Meet Our Youth Leadership Development & Artist Fellowship Grantees

By Paulina Sosa

SAN ANTONIO — Uplifting San Antonio’s youth takes a village. That’s why the Area Foundation is teaming up with UP Partnership to invest nearly $500,000 to boost nonprofit organizations working to amplify youth voice through our first-ever Youth Leadership Development grants and Artist Fellowship grants. 

A dozen youth-serving community nonprofit organizations were selected for first-ever Youth Leadership Development grants while four others were selected for the Artist Fellowship grants. All these grants are part of a larger-scale $8 million educational infusion ensuring that local at-risk youth get an opportunity to reach for their highest academic dreams.

Keep reading below to learn a bit more about these wonderful nonprofits and the great work they do in our community. Stay tuned for follow-up articles taking a deeper dive at how they plan to put their new grant funding to good use.

Youth Leadership Development Grantees

The Lemonade Circle       

Who they serve: Girls and young women of color.

What they do: The Lemonade Circle is focused on holistically empowering and engaging young women of color to help them achieve their highest potential through intentional engagement activities, such as civic and public service, mentorship and community outreach and volunteerism. Additionally, several women serve as empowerment leaders over “Empowerment Circles” in the program to move younger women on leadership development. These circles include: Boss Up, Mirrors and Windows, Heart to Heart, Nonprofit Connections, My Sister’s Keeper and Senior Round Up.

Boy With A Ball San Antonio          

Who they serve: Youth in South San Antonio.

What they do: The San Antonio chapter of Boy With a Ball uses its after-school program, “Velocity Cross Age Mentoring Program,” to recruit and train high school students to mentor middle school peers. In an effort to break the mold of generational poverty, mentors also have access to community volunteers who coach them in practical needs such as college readiness, job training and other life skills. These students also spend six weeks designing and executing a weeklong summer camp for younger students in low-income government housing units on the city’s South side. 

Dee Howard Foundation   

Who they serve: Women and other minority and underserved students.

What they do: With a focus on developing women and other minority and underserved students, the Dee Howard Foundation exists to build on the legacy of Dee Howard, a pioneer in the aviation industry and an inventor. The foundation has several principal initiatives, including the San Antonio Aviation and Aerospace Hall of Fame Annual Awards Dinner, the Pre-K through 12 Aeronautical STEM Pathway Initiative, the DHF/UTSA Annual Student Art Contest, and the UTSA Aerospace Engineering Initiative. As part of the Pre-K through 12 programming, Dee Howard Foundation also partners with the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA). 

Culturingua                     

Who they serve: High school students.

What they do: Culturingua provides high school students a platform to work with a team of peers from around the world, find and use their voice to create a solution for a global issue that they are passionate about. The issues they choose are tied to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Students present their solutions to the San Antonio entrepreneurship community in partnership with LaunchSA. This program supports social emotional learning competencies such as self-awareness through recognition of passion, self-management by showing collective agency to make decisions on a global challenge, relationship skills by establishing healthy ones with their peers and responsible decision-making. 

San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT)

Who they serve: K-12 students.

What they do: SAMSAT exists to inspire innovation through STEM programming, education and training. Together with Communities in Schools (CIS) of San Antonio and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, SAMSAT founded and runs “SA Smart: The Mayor’s K-12 Smart City Challenge,” an annual competition that positions students as scientific, civic and business leaders by having them address challenges that face San Antonio between now and 2040, as seen in the SA Tomorrow plan. Students form teams, identify localized examples of problems, conduct research and deliver persuasive proposals. In the process, students learn interdisciplinary skills in problem solving and innovation and they learn not to accept the world as it is but to work to change the world on their terms.

Guadalupe Community Center                   

Who they serve: K-12 students.

What they do: The Guadalupe Community Center’s After-School Program (ASP) provides free tutoring, extracurricular activities and fresh meals to promote youth education and character development. Throughout the year, ASP delivers 40 workshops that encourage leadership through character-building activities and lesson plans. These lessons involve an activity, short video, round table discussion and end with a short quiz to measure retention of key points in the lesson. Lessons cover a range of topics such as mental health, college interest, leadership and social justice. 

Communities In Schools of San Antonio (CIS)

Who they serve: General student population.

What they do: Communities In Schools of San Antonio takes the resources students need into classrooms. Being rooted in the power of relationships, CIS has invested in training its staff on Search Institute’s Developmental Relationships Framework. One element from the Framework that staff is trained to implement intentionally and inclusively with students is “Sharing Power.” In practice, sharing power might manifest as CIS Site Coordinators incorporating student voice as they plan group activities, community service projects and school-wide services. Some CIS programs have youth leadership components explicitly built-in.

YMCA of Greater San Antonio

Who they serve: The San Antonio community with a focus on youth development.

