Leaders of Tomorrow: Area Foundation Grants Strengthen Youth Programs

By Kiko Martinez

SAN ANTONIO — Putting to good use their new Area Foundation Youth Leadership Development (YLD) grants, the YMCA of Greater San Antonio, Good Samaritan Community Services and Communities in Schools – San Antonio are all doing their part to build our community’s future leaders.

With its grant, the YMCA of Greater San Antonio is supporting its YTeen Achievers and Youth and Government programs. The YTeen Achievers program gives teens a safe place to participate in indoor and outdoor activities and offers them a way to build on leadership skills and character development. The Youth and Government program strengthens youth leadership through the participation in model governments, so they can develop their critical thinking and communication skills and learn about civic issues.

“Especially during this tumultuous time that teens are experiencing through the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to provide a program targeting teens leadership and their decision-making process is invaluable,” said the YMCA’s Anabel Spencer, noting that this year, YTeen Achieversenrolled 160 youth into the program. “[We have] always been more than just a gym – filling gaps and supporting critical needs in ways that no other organization can. Our work is needed now more than ever.”

At Good Samaritan Community Services, the YLD grant will help expand the organization’s leadership opportunities through its Youth Advisory Committee (YAC). The YAC encourages youngsters to “build a sense of purpose, explore their interests and find their voice.” Good Samaritan CEO Simon Salas said the next step is to introduce higher-level concepts into the program like research and data analyzation.

“Participating in YAC lets youth learn about formal and informal leadership roles, how to advocate for their projects and positions, how to execute plans and how to share power, among other things,” Salas said. “The question we ask ourselves with respect to new or emerging programs is, ‘How will this program make someone’s life better?’”

Funding from the grant will also support the site coordinators at Communities in Schools – San Antonio. These coordinators work in managing complex campus-level brokerage efforts and coordinating services from coalition partners. Their work advances racial equity and elevates youth as leaders in their communities. Site coordinators address the educational, social service and mental health needs of at-risk students.

“Site coordinators incorporate student voices as they plan group activities, community service projects, and school wide services,” said Chief Strategy Officer Lauren Geraghty. “They have all case managed students identify and set their own academic, wellness, and future goals. They provide an individual needs assessment for every case managed student, allowing us to tailor services and resources to meet each participant’s unique needs.”

The Area Foundation is able to support the work of hundreds of wonderful nonprofit organizations such as the ones featured in this article thanks to the tremendous generosity of philanthropists and donors who believe in giving back to their community. We’re humbled and honored to be their conduit to turn their charitable goals into reality. Learn more about our various giving options and programs here. Curious? Want to learn more? Just reach out and we’ll be happy to connect you with a member of our Development and Donor Services team.

Francisco “Kiko” Martinez is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and member of the San Antonio Area Foundation Marketing and Communications Department’s new Storytelling Ambassador contributor network.