Grant funding provides almost $500,000 to more than a dozen community organizations

More than a dozen youth-serving community nonprofit organizations were selected for first-ever Youth Leadership Development grants as part of a large-scale $8 million effort to ensure that all youngsters in our area grow up with a real chance to reach their dreams.

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The San Antonio Area Foundation, in conjunction with UP Partnership, announce nearly $500,000 in new grant funding to 15 nonprofits whose work encompasses supporting and uplifting our youth. It’s the first round of two-year grants from the Area Foundation with funding stemming from a national grant program.

As part of this unprecedented infusion for nonprofits serving youth in the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods of San Antonio, the national program awarded the Area Foundation $2.1 million and $5.9 million to UP Partnership. The second round of Area Foundation grants, boosting nonprofits focused on workforce development, are expected to be rolled out in Fall 2021.

“Our city has some of the nation’s strongest youth advocates who drive the importance of centering youth voice and equity,” said Patricia Mejia, the Area Foundation’s Vice President for Community Engagement and Impact. “This competitive process allows us to partner with these incredible organizations to reverse disparities experienced by our city’s youth.”

Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, Executive Director at UP Partnership, said it’s gratifying to see many great nonprofits of all sizes getting this tremendous shot in the arm through Area Foundation grants.

“Young people must be supported to use their voices and grow their leadership skills, especially during these critical years after the pandemic,” Lugalia-Hollon said. “This kind of partnership is what collective impact is all about — when we move together, we create a more equitable San Antonio.”

One of the Youth Leadership Development grant recipients is The Lemonade Circle. The nonprofit’s mission is centered around empowering young women to achieve their highest potential through hands-on activities such as civic and public service, community outreach and volunteerism.

Fatimah Rasul, a senior at Steele High School, joined The Lemonade Circle in July 2020 and has seen up close the positive impact of the organization’s work.

“My involvement has allowed me the opportunity to serve on various committees at the local, state and national levels … it has given me a platform to use my voice and participate in projects that allow me to better serve my community,” said Rasul, 18. “That’s how we make lemonade!”

Leaders of other nonprofit organizations selected for Youth Leadership Development grants expressed sheer joy and gratitude after receiving the news. Given the remaining uncertainty in funding due to the pandemic, they said these grants demonstrate a vote of confidence in the Area Foundation’s pledge to help build the next generation of community leaders in San Antonio.

“This grant provides resources for our after-school program, Velocity, where teens mentor younger, low-income students,” said Sergio Gonzalez, City Director with Boy With a Ball San Antonio. During the summer, the teen mentors design and hold a weeklong camp for their young charges. “We believe in their leadership because they are taking on the challenge of undoing the warped, hindering ideas of life offered by the neighborhood in which they grew up.”

Giving local disadvantaged youth the opportunity to literally connect with the world around them is what Culturingua is all about. Nadia Mavrakis, the nonprofit’s CEO, said Area Foundation funding will only help strengthen the organization’s work.

“This grant supports Culturingua’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Journey, a virtual exchange program that enables San Antonio’s youth to find and exercise their voices in leadership and decision making to solve the world’s biggest challenges,” Mavrakis said. “It enables students to apply their academic knowledge in a real-world situation to support career readiness while connecting cross-geography peers based on shared passions and interests.”

In all, the Area Foundation’s Youth Leadership Development grant funding program involves 15 nonprofit organizations, with four receiving additional Artist Fellowship funding. The Artist Fellowship supports art-based strategies for collaborations between an individual artist or artist collective and youth participants hosted by the nonprofit grantee.

Besides The Lemonade Circle, Boy With a Ball San Antonio and Culturingua, the remaining grant recipients are: Dee Howard FoundationSA SmartGuadalupe Community CenterCommunities in Schools San AntonioYMCA of Greater San AntonioGood Samaritan Center of San AntonioGirls Scouts of Southwest TexasGirls Incorporated of San AntonioYWCA San AntonioCenters for Applied Science & TechnologyEcumenical Center for Religion and Health and SAY SI.