Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards

Detroit youth send $200,000 to education and mental health programs

The Skillman Foundation President’s Youth Council was given $200,000 to grant out to nonprofits serving Detroit youth. The teens decided to fund 15 organizations, focused on education and mental health.

Participating in two-year terms, youth serving on the President’s Youth Council are tasked with distributing large sums of money to youth-serving organizations throughout Detroit. Aged 12 to 23, council members research, propose, and vote on where to direct funding. In addition, council members lead and take part in public discussions on policy and social change issues and meet with Skillman Foundation leadership bi-monthly. Council members are compensated for their time.

Ryan Mallory-Williams, a violinist passionate about the intersections of social justice and the arts, exclaimed, “It feels good to know that I have a voice. Together, the President’s Youth Council is committed to really listening to each other. This experience is teaching me how to communicate better.”

The Skillman Foundation President & CEO Angelique Power recently wrote that youth power is the story of our time. Turns out, the youth agree.

“This is my responsibility,” says Rielly Rudolph, an aspiring Detroit architect serving on the President’s Youth Council. “As a Detroiter, I hear the concerns about where we want to see change. I want to be a part of the decisions, a part of the community.”  

Council Member Raigan Smith will be a surgeon one day, and presently mentors young girls as a volunteer cheer coach. She explained that the benefits of the President’s Youth Council have a deep impact: the youth council members benefit in experience; the organizations selected benefit in funding. Raigan said, “As kids of the city [of Detroit], we have the power to teach other people about this opportunity so they can benefit personally and also help more organizations.” 

The selected organizations are listed below with council members’ commentary about the importance of education and mental health programs in the lives of Detroit youth.

2023 President’s Youth Council Grants

ACCESS – JIRON ($12,500)

Wally Alhomaidi chose the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services – Join In to Revitalize Our Neighborhood program because he personally experienced and continues to see the opportunities the program offers youth, particularly Arab youth, in Detroit. ACCESS – JIRON is an initiative that mobilizes residents to create positive change in their Detroit neighborhoods by helping residents build advocacy, leadership, and civic engagement skills.

Association for the Advancement of Deaf and Hard of Hearing ($18,750)

Khyiana Tate nominated the Association for the Advancement of Deaf and Hard of Hearing because it has done a lot for deaf youth and their families. Tate says she would like to see more programming come to life with this grant, especially increased capacity for a new emergency house for the deaf.

Building Better Men ($6,250)

Ian Robinson decided on Building Better Men because of first-hand experience of the benefits that mentoring and academic support programs can provide for students. He believes that more opportunities like this should be available to youth in the city of Detroit.

Caleb’s Kids ($12,500)

Khyiana Tate selected Caleb’s Kids because she feels that mental health services for youth are really needed in Detroit. Khyiana emphasizes the importance of inclusive connection, saying, “Caleb’s Kids makes sure to include everyone by providing interpreters at programs for deaf youth to attend.”

Class Act Detroit ($18,750)

King Bethel chose Class Act Detroit with a strong belief that the future of the program can be promising for his community. “I feel as though every child should have some type of art form in their lives,” he stated. Class Act Detroit provides after-school tutoring and arts for youth. These funds will support facility improvements for Class Act Detroit programming as well.

Color of Autism Foundation Incorporated ($12,500)

Ian Robinson nominated the Color of Autism Foundation because he feels that resources and support can often be hard to find for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum. “My family has experienced this directly and I have seen how access to the type of programming provided by Color of Autism Foundation can positively impact both the child and their family,” he said.

Covenant House Michigan ($18,750)

Raigan Smith decided on Covenant House Michigan because she knows it to be an organization that will help, love, and support Detroit Youth in every way. Raigan says that “Covenant House Michigan is an exceptional choice” for funding because the staff makes sure no youth is overlooked in Detroit “even when youth don’t have the resources.”

Detroit Food Academy ($12,500)

Ava White selected Detroit Food Academy, stating its determination to uplift Detroit’s youth as the main reason. “Detroit Food Academy [staff are] open to accepting ideas from youth in their program, which is crucial when creating a space where young people are free to express themselves. By allowing children to expand their skills in culinary arts [and] entrepreneurship, Detroit Food Academy is actively cultivating the next generation of young entrepreneurs,” Ava says.

Girls Rock Detroit ($12,500)

Ryan Mallory-Williams nominated Girls Rock Detroit, an organization with programming that aligns well with Ryan’s passion for music and the arts. Ryan said, “I believe that everyone should have access to music, just as I have.” He knows first-hand how beneficial to growth and character development music and art can be.

Hope Starts Here ($6,250)

Eva Burch wanted to support Hope Starts Here, an organization with  a range of essential initiatives that work to improve quality of life for Detroit’s youth and families. She says that Hope Starts Here offers incredible programming, inspiring Detroit youth to achieve their fullest potential.

Living Arts ($6,250)

Freddy Tores selected Living Arts because it teaches Detroit youth not only to be artists, but also “how to express themselves through art.” Living Arts also introduces professional artists to the youth. Freddy attested that this is very impactful, attracting youth to show up every day to learn more.

Michigan Student Power Alliance ($12,500)

The Michigan Student Power Alliance provides mentorship, skills training, and fellowship for emerging student organizers seeking radical change in Michigan’s higher education institutions. Eva Oleita said, “Working with Michigan Student Power Alliance was one of the most educational experiences,” and that this is an organization that really sticks to its values.

Renaissance City Chargers ($12,500)

Shamere Duncan chose to support the Renaissance City Chargers Athletic Association, a Detroit-based nonprofit specializing in youth athletics, performing arts, academic and career development, and mentoring. She believes in its mission to create safe, welcoming spaces for the next generation of Detroiters.

Sugar Honey Iced Tea ($18,750)

Sugar Honey Iced Tea fosters a welcoming and secure environment for conversation about safe sex and self-care for Detroit’s youth aged 13-25 through workshops, community outreach activities, open dialogues, social engagement events, and the provision of essential resources. Shamere Duncan said she chose to support Sugar Honey Iced Tea because of its “impeccable commitment to Detroit’s youth.”

Young Voices Action Collective  ($18,750)

Eva Oleita felt that supporting the Young Voices Action Collective financially is the way to thank the organization for its essential service to Detroit. The Young Voices Action Collective is a youth-led organizing cohort of young people with the drive to build power, share space, and make change in communities across the country. Eva uplifts the Young Voices Action Collective as an organization that “not only values the work and experiences of young people, but also keeps youth at the decision-making table.”

Look for more youth-directed funds to come from The Skillman Foundation and its President’s Youth Council.

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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