(April 17, Minneapolis) — Today, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota (WFMN) announced an investment of $364,000 in general operating grants to 18 organizations serving girls and young women, ages 12-24. In addition, WFMN awarded a $150,000 grant to YWCA St. Paul to continue building leadership and advocacy skills with the Young Women’s Cabinet, who ground the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota in the lived experiences and expertise of young women and communities. The grant provides $15/hour payment to all 31 members for participation on the Cabinet and strengthens engagement with the Young Women’s Initiative across the state. In total, the awards represent an investment of $514,000 through the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota.

“Investing in the young women in our state who have been pushed to the margins means more to Minnesota. By investing in community-led organizations who hold the solutions, and expanding access and opportunities for young women, our future as a state looks brighter. When all women and girls thrive, Minnesota will thrive,” said Gloria Perez, president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

Awarded through the Foundation’s Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota (YWI MN), the grants support front-line organizations working in the intersecting areas of economic opportunity, safety, and leadership with and on behalf of young women and girls to advance key YWI MN Blueprint for Action recommendations. In this time of uncertainty and heightened need, general operations grants allow organizations greater flexibility as programming and program outcomes may change in response the emergent needs of communities impacted by the pandemic. The investments will be deployed by organizations between March 31, 2020 and March 31, 2021.

Launched in 2016, YWI MN is a multi-year, multi-million-dollar investment and public-private partnership with the Governor’s Office of the State of Minnesota to achieve equity in opportunities with and for young women of color, American Indian young women, young women from Greater Minnesota, LGBTQ+ youth, and young women with disabilities. YWI MN is on a mission to create a Minnesota where every young woman thrives with equal access to economic opportunity, safety, and leadership.

Grantee-Partners

Asian American Organizing Project (St. Paul) | $15,000 — Asian American Organizing Project (AAOP) holds the vision that Asian American individuals, families, organizations, and communities in Minnesota will affect long-term social change and take part in grassroots civic engagement and community organizing efforts, and approaches this work with a gender and reproductive justice lens. AAOP program participants are youth and young Asian people and their families in the Twin Cities. The youth program focuses on building power of youth to see themselves as leaders capable of changing the injustices that they see. The Gender Justice program builds power in young Asian people, especially in queer and trans youth, women, and girls to combat sexual violence and recognize their bodily autonomy through a four-month long cohort.

Augsburg University—MN Urban Debate League (Minneapolis) | $25,000 — The mission of MN Urban Debate League (MNUDL) is to strengthen students through competitive academic debate to become engaged learners, critical thinkers, and active global citizens who are effective advocates for themselves and their communities. The MNUDL provides everything a school needs to support a debate team while also running tournaments and providing training and curriculum. The MNUDL will advance the Blueprint for Action through creating access for young women to higher paying jobs and developing young women’s leadership.

Black Visions Collective (Minneapolis) | $25,000 — To support the Black Arts and Organizing cohort of the Black Visions Project, a nine-month arts learning and grassroots organizing program for eight Black queer and trans youth, ages 18 to 24. Black Visions Collective is a Black-led, queer- and trans-centering organization whose mission is to organize powerful, connected Black communities and dismantle systems of violence. Black Visions builds strategic campaigns, invests in Black leadership, and engages in cultural and narrative organizing.

Casa de Esperanza (St. Paul) | $25,000 — To support Fuerza Unida Youth Amig@s program, which engages Latin@ youth (ages of 11 to 16) in leadership training and mentoring to develop the skills and resources to create healthy relationships and sexuality, support friends and family who experience abuse, and challenge the systemic forms of oppression that perpetuate violence. The youth group will create and implement a new youth participatory action research project to investigate and document how Latin@ youth experience mental health issues using photography and the Photovoice technique.

Cedar Riverside Community Council (Minneapolis) | $15,000 — In partnership with the BeautyWell Project, the Cedar Riverside Community Council developed Young Women’s Wellness and Leadership Initiative (YWWLI) programming for young women from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The program trains young Somali women (ages 14 to 18) and other African women to take the lead in their health and well-being, gain policy and advocacy skills, and create a social media advocacy campaign to address skin-lightening practices, self-esteem, and reproductive health. YWWLI offers young women a safe space to flourish, re-discover, and explore their health and wellness in new ways.

discapacitados abriéndose caminos (South St. Paul) | $19,000 — To support youth programming for young girls and women ages 14 to 24 who are assisting and supporting their families with knowledge to navigate systems, be stable economically, and improve the quality of life for family members with disabilities. Serving 150 or more Latino families and their children per year, discapacitados abriéndose caminos works with those who have family members with a disability or critical health need, from newborns to elders.

Family Tree Clinic (St. Paul) | $15,000 — Family Tree’s health education program advances outcomes by delivering comprehensive, science-based sexual health and healthy relationships education to young people in a variety of settings. Most programming is delivered in public schools, though educators also travel to correctional facilities, colleges, Alternative Learning Centers, group homes that provide services to deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing (DDBHH) individuals, chemical dependency treatment centers, shelters, and housing programs across the metro region to ensure that everyone has the tools they need to make healthy and informed decisions about their relationships and sexual health. Sexuality education is a fundamental tool for increasing health and well-being across a person’s life span, and particularly for making health decisions related to sexual health among teens.

Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin and River Valleys (St. Paul) | $25,000 — Girl Scouts ConnectZ is designed for girls from underserved communities where there is little or no volunteer capacity, such as communities of color, low-income communities, or immigrant communities. The ConnectZ program curriculum drives gender equity by providing girls with knowledge and skills in the areas of STEM, financial literacy, and college and career readiness, as well as physical health and safety, mental health, and healthy relationships.

MIGIZI Communications (Minneapolis) | $25,000 — MIGIZI’s programs focus on the unique needs and circumstances of the young American Indian people growing up in an urban environment. MIGIZI is advancing the system of education, leadership, and youth employment for the American Indian community across the Twin Cities through the First Person Productions Media and Green Jobs Pathways programs. MIGIZI hopes to increase its service area and partnerships to increase the presence of positive narratives, laws, policies and behaviors for young American Indian women. Through MIGIZI’s programming, the First Person Productions Media and Green Jobs Pathways programs will increase the number of young Native women who access paid internships or apprenticeships, increase advocacy efforts in youth employment, and increase young people’s understanding of healthy relationships built on mutual respect.

Minneapolis Public Schools—Office of Black Student Achievement (Minneapolis) | $15,000 —The Queens Program at the Office of Black Student Achievement was recently implemented to focus on Black girls and young women (ages 12 to 18) in grades 6 through 12. The Queens Program values healthy relationships and promotes college and career preparation by increasing feelings of self-esteem and self-worth, increasing cultural awareness and identity specific to Black girls, and developing and encouraging a culture of sisterhood, leadership, and mentorship.

Minnesota State Community & Technical College (Moorhead) | $15,000 — The Steps to Success Program, created with funding from WFMN’s Pathways to Prosperity Fund, supports women from greater Minnesota and the Fargo-Moorhead region. The program provides education and support for women in the region who are considering college to successful placement in a career with economic and leadership growth opportunities. The project focuses on women pursuing technology, engineering, and business programs on Minnesota State’s Moorhead campus. This holistic approach provides support through mentoring, academic advising, scheduled study sessions, career exploration, bridging with community agencies, and leadership development. The project also impacts the larger community by inspiring and educating women to be leading innovators and changemakers and creating a more diverse workforce to meet the needs of the community.

Minnesota Youth Collective Education Fund (St. Paul) | $15,000 — Minnesota Youth Collective Education Fund was founded to serve as a political home for young people in the state, particularly those who often do not see themselves reflected in power structures, including young people of color, young women and non-binary folks, and young LGBTQ+ people. The program trains participants to be their own advocates, whether through student government, on the local city council, or at the state Capitol.

OutFront Minnesota Community Services (Minneapolis) | $25,000 — The collective work of OutFront programs (Educational Equity Program, Anti-Violence Program, and Policy & Organizing Program) advances systems change for LGBTQ+ girls and women. OutFront trains leaders of all ages to advocate to improve systems at schools and workplaces, and trains thousands of organizations on best practices for inclusive and equitable environments that impact policies and their implementation. OutFront supports LGBTQ+ girls and women to use their voice and agency to advocate against discrimination and bullying while building healthy peer relationships as they navigate their most difficult years in school.

Pillsbury United Communities (Minneapolis) | $15,000 — Sisterhood Boutique is a social enterprise store that accepts donations of gently used clothing for re-sale. Sisterhood Boutique builds pathways to self-discovery and 21st century skills for East African girls and young women in a way that honors their cultures and centers their personal goals. Sisterhood Boutique’s culturally specific model offers a uniquely intersectional perspective on youth development, leadership development, and future readiness among women of color.

St. Paul Youth Services (St. Paul) | $25,000 — Since its launch, YouthPower, an initiative of St. Paul Youth Services, has demonstrated the incredible impact of investing in young Black women. Young women enroll in YouthPower as a cohort and participate in all three program elements: Healing and Identity, Exploration and Innovation, and Creating Policy Change. Participating youth meet at least two days a week after school during the school year, and for 20-30 hours in the summer, following a youth-centric, youth-shaped curriculum of engaging and educational activities, field trips, team building, and advocacy.

The SEAD Project (Minneapolis) | $25,000 — The SEAD Project is committed to providing culturally safe and conducive learning environments to build key career pathways using cultural identity and social empowerment. The SEA Change Lab is a program aimed at building the next generation of Southeast Asian (SEA) leaders through arts and storytelling for SEA youth, ages 12 to 25.

Women for Political Change Education Fund (Minneapolis) | $25,000 — Women for Political Change (WFPC) holistically invests in the leadership and political power of young women and trans and non-binary individuals throughout Minnesota. WFPC facilitates YWI Network convenings for Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota program participants and facilitates the YWI Network pop-up events, open to all young women and trans and non-binary individuals for networking, professional development, and movement building.

Violence Intervention Project (Thief River Falls) | $15,000 — Violence Intervention Project’s youth-led advisory panel will recruit young women and youth ages 12 to 18 in their five-county service area to create awareness and develop strategies to reduce violence and exploitation in schools and communities, and support young women to find and share their voices as they build their sense of agency and power. The youth-led advisory panel will increase awareness of gender-based violence in the community and develop and present practical solutions to peers, school administration, and community leaders for implementation.

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