What they do: As part of the YMCA’s Y Teen Achievers, participants in the Youth in Government (YG) program have the opportunity to discover how the government functions, including understanding the context while analyzing its response to current issues. By taking on the roles of attorneys and civic leaders, participants in the YG program benefit from knowledge gained and enhanced confidence, further boosting their development as individuals and leaders. The YMCA uses youth voice through its assessments on food insecurity, social-emotional well-being and supportive relationships.   

Good Samaritan Community Services

Who they serve: Youth, individuals and families.

What they do: Good Samaritan’s Youth Advisory Committee is student-led, with annual elections with one-year terms for President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Historian. The committee provides youth between 13 and 17 a vehicle to build a sense of purpose, explore their interests and find their voice. The committee participates in service projects and plays a key role in organizational decisions.  

Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas

Who they serve: Girls and young women.

What they do: Through the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, young girls develop their character and self-reliance through organized leadership development activities. Through structured programs and positive adult guidance, girls develop a sense of responsibility while gaining an understanding of themselves and their potential. The Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE) is girl-led across all levels of participation and empowers girls to discover her own world as they develop a strong sense of self and strengthens their values; connect with others in the community as they form caring relationships and embrace diversity; and take action as they identify and solve problems.

Girls Incorporated of San Antonio                

Who they serve: Girls and young women.

What they do: Youth voice exists in every program at Girls Inc. to ensure girls can lead and be agents of change within their community. The organization’s work with UP Partnership/Our Tomorrow allows girls in Girls Inc. programs such as Mentors Valuing Peers (MVP) and Eureka! to plan and participate in the annual Youth Voice Summit to strengthen their voices, practice their leadership and decision-making skills. 

YWCA of San Antonio      

Who they serve: Young women.

What they do: YWCA San Antonio has engaged Youth in its Teen Service Learning (TSL) and Mi Carrera programs in leadership and decision-making within the organization. Annually, TSL youth plan events related to MLK Day, including Pajama Jam, a youth Friday night “lock-in” in which teens listen to music, engage in readings about racial justice and create signs and banners for San Antonio’s annual MLK March. 

Artist Fellowship Grantees

Centers for Applied Science & Technology Network (CAST)

Who they serve: General student population.

What they do: A Monument for the People is a participatory art project that works with students to reimagine what monuments are and who they are for in our community. CAST began this project in fall 2020, with students from across five CAST Schools. Through a series of artist-led workshops, students will engage in facilitated discussion exploring the history of monuments in San Antonio and then have the opportunity to create their own monuments for people who have most impacted their lives. The project also amplifies youth mentoring by supporting young artists’ leadership development and peer mentors to facilitate workshops with younger students. 

Ecumenical Center for Religion and Health

Who they serve: Students at East Central High School.

What they do: This artist project, “Health and Harmony,” will engage students at East Central High School who are identified by the school guidance counselors as students who could use a mentor, benefit from a special connection with a young musician, use a friend and role model or benefit from learning to play a musical instrument. Three artist fellows, proficient in violin, cello, string bass, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, ukulele, drums or keyboard, will provide musical instruction and mentorship. Loaned instruments will be provided by the center. Students will be allowed to take these instruments home to play and enjoy.  

Guadalupe Community Center

Who they serve: Students at East Central High School.

What they do: The Guadalupe Community Center arts project will consist of a series of technical workshops that will introduce youth to different art techniques, history and their respective practical uses. The goal of each exercise will allow youth to use their new skills creatively and in the workforce or as an artist-entrepreneur. In addition to gaining new artistic skills, participants will inherently practice and develop other skills, including communication, critical thinking, teamwork, work ethic and leadership. Each technical workshop in the series will be completed in one to two weeks, with students meeting three days a week for three hours per day. 

Say Sí

Who they serve: General student population. 

What they do: The Artist Fellowship will reach Margil, Barkley-Ruiz, J.T. Brackenridge, De Zavala and Tafolla students in the proposed Youth Leadership ABC program. Up to 50 youth in the program’s first year will participate in weekly after-school workshops led by Fellowship artists. Students in the fall program, held September-October 2021, will experience consistent mentorship with the artists, engaging in workshops centered on youth voice and hands-on learning. Through each artist’s unique style and perspective, youth will be immersed in skills and community-building that encourages them to explore their own talents, work and learn alongside professional artists and see themselves as creative leaders. 

The San Antonio Area Foundation proudly addresses equitable recovery and economic mobility through equitable education. Learn more how the Youth Leadership Development Grants in partnership with Blue Meridian Partners has been committed over two years to reverse disparities in San Antonio.

Paulina Sosa is the Senior Storytelling Manager at UP Partnership, a close working partner of the Area Foundation. Both organizations are teaming up in the execution of an $8 million grant to improve the educational attainment of our area’s at-risk youth.