CFHZ youth advisory committee gives $60,000 in grants to support racial equity

The latest round of grants from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area (CFHZ) was made by its Youth Advisory Committee (YAC). 

The grants support the teens’ vision of making a difference in their community.

“This grant opportunity allowed us to support several local organizations and their efforts to help create a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse community,” says YAC Chair Andrew Ky, a senior at West Ottawa High School. “It was important as a Youth Advisory Committee, especially now, to demonstrate our support and advocate for racial equity in the Holland/Zeeland area.”

The YAC is made up of 18-20 10th-12th graders from local high schools – Black River, Holland, Holland Christian, West Ottawa and Zeeland.  They are responsible for reviewing funding requests and recommending grants from the W.K. Kellogg Youth Fund, which is part of the foundation’s Community’s Endowment, for programs that benefit local area youth.

Funding more than doubles

In 2020, the YAC committed $25,000 of its funding for youth racial equity efforts as part of the Community’s Endowment response to a moment of opportunity to make progress toward racial equity in the Holland/Zeeland community.

Jessica Lynch is the staff adviser to the Youth Advisory Committee of the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area. Due to the overwhelmingly positive response YAC received to their request for proposals, members committed an additional $25,000 of their 2021 funding, and sought additional matching funds from the CFHZ Board of Trustees. 

As a result, the YAC is awarding $59,449 to seven organizations working to address racial inequity and implicit bias in the Holland/Zeeland community, and to center the voices of Black, Indigenous, and community members of color.

The youth committee recognized that the grants are opportunities to create actual impact and opportunity for youth in their community and took that responsibility seriously, says Jessica Lynch, staff adviser to the YAC.

“I’m so proud of this incredible group of young people. We received many great proposals from local organizations for the racial equity grant funding, and the YAC was thoughtful and intentional as they discussed each one,” Lynch says. 

Grant recipients

The following organizations received funding from the Youth Advisory Committee in support of their work:

CultureWorks Transformative Art & Design Academy
Amount awarded: $10,000
Scholarships for students of color
Funds will be used to cover scholarship costs for students of color who participate in classes. CultureWorks is a faith-inspired nonprofit offering culturally relevant, transformative art and design experiences to youth from all backgrounds. Since opening their doors in 2013, they have served more than 3,500 students, offering classes on a “pay-what-you-can” model. Classes include ceramics, printmaking, oil painting, photography, poetry, and more. 

Holland Historical Trust’s Holland Museum
Amount awarded: $10,000
Cultural Lens Series
Funds will help implement the Cultural Lens Series, robust year-long programming that will feature authors, scholars, educators, and performers. Topics that will be explored connect individuals to cultural themes including racial diversity, homelessness, and LGBTQ+ advocacy. In addition to this subject matter, the museum will also offer ways to celebrate diversity, such as programming for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Día de los Muertos, and a gospel choir. 

Hope College
Amount awarded: $10,000
Literacy workshop
Funds will be used to prepare a literacy workshop in which elementary and middle school students of color will participate in a group read and then workshop with professionals to create literary or artistic projects to celebrate their identities. Funds will also provide access to additional summer camp opportunities for Step Up middle school students.

Ottawa Area Intermediate School District — Instructional Services Department
Amount awarded: $9,949.60
Virtual DEI training and resources
Funds will be used for a program to expose white educators to racial diversity, equity, and inclusion resources through virtual courses and resources.

Escape Ministries
Amount awarded: $7,000
Driver’s Training Scholarship Program
Funds will be used for a driver’s training scholarship program, which will increase access for students of color to opportunities, help shorthanded families manage transportation dilemmas, decrease unlicensed drivers, and decrease negative interactions with police officers for youth. Escape Ministries works to provide relationships, opportunities, and resources that matter for youth and their families who often fall through the cracks of society. 

Maple Avenue Ministries
Amount awarded: $6,500
Resourcing transracial adoptive families and extending Freedom Fighter for Justice program
Funds will be used to resource transracial adoptive families with Black and Brown children by providing a culturally appropriate backpack, including band-aids, crayons, stickers, and books that reflect the color of Black and Brown children. They will also be used to build upon and expand Maple Avenue Ministries' Freedom Fighter for Justice middle school student initiative to include young men and partner churches. Funds will also help educate and train young adults to perform first-person narratives of Black people for community and educational events like MLK Day, Juneteenth, and Black History Month. 

Ottawa Area Intermediate School District in partnership with Holland/Zeeland Schools
Amount awarded: $6,000
Welcome kits for immigrant families
Funds will be used to provide bilingual “welcome kits” to immigrant families as they enroll their child or children in K-12 schools. 
Emily Christensen, executive director of CultureWorks, says the grant will allow the organization to continue offering its pay-what-you-can-afford model of registration and continue full programming through the winter.

"After a difficult year of economic uncertainty, we knew that it would be more difficult for programs like ours to find funding because so many resources were directed toward immediate needs and basic necessities," Christensen says. "But we didn’t want to shift our energy away from our core mission of inspiring and empowering the teens we’ve come to love so dearly.”

The youth committee's commitment to creating an inclusive, equitable, and diverse community resulted in the support of programs that focus on elevating the voices of some of the most marginalized members of the community, says Yah-Hanna Jenkins Leys, the foundation's director of community impact. 

“I am truly excited about their decision to invest in these very timely efforts and grateful for the trusted relationships, expertise, and commitments of the organizations funded to continue this important work of building a more racially just Holland/Zeeland,” she says. 

More information about the Youth Advisory Committee can be found at www.cfhz.org/yac.

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.

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