Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards

Detroit kids are rich with ideas to boost well-being 

Detroit youth have a bounty of ideas to support well-being, and half a million dollars to bring them to life.  

The Skillman Foundation is funding 40 projects designed and led by young people to support the social, emotional, and mental well-being of their peers.  

The selected projects, proposed by Detroit youth between the ages of 9-23, represent a range of wellness activities and approaches including:   

  • Safe spaces for wellness and reflection 
  • Artistic and creative expression 
  • Peer mentorship 
  • Youth leadership  
  • Physical activity 
  • Shaping narratives about Detroit youth and their well-being 
  • Programming geared toward specific identity groups  

Grants range in amount from $5,000 to $20,000. Applicants whose proposals were not selected (which account for 21 of 61 submissions) received a $500 award to encourage continued development of their idea. In total, the youth-led wellness small grants program awarded $544,521. Awardees are listed at the bottom of the page. 

Photo by Makian Chamblis

The grant opportunity was created in response to a demand for wellness supports for kids and the adults who care for them that grew when the COVID pandemic hit. Emotional and mental well-being became a top need The Skillman Foundation heard from youth service providers, educators, and young people themselves.  

National surveys have reflected the same concerns. In an American Psychological Association survey, 1 in 3 Gen Z youth said that their mental health was worse in 2020 than in 2019—the greatest increase among all generations. In a 2021 Gen Z Insights study by EY, 42% of Gen Z respondents expressed that they usually or always felt anxious or depressed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The EY study also found that Gen Z youth are more likely than other generations to talk about their problems and seek out help. 

The youth-led wellness grants are part of a Wellness Works Initiative the Foundation launched in 2020. Under the Wellness Works Initiative, The Skillman Foundation has granted approximately $4 million, including to support wellness within youth-serving nonprofits and schools, and among school principals.  

Youth-Led Wellness Project Awardees 

Youth applicants partnered with a local nonprofit of their choosing to submit their proposal.  

To nurture strong youth-adult partnerships, where young people take the lead, The Skillman Foundation engaged Neutral Zone to provide training sessions, resources for collaboration, trust-building and leadership development, and ongoing project support.  

Awardees are listed by project category  

Safe Spaces for Wellness and Reflection  

The Learning Group  Launch the youth-led Reading with a Twist Book Club for elementary school girls to expand opportunities to read about topics of interest, have discussion in a welcoming environment, learn from peers about coping with challenges, and learn group facilitation.  
Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance  Create a youth-led wellness room equipped with Zen and calming activities to offer a mental reset to youth ages 10-17 and equip them with tools and resources to encourage strong mental health.  
Urban Neighborhood Initiatives  Create the Youth Wellness and Empowerment Hub at All Saints Neighborhood Center which will provide a room for youth to decompress and meditate, while having a second space to host wellness workshops.  
We Are Culture Creators  Create a safe space to share our culture through music, art, and wellness at the La Esquina indoor/outdoor community space through activities including meditation sessions, sharing circles, yoga, guided journal prompts and Zumba.  
MACC Development  Create a video game and arcade room for youth and operated by youth to be a place for youth to hangout, unwind, and have fun together after a long time of being apart. 
Detroit Police Athletic League  Create a wellness room that offers youth a safe and welcoming environment for a range of wellness activities, support a wellness walk to raise awareness, and produce a youth wellness summit event.  
Crazy Creativez  Create safe opportunities for girls to build connection and explore their passions through a range of activities and workshops.  
Detroit Friends and Family- Nobody Left Behind  Co-design a cross-neighborhood healing retreat that creates a therapeutic and safe environment for Black youth leaders exposed to neighborhood violent trauma in the 48205 zip code.  
Detroit Friends and Family- Saving My Brothers  Co-design cross-neighborhood healing retreat that creates a therapeutic and safe environment for Black youth leaders exposed to neighborhood violent trauma in the 48224 zip code.  
Islamic Center of Detroit  Create a designated wellness room for mental health and wellness programming, workshops, lectures, and other wellness activities.  
Bailey Park Project  Expand programs and services to include Health and Wellness education opportunities through a series of workshops to include art therapy, physical fitness, mental health/wellness, nutrition and physical wellness, and substance abuse.  
Eastside Community Network  Support its cooking program through the redesign of its kitchen within its Teen Center, known as The Vault, to supply access to fresh and healthy meals to the community and expose youth to entrepreneurship through careers in the food and hospitality industries.  

Artistic and Creative Expression  

WHOH Detroit  Create a youth-led media/studio room at WHOH where young people can safely make music and creative videos to express themselves.  
Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency  Connect middle school students across four program sites to build community and experience wellness through art, athletics, archery, and Adowa dance.    
Mint Artists Guild  Provide youth-led art therapy sessions in parks and other calm, safe settings to enhance wellness, reduce stress, and encourage resilience and hope.  
Wayne State University- Center for Urban Studies  Support youth wellness through engagement in creative arts and exposure to cultural institutions amplifying underrepresented voices.  

