Finding Tomorrow's Leaders: Youth Hold the Vision for our Future

09/27/2016 12:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When we launched the Youth Development Hub in partnership with the Fox Family, we started from the premise that youth hold the vision for our collective future. With this in mind, our grantmaking team set out with one simple mandate - find twenty of the best possible projects in their communities to nurture and support these future leaders.

The projects that they have chosen so far represent a bold vision for what it takes to ensure that young people from every community are given the opportunity to develop the imagination, capacity, and self-belief to step up and become the leaders of tomorrow - in their communities and beyond.

Together, these grants will ensure that our leaders are representative of the future about which we dream - diverse, compassionate, resourceful, and deeply connected to the communities from which they came.

Wendy Guzman, Vermont Square Branch Friends of the Library, Los Angeles, CA

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Local libraries in Los Angeles are an essential source of books and education for community members of all socioeconomic status. However, libraries rely on volunteers for fundraising and to run essential programs. When Wendy Guzman realized that her local library was unable to provide services to the young people who need them the most, she restarted the Friends of the Library chapter, and is working hard to provide programming and to fundraise for the library, while also offering scholarship opportunities to high school students that participate as volunteers.

Many young people growing up in urban environments have little connection to nature, and even less connection to where their food comes from. Time spent in nature is calming and restorative for young people, and involving them in growing sustainable and healthy food can kickstart a lifetime of healthy habits. In Berkeley, Effie Rawlings has established a partnership between the community farm she founded and a local preschool, and will be giving young people of all backgrounds the opportunity to reconnect with nature and grow their own food.

Casey Tinsely, Village Hill Artz Program, Long Beach, CA

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Art education is often the first thing to be cut when times are tight. However, early participation in the arts has been shown to raise test scores, increase attendance, and help develop compassionate and imaginative problem-solving skills. In Los Angeles, Casey Tinsley is bringing art education to low income communities. Focusing on helping young people find out who they are, Casey's work is fostering a new generation of creative young leaders.

Deborah Manns, The Virtuous Woman Inc./Project Destiny, Los Angeles, CA

In Los Angeles, Reverend Deborah Manns learned that hundreds of girls were ending up on the streets or in the juvenile justice system after having been trafficked. Rather than allowing these girls to be criminalized by their pasts, Reverend Deborah wanted to offer them resources and to partner with law enforcement to make sure these minors were safe. The VWI focuses on young people in need, and serves runaways, young people who have found themselves homeless, and victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. Reverend Deborah works to spread awareness of how sex trafficking affects our communities, and wants to change the perception that it is a choice for minors to engage in sex trafficking.

Shequoia Henderson, LaBrina Lyné Foundation, Inc, Compton, CA

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Following the shooting of her cousin, Shequoia Henderson founded the LaBrina Lyné Foundation Inc (LLF), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing young people with the tools to guide them and help protect them from the violence of the streets. LLF adopts a holistic approach to their work, helping young people build self esteem and life skills, carrying out drives and small events to provide access to school supplies and self care items, and by raising awareness of gang violence, human trafficking, and other issues affecting the community.

Amir Samad Samandi, Summer of Service (SOS), San Antonio, Texas

SOS seeks to create a world in which all young people, no matter their background, believe in their power to make a positive difference in their communities. Dedicated to educating San Antonio youth through service-learning and travel, SOS works with groups of 6th-12th grade kids who join together in core groups to learn about and eventually work in communities around the world. Tying together their classroom studies with local service projects, team-building and leadership exercises, cross-cultural understanding, and conflict resolution skills, each group works toward a final trip to their chosen destination while at the same time becoming more connected to their own communities.

Brandi Mack and Niambi Jaha-Echols, The Butterfly Movement, Bay Area, CA

In America today, young women of color grow up in a society in which racial and gender stereotypes constantly devalue their experience and worth. Working as 'The Butterfly Movement", Brandy, Niambi, and their team run camps, training sessions, workshops, and sharing circles that are helping young women of color find the strength and power that lies within. Operating from a perspective that a connection to the natural world can help to foster and develop this strength, The Butterfly Movement grounds their work in the principles of permaculture, and gives young women of color spaces in which they can learn self love, develop their own identities, form bonds with their peers and across generations, and recognize that their worth transcends the definitions imposed by our society.

Along with our partners at the Fox Family and our Youth Development Grantmaking Team, we are very proud to fund and support these innovative changemakers.

Do you have a project that can change the world? We welcome grant applications for Pollination Project seed grants, every day.