Council Update: High school students empowered by unique grant-making project

Boynton Beach – High school students from Belle Glade and Pahokee became leaders in their communities as grant designers and makers thanks to a unique project funded by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County.

Participating in the grant-making project through the Student ACES organization changed students’ lives, they told the CSC board Thursday, by helping them find their voice and empowering them to make change.

“I didn’t know I was going to get asked questions – that someone was going to ask me, ‘What do you think?’ I didn’t expect that,” said Veranza “Trey” Vereen.

 “It helped me be a leader,” Madeline Moore concurred. “Our ideas turned to actions.”

Through the Glades Student Grant-Making Association (GSGA), 12 teens were tasked with designing a grant-making opportunity for local nonprofits. The teens researched the grant-making process as well as the needs in their community, outlined criteria for the application and then determined which nonprofits would receive funding. In all, they awarded $35,000 to seven nonprofits focused on supporting a healthier, more youth-centered community.

The students told the council they learned how important it was to understand the different demographics in their community, get to the root causes of problems and work together as a team – even dispelling the perceived rivalry between Belle Glade and Pahokee.

 “I learned how to work better with others,” said Delonus “Scooter” Kabir.

The project also inspired Madeline Moore, Chaniya Dowers and Ramyia Johnson to start their own nonprofit to mentor middle school girls in their community.

“I never even knew what a grant was before this program,” Ramyia Johnson said, amazed that she and the other girls are now organizing their own mentoring program.

In other business

Mentoring: Recognizing that mentoring measurably improves children’s lives, Children’s Services Council’s board on Thursday proclaimed January as Mentoring Awareness Month and increased funding for mentor programs.

Children with mentors are 52 percent less likely to skip a day of school and 55 percent more likely to enroll in college, according to the National Mentoring Partnership. Additionally, mentored youth are 46 percent less likely to start using drugs and 27 percent less likely to start drinking.

In Palm Beach County, about 4,500 youth currently have mentors through the United Way Mentor Center, which is funded in part by Children’s Services Council. This includes more than 900 children who are matched with mentors through 13 programs that receive CSC funding.

This is the highest number of children assigned to mentors since the Center was established in 2012.

Yet nearly 1,080 children remain on a wait list. While that’s a 15-percent drop from last year, the Council on Thursday approved increased funding for mentoring programs in the 2019-2020 fiscal year by $150,000 (to $1,757,735). Children to be served include those in foster care or in the child welfare system, those at risk of dropping out of high school, those with disabilities and those who are homeless.

In its most recent competitive bid for mentoring programs, United Way of Palm Beach County’s Mentor Center received 31 applications, which totaled more than $2.3 million in requested funds. The increased funding from CSC means United Way can help support, at a minimum, 100 new mentor-mentee matches.

The Mentor Center also serves as the anchor of the Palm Beach County Mentor Network, a professional group of 42 formal mentor programs working together to elevate mentoring in the community.

Booksgiving: To honor Palm Beach County teachers, Children’s Services Council held Booksgiving on Nov. 16, providing free books to elementary school teachers and media specialists. The response to the first-time event was amazing! About 345 teachers and school staff from 83 different public elementary schools received 17,100 books. Teachers waited in a line that snaked around CSC’s building before the doors opened, and all the books were gone in 90 minutes.

Great Ideas Initiative: In a year-end review, staff informed the Council that 17 of the 20 2018 awardees completed their projects within budget and on time. Due to differences between projected and actual costs, three organizations were granted extensions to expend all of their awarded dollars. Overall, the 2018 GII resulted in:

  • Middle and high school students learning how to turn their ideas into entrepreneurship opportunities
  • 400 youth from West Palm Beach and Delray Beach transforming negative social and emotional triggers into calm and effective choices
  • Children participating in free visual arts, music immersion, and dance and drama performances
  • More than 250 Black middle and high school boys participating in experiential learning sessions, community service learning projects and volunteering to promotion social and emotional learning
  • 21 students working in partnership with the Florida Atlantic University’s National Society of Black Engineers and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers to compete in a national robotics league
  • Pre-K through 12th grade students learning the power of kindness and compassion by giving to others
  • 68 youth receiving free theater and music training, and performing in five major productions
  • English language-learner preschoolers starting their journey to literacy
  • Much more!

In addition, GII awardees were invited to participate in Nonprofits First’s 101 for the 501 workshop series to strengthen their administrative and operational capacity. Awardees also participated in the 1st Annual Great Ideas Initiative Networking Breakfast.

The 2018 GII Growth Fund, available to previous GII recipients, ended with four of the six organizations completing their capacity-building initiatives on time and within budget. Two organizations were granted extensions through the end of 2019.


About Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County

The Council is a local, special-purpose government created by Palm Beach County voters in 1986 and reauthorized in 2014. For more than 30 years, it has provided leadership, funding, services and research on behalf of the county’s children so they grow up healthy, safe and strong.

If you have questions related to Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County and/or media inquiries, please contact Shana Cooper, Public Information Officer.