Peer Mentorship  

A Girl Like Me  Provide self-care and mental health wellness workshops, wellness activities (e.g., yoga and cooking classes, nature walks), and hygiene kits to young mothers and their children.  
Life Remodeled  Support a peer-led year-long wellness mentoring program with Central High School students and Durfee Elementary-Middle school supported by wellness-focused Durfee Innovation Center partners who provide health and wellness services.  
Strategic Community Partners Youth Advisory Council  Train youth advisory council members in Youth Mental Health First Aid and become Youth Minds Matter Ambassadors at partnering Detroit schools.  
New City Kids-Detroit  Support peer learning and wellness activities through academic supports, an offsite wellness retreat, and youth-led community wellness event.  
The Children’s Center of Wayne County  Create an art therapy and youth-led focus group series on a variety of topics including physical and mental health, community and environment safety, nutrition, social media, and financial well-being.  

Youth Leadership  

Steen Foundation  Implement a youth-led wellness study and youth wellness fellowship to design solutions around study findings; and host a wellness mural challenge.  
Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan  Support a partnership between DAYUM, Black Lives Matter in All Capacities, and Youth Voices Action Coalition to facilitate healing and restorative circles, wellness events, and mutual aid.  
Developing KIDS  Support a two-day wellness event for high school student across the city of Detroit that will include a day of fun field activities and a wellness day with various self-care activities with the goal that youth start the school year with a clear mind and heart. 
Communities First, Inc.  Support youth-designed service-learning projects based on an immersive and exploratory experiences of issues that align with their personal passion and interest.  

Physical Activity   

1 Michigan for the Global Majority  Support a youth-led series that centers connection and community building through the shared experiences of “cuisine, amor (love) languages, يمرح & Mureeh relaxing.” Youth will share a community meal and take part in a fun wellness activity 1-2 times per month.  
SER Metro  Create safe opportunities where youth can gather, create, and work together through a physical fitness challenge, hiking, and outdoor excursions to the Metroparks, and re-engage in the Eastern Market cooking class.  
Destined for Greatness!  Support youth-led mental health and wellness activities including physical, mental, and emotional health to help youth feel better, connected, heard, and rejuvenated.  

Shaping Narratives About Detroit Youth & Their Well-Being   

Be-Moor Radio Institute  Launch a student-led radio station to produce a school-based public information and awareness campaign to inform and introduce health and wellness issues not generally discussed in school.  
Detroit Heals Detroit   Produce a social documentary titled “The Other Side of Pain” to highlight what healing looks like for Detroit youth through Detroit Heals Detroit’s Healing Circles Curriculum and programming.  
Congress of Communities  Provide training for youth to facilitate youth-led wellness activities, host intergenerational conversations with adults in southwest Detroit about social justice topics such as de-stigmatizing mental health and create physical space to host workshops in the Youth-Drive Community Center.  
Future 4 Teens  Engage youth through social media in comprehensive grassroots mental health awareness initiative through a series of community conversations in order to reduce the stigma of mental health and create a culture of care and support.  
Cass Corridor Neighborhood Development Corporation  Create a short film to show the sides of youth mental health that are not effectively expressed through words and host a film screening and youth dialogue about mental health experiences to break down the barrier of isolation.  

Programming Geared Toward Specific Identity Groups  

Women of Banglatown  Design a prayer space with a washroom for Muslim women at Women of Banglatown’s center to allow young women to show up as their full selves and pray at Women of Banglatown.  
Association for the Advancement of Deaf-Hard of Hearing  Host a series of youth-led pop-up shops run by deaf and hard of hearing youth to bridge the gap between the Deaf and Hearing youth by providing healthy food options, resources, and engaging activities for both.  
Signing with Khy  Create an American Sign Language mental health book, art therapy program, and mini docuseries on mental health in the deaf/hard-of-hearing community.  
Detroit’s Muslim Youth Council  Provide wellness workshop and retreats to increase a sense of belonging for the Muslim students and their communities in our hometown of Detroit.  
Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation Engage LGBTQ+ youth though the Club Mariposa support group to create a safe haven for LGBTQ+ youth to be leaders in their community and address the trauma they experience growing up in a society that discriminates against their identities.  
Au-Some City 313  Support a peer youth sports program for youth with autism and general education students to build community through sports.  
Developing Despite Distance  Support improved wellness and self-care for young men affected by parental incarceration through group counseling, fitness and nutrition workshops, and a spa experience.  
The Skillman Foundation

The Skillman Foundation is a grantmaking organization established in 1960 by Rose Skillman. We have granted out more than $730 million and have served as a vocal advocate to strengthen K-12 education, afterschool programming, child-centered neighborhoods, youth and community leadership, and racial equity and justice.

We are in the process of developing a new strategic framework, co-designed with Detroit youth and their champions.

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