipped with varied scientific equipment and has scientists who teach age-appropriate lessons. The Explore programs are longer, in-depth lab courses that are held after school and during weekends at community centers and at BioBus research labs. The Discover program engages many English language learners (ELLs), but few of the organization’s scientists speak Spanish, and all of the student worksheets are in English. This language barrier adversely affects the scientists’ ability to excite, engage, and teach ELL students, and also inhibits students from moving to the advanced Explore Lab programs. With this grant, BioBus will enroll their scientists in Spanish Language classes and also engage a Spanish language tutor to teach the scientists relevant terms and concepts in Spanish and work with them on the curricula that is taught in the mobile labs. Finally, BioBus will translate to Spanish all materials students use in the Discovery program.
Tailoring and Expanding Wellness Supports for OPPNet Fellows: Improved Check-ins and Resource Sharing for Students
Opportunity Network (OppNet) wants to improve its Fellows program, which provides services to New York City youth from the summer after 10th-grade through college graduation. OppNet provides its participants with individualized college guidance, career exposure, one-on-one support through college, and five summers of paid internship or enrichment programming. However, the organization does not have a timely way to identify their students’ need for health and wellness intervention outside of a crisis. To address this need, OppNet will update how staff check for wellness among its in-college fellows, including providing staff training on how to recognize behaviors and language that could indicate deeper problems, as well as how to subsequently provide direct interventions or referrals to the social work department. Finally, OppNet will standardize how it collects student wellness data so that a formal system may be created to provide quick, appropriate care to its participants.
Anti-Racism Training and Curriculum Revision for Opening Act’s After-School Theater Program
Opening Act wants to improve its after-school programs, which are offered to both students in public schools with lower than average graduation rates and those in alternative high schools after previously facing court involvement, incarceration, homelessness, or teen pregnancy. Opening Act theater programs teach improvisation, acting technique, and writing exercises that culminate in a performance of students’ original work at a professional off-Broadway theater. Since 2013 Opening Act has provided its teaching artists with anti-racism workshops as part of their training, but due to budget and capacity constraints this training covers on introductory material, and anti-racism strategies are not integrated into the program curriculum. Specifically, the current training does not provide specific anti-racism practices that teaching artists could apply in the classroom when complex themes or issues arise during the improv and theater process. With this grant, Opening Act will provide for staff participation the “Undoing Racism Workshop,” created specifically for educators and run by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. Further, Opening Act will integrate key concepts from the workshop into their curriculum and develop additional staff training on how to implement the new curriculum.
Bridging the ELA and Math Gap
Kids Creative wants to improve its Rock 2 The Bronx after-school program, which serves students from three elementary schools in community district 9. Students participate in the Create-A-Play program, where they rotate through two class periods of theater, music, art, dance, leadership, sports, and peace education programming, culminating in the creation of an original musical show at the end of the term. Participants at the Rock 2 The Bronx come from schools where students score below state averages in English Language Arts and math. Currently, Kids Creative’s curriculum is primarily arts-focused and not specifically aimed at academic improvement against state standards for ELA and math. Staff also lack the training to develop or support education curricula and related activities. To address these challenges, Kids Creative will use this grant to hire a director of education who will develop math- and literacy-focused activities to supplement current arts programming and train staff on how to implement elements of the new curriculum.