Detroit Food Academy is one of four nonprofits in southeast Michigan awarded a portion of $55,000 in grants for youth programming from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. (Detroit Food Academy Facebook photo)

Two weeks after a mass shooting at Michigan State University resulted in the deaths of three students and wounded five others, a Detroit-based philanthropic organization is granting $55,000 to four area nonprofits to support ongoing mental health and anti-violence efforts. 

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan on Monday announced youth-led grants for the metro Detroit organizations : Congress of Communities, Detroit Food & Entrepreneurship Academy, Clarence Phillips Ascend Organization, Inc., and Leaders Advancing and Helping Communities. 

The grants are part of a $100,000 pool of funds overseen by the Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee, which was formed after the mass shooting at Oxford High School in November 2021. The purpose of the Youth-to-Youth Community Solutions Fund is to help southeast Michigan schools tackle mental health, gun violence and school safety, the foundation noted in a news release. The latest round of grantmaking from the fund was supplemented by $15,000 from another youth-directed fund at the Community Foundation. 

“Our hearts are heavy for the students and families impacted by Feb. 13’s shooting at Michigan State University,” Community Foundation President Richard DeVore said in the release. “All youth in our region have experienced so much over the last few years, including COVID-19, the Oxford High School shooting, and ongoing threats of violence in their schools. They deserve the fundamental right to feel safe in school — to learn in a place where they can focus and maintain strong connections with friends. This remains a critical time for young people and families to have support, and to listen to youth about the change that they want to see around gun violence and school safety.”

Southwest Detroit youth-driven organization Congress of Communities was awarded $10,000, which will go toward a series of workshops on mental health as well as social and emotional well-being, Executive Director Maria Salinas said. The workshops, which are planned to start in April, will be a partnership with Healing By Choice, a group of women and non-conforming people of color who are health and healing practitioners. 

The grant will also be used to help fund the nonprofit’s Sprouts program, where members tend to a community garden as a way of bettering their mental health. 

Salinas noted that young people involved with Communities of Congress also have to take care of their physical health, as southwest Detroit is known for having one of the country’s most polluted ZIP codes. This has resulted in high rates of asthma, cancer and respiratory illnesses among its residents. 

“We have a lot of young people that are dealing with post-COVID situations with their own mental health, but on top of it, they have health issues and their families have health issues,” Salinas said. “So…we’re able with this money to bring in Healing By Choice workshops that will help us bring it all together.” 

Julie Wainwright, co-executive director of operations for the Detroit Food Academy, said the foundation grant will support DFA’s ongoing wellness programming for youth.

The after school culinary and leadership program serves more than 300 youth each year at school and community sites.

“The isolation of the pandemic and our tumultuous socio-political climate exacerbated the feelings of isolation, stress, and anxiety that young people have been coping with long before 2020,” Wainwright said in a statement to BridgeDetroit. “While many of the students who attend DFA programs display a passion for cooking or food, we find that the majority of youth join our programs as a way to connect with their peers and caring adults. This funding and our work with partners across the region allows us to build strong networks of growth and learning that truly benefit the youth of Detroit.”

Here is the amount each organization received: 

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