the skillman foundation
The Skillman Foundation tasked 13 young Detroiters with figuring out how to award more than $100,000 in grants. (Provided by The Skillman Foundation)

A philanthropic foundation asked a group of Detroit youth how they would award $100,000 and they came back with an action plan.

Thirteen young Detroiters selected 15 nonprofits in the city — from mentorship programs to sports teams — to receive grants from the Skillman Foundation. They were tasked with figuring out, through research and collaboration with one another, how to allocate thousands of dollars in grant funding.

“We told them that we are actually putting $100,000 on the table and they are in the driver’s seat,” said Angelique Power, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation.

The group of young people, ages 13 to 22 years old, are part of a youth council put together by the foundation to inform the nonprofit’s leadership on young people’s needs. This is the first time the Skillman Foundation has handed over the reins this way to young people, Power said.

“They’re the first to tell you that they want to use their voice. They don’t want to be asked, they want to be part of designing solutions. They’re the first to tell you that they see what’s working, and what’s not working,” she said.

Mosammad Jahan, a senior at Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine, got to decide where thousands of dollars would go.

Mosammad Jahan, an 18-year-old senior at Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine, got to decide where thousands of dollars in grant funding from the Skillman Funding would go. (Provided by The Skillman Foundation)

“I feel like our voices and our desires and advocacy was really heard,” said Mosammad, 18, of Detroit.

The 15 organizations Mosammad and her peers nominated were focused on helping Detroit youth grow, develop and learn, she said. The group also advocated for $5,000 more dollars to be added to the initial $100,000 pool of grant dollars.

Mosammad selected two organizations. Bringing Hope Back Home, a mentorship program for Detroit youth, received $12,500. The youth council awarded Alternatives for Girls, a nonprofit helping homeless and high-risk girls and young women, $5,000.

As a student from an immigrant household who doesn’t have siblings who pursued higher education, she recognized how important it is for high schoolers to have a support system as they go to college.

That’s the reason Bringing Hope Back Home — a Detroit-based nonprofit founded in 2017 by a 16-year-old high school graduate — stood out to Mossamad.

“It meant so much to me and my team that it was Detroit youth that made this happen,” said Oluwakemi Dauda, 21, founder and executive director of Bringing Hope Back Home. “It was Detroit youth who were able to have their voices heard, and their opinions seen and their desires met. I think that’s what made this even more special.”

Bringing Hope Back Home helps young people, primarily in Detroit, as they transition to college. This happens through webinars on SAT preparation, essay editing, how to manage test anxiety, internships and job opportunities.

Dauda, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan and alum of the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine, hopes to use the Skillman Foundation award to expand outreach efforts.

“Often what happens in foundations is that we — from our positions of privilege and power — impose ideas of metrics, of what impact is supposed to look like, and really what this is about are young people, telling other people who are champions of young people, you’re doing good work, we see you, you’re amazing,” Power said.

Here are the nonprofits that received a $5,000 or $12,500 grant:

  • Bringing Hope Back Home
  • Detroit Heals Detroit
  • SDM2 Project Education
  • Warrior Women Against Poverty
  • Afrofuture Youth
  • Alternatives for Girls
  • CASOE
  • Chapel Vision CDC
  • Clark Park Coalition
  • Congress of Communities
  • Covenant House Michigan
  • Detroit’s Muslim Youth Council
  • East Warren Bills
  • Midnight Golf
  • Saint Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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