Going for Gold
Stoked to Serve youth volunteers at East River State Park
It’s easy to forget how extraordinary it is that most Olympians are barely out of high school. And it’s even more astounding when so many are still in their teens, and successfully rising to the challenges before them in spite of vast pressures put upon them by coaches, parents, and hundreds of millions of fans watching around the world.
Leadership and courage are not just reserved for Olympians. Here in Brooklyn, through our Education & Youth Achievement Fund, donors are backing programs that focus on building these qualities among all of our youth, especially those who face challenges greater than a 200m backstroke, four rounds of boxing, or scoring a perfect ten.
Particularly among kids coming from our low income neighborhoods, leadership, courage, and ambition are practical, necessary skills. And with the right coaches and mentors, they can take the heroic leaps that put them beyond the barriers of poverty, toward college and careers while making a difference in their communities.
This summer, across our borough, these critical programs are in action—redefining the camp experience and training participants to be champions in their own lives.
Headquartered in Downtown Brooklyn, Sadie Nash Leadership Project works with over 400 young women a year from across the five boroughs and Newark—most of whom live below the poverty line—to strengthen, empower, and equip them to be agents of change for themselves and the world around them.
Over the past three years, we’ve provided $85,000 to support their innovative youth development work, a highlight of which is their annual Summer Institute. Five days a week for six weeks, participants experience college-level courses and meet women role models. Most importantly they learn what it means to be a leader, and how they can become stronger leaders because of their life experiences, not in spite of them.
Pictured: Participants in Sadie Nash Leadership Project's Summer Institute. The organization is named after its founder's great-grandmother, a community leader and poverty activist.
“I tend to be quiet and not voice my opinion because I didn’t want people to laugh at me or get mad at me, but I think I have changed over the summer. I can’t wait until school starts so I can show them what I’m made of!”
– Summer Institute “Nasher”
Using skateboards and surfboards as tools for change, our grantees at Brooklyn-based Stoked Mentoring partner with public high schools in New York and LA to focus on youth development through action sports. Since 2009, we’ve given them $50,000 to further their year-round work, providing our teens with a new way of developing strong relationships with adult mentors over the summer, afterschool, and on weekends, while having fun and getting active in our great outdoors.
This summer, their mentors and students are surfing the Rockaways and greening parks, as part of their Surf Mentor and Stoked to Serve programs, respectively. At the beach, teens partner with responsible, positive role models, to learn to surf and take healthy risks in a safe environment. And by engaging in community service opportunities, teens get “swag” like gear and tickets to skateboarding events. It’s a win-win for all.
Stoked to Serve teens participate in a clean-up at East River State Park in Williamsburg. In exchange for three hours of service, they receive tickets to Street League Pro-Skateboarding Championship.
Students also have the chance to build their own skateboards, and work with artists and companies like Mountain Dew to create new designs and artwork that express their active sports lifestyle.
"I feel like for the first time people are listening to me, to my ideas. No one’s ever really done that."
- Jabari, 17
"I really like that I can be as creative as possible because I feel like I don't have another outlet for it."
- Jasmin, 15
While achieving serious aims, these programs are also about having fun. Earlier this week while visiting Sadie Nash’s Summer Institute, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn gave the young women this advice: “You can’t lead and inspire without having fun. Find the voices that tell you ‘you can do it’ and have confidence and passion for what you do. Confidence is a muscle. The more you practice, the stronger it gets.”
With your support of these innovative local programs through the Brooklyn Community Foundation, more Brooklyn teens are becoming Brooklyn champs and leading the way for a stronger future for us all.
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