The City of St. Petersburg awarded $250,000 in grants to 35 local non-profit organizations that provide services to at-risk youth.
BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – With temperatures reaching well into the 90s, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced the winners of the 2018 Youth Development Grants this Tuesday on the inside steps of City Hall. In the air-conditioned vestibule, 35 organizations were congratulated and presented with checks.
A total of $250,000 was allocated for this year and was distributed to 35 local non-profit organizations. Funding amounts range from $700 up to $22,500. Non-profit organizations in good standing that are located within the municipal boundaries of St. Pete and provide services to at-risk youth were eligible to apply for funding.
As part of the process, the city established an eight-member volunteer review committee to evaluate the grant applications and make recommendations to Mayor Kriseman.
“Each committee member brought something unique to this team,” said Reggie Reed, chair of My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper Youth Development Grant Committee. “We all have the same goals in mind, and that was to ensure that the youth in our city was provided with the resources necessary that would inspire the young people in our community.”
The eight-member review committee consisted of Sonja Felton, Caprice Johnson, Dr. David E. Krahl, Sheena Lewis, Dr. Kate Pravera, Dr. LaShawn Proctor-Gomillion and high school student Annara Sadiki.
Committee Vice Chair Sonja Felton said the process was pretty extensive. All of the committee members read through each of the grant applications and provided scores based on the impact they were going to have on the community, the fiscal soundness of the organization and the number of youth that the organization would be serving through their program.
Once the applications were reviewed, the members came together and discussed their scores. All meetings were open to the public, so many of the recipients got a chance to see the deliberations.
Felton, who is the director of Graduate Support at Academy Prep, said their goal was to fund as many organizations as they possibly could with the limited resources they had.
“Unfortunately, everybody didn’t get funded only because the funds were limited. We read some really strong applications, and that’s basically how we put it together. It was done as a group,” said Felton, who also serves on the MLK Day of Service Advisory Committee.
Reed thanked all the grant recipients for continuing to allow the city’s youth to dream.
“It’s those dreams that enable a kid…to become a doctor, or a lawyer, or a successful business owner, or maybe even the mayor of St Petersburg, but in order for those of you to succeed in those dreams, as leaders, we have to provide the resources,” averred Reed.
One such recipient is the Arts Conservatory for Teens (ACT), whose vision is to improve the quality of life for youth and teens through the arts. Their $22,500 grant will allow a female cohort to their Teens in Power Today program, which was strictly working with African-American males in south St. Pete.
They will be launching their pilot with 25 middle and high school young ladies that will now be involved in their youth empowerment and woman empowerment programs.
Co-founder of ACT Herbert Murphy said they will be bringing in local, regional and national speakers. The young ladies will have a chance to learn proper etiquette, attend empowerment workshops, receive career and entrepreneurial training and enrichment, and of course, the arts will play a role in their training.
“This is another important step in the commitment that I made to our at-risk youth more than two years ago,” said Mayor Kriseman, adding that they started out with the My Brother’s Keeper program that was based on the model used by President Obama and expanded it to become My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper (MBSK).
MBSK is an initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by young black boys and girls by ensuring that they will have a chance to reach their full potential. Including the grant money, the Not My Son, a grassroots community outreach marketing campaign to promote positive achievement and anti-crime awareness, and the Cohort of Champions, a training program that involves educational, entrepreneurial, workforce and enrichment training opportunities, are all under the umbrella of the mayor’s commitment.
City Hall was teaming with non-profit organizations collecting their checks and chomping at the bit to get started on helping the youth in St. Pete.
For example, the Youth Development Foundation of Pinellas, whose purpose is to enhance the quality of life for targeted youth and families in Pinellas County, received $8,600 to expand their AKA Academy Program. They will use the money to focus on civic leadership and engagement.
“So we’re going to…start with our city government and county government and then state government,” said program chair Lisa Brody. “And then it will culminate with the federal government, and then we’ll take them to Washington, D.C., to see how it all comes together.”
Director of Kappa League Male Leadership Institute LaShante Keys said their $4,900 grant will help them expand the program. The program works with African-American boys to ensure self-improvement. Aware that not everyone will make it to college, he said the money will go towards introducing “them into fields where they can actually start working soon as they get out of high school.”
The Pinellas County Urban League (PCUL) received $17,500 to work with children in the Jordan Park complex. They are implementing what is called Tune Into Reading, a researched-based reading program that is known for having a positive impact on African-American children.
This grant will help with the installation of computers and software at Jordan Park and also at the Police Athletic League, who picks up the complex’s children during the summer and will be opening a center onsite in August.
“It’s a program that we really want to see implemented in all the recreation centers, in all the schools. It’s proven, it works and African-American kids have shown some reading improvements,” said Watson Haynes, president & CEO of PCUL.
With the $7,422 grant, Clayton Sizemore with the Urban Yoga Foundation is hoping to expand his program into more schools in south St. Pete. The foundation works with underserved communities, exposing children to health and holistic issues using the practice of yoga.
They are currently in five schools and a few recreation centers. Sizemore has his eyes set on the Thomas “Jet” Jackson and Childs Park Recreation Centers next.
“We can’t do it alone in city government, and really, quite frankly, we shouldn’t,” said the mayor, adding that if St. Pete is to reach its vision of being a city of opportunity for all, it will take “all of us working together as one community with the goal of creating a better community for our kids.”