Organizations to tackle issues including racial profiling, access to public transportation and mental health
Bright Promises Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to funding and supporting programs that help at-risk children and youth in the metropolitan Chicago area, has selected five local youth-led organizations — all of which are run by young people ages 13 to 24 — to receive $10,000 grants to help them tackle issues that affect youth in Chicago.
The five finalists are the Arab American Action Network, Northwest Side Housing Association, The National Museum of Mexican Art, Storycatchers Theatre, and TrueStar Media. The final grant recipients will receive their awards at Bright Promises’ 150th Anniversary Awards celebration on Oct. 15.
Here is a short description of each organization and what they are planning to do with the grant money:
- Arab American Action Network
The Arab American Action Network’s Youth Leadership Team is engaged in a Story Collection Project, where young people interview members of the Arab and Muslim community in Chicago about their experiences with racial profiling. They plan to use the grant money to purchase professional video and audio recording equipment to produce a video series showing the effects of racial profiling.
- National Museum of Mexican Art
The Yollocalli Youth Council is the youth initiative of the National Museum of Mexican Art. Yollocalli organizes several teen nights and other events at the museum and also offers scholarships for teens to attend art classes at the museum. Yollocalli plans to use the $10,000 to create a personalized photo booth that they will rent out to schools and other organizations, a revenue-generating project that will allow youth to work as photographers, set designers, and entrepreneurs.
- Northwest Side Housing Center
The Belmont Cragin Youth Leadership Council, which is part of the Northwest Side Housing Center, improves the quality of life for people in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood through leadership development and community-organizing skills training for youth. Currently, the students are working on improving access to public transportation for other students in the neighborhood. They plan to use the grant money to help provide safe transportation options to youth from low-income households by purchasing Ventra cards and bikes for youth in their community.
- Storycatchers Theatre
Storycatchers Theatre engages young people who have been involved with the justice system to use theater to tell their stories and heal from traumatic experiences. They plan to use the $10,000 to hold workshops with Chicago Police Department recruits that help the police have a better understanding of their backgrounds and challenges in order to improve communication and reduce violent interactions between the CPD and youth living in high-crime Chicago neighborhoods.
- TrueStar Media
True Star provides young people real-world work experience through the development of their own media. Students in the True Star program work alongside industry professionals, and all the media produced is produced by youth, who are learning from doing. They plan to use the $10,000 grant to produce a podcast and blog called “Lucid Dreams: My Life with… Anxiety, Depression and Suicidal Ideation” that features interviews with teens suffering from mental illnesses, a call for teens to share their own stories publically or anonymously, videos with coping mechanisms, and information about additional resources.
Each of the finalists was selected from a group of 23 organizations that participated in Bright Promises’ Educating Youth Voices Non-Profit Fair, held on June 1. In order to participate in the fair, youth leaders were asked to submit a video where they explained how they would use the $10,000 grant to solve a specific problem facing their community.
“We were so impressed by the passion, dedication and vision of these young people and we are proud to support them as they try to make a difference in the lives of other young people in Chicago,” says Iris Krieg, Executive Director of Bright Promises Foundation.
Bright Promises Foundation decided to launch the Elevating Youth Voices Initiative in honor of the organization’s 150th anniversary.
“We have been dedicated to improving the lives of children and young people in Chicago since 1869, and we thought, what better way to celebrate our 150th anniversary than by hearing from young people themselves about the issues that are affecting them the most?” Krieg says.
Bright Promises Foundation is one of the oldest social service agencies in Illinois. Originally named the Illinois Humane Society, the organization was founded with a mission of improving the lives of both children and animals in Chicago’s burgeoning metropolis.
Today, Bright Promises offers grants and guidance to a wide array of nonprofit organizations. The organization consults experts across various fields relating to children throughout to determine which issues are most underfunded and under-recognized. In the last decade, the organization has funded issues including early childhood education, childhood obesity, childhood trauma, social-emotional learning and more.
“We are proud of the legacy we have created over the last 150 years,” Krieg says. “We hope that by continuing to support these important initiatives, we will create a brighter future for all children.”