On February 15, 2019, Inspiring Minds Executive Director Katrena Perou stood in front of a room of 47 students from the Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn. When she asked "who has a vision of where they want to be in 5 years?", almost every hand went up in the room. She followed up by asking how many of them felt they had the necessary support from their community to reach their goals. This time only 3 hands went up.
She also met with several youth organizations in the community and found that all of them have challenges locking sufficient resources to serve the youth and often volunteer their time or work for very little to provide their services. Each Director she met with had other jobs in addition to their youth work but desired to work with youth full time if they had the resources. In the meantime, large non-profits from outside of the community are locking in large contracts to service our youth while the organizations within the community are overlooked for either being too small or not having an efficient fiscal history to qualify for funding.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what if the child does not feel connected to the village? What if the village does not have the necessary resources to properly support the child? What if the village is working in silhoes and not communicating on one accord with shared goals for our youth?
In response to this, she created a community model through Inspiring Minds that loves 4 birds with one hug (we don't kill birds :).
Bird #1: Disconnect between the youth and the community - We connected 47 youth to businesses and mentors from within their community through Rites of Passage programs and internships. We hosted one Brooklyn-wide conference at the historical Weeksville Center which provided a platform for youth to come up with solutions about issues they care about alongside their community. Our 2nd Youth Conference will be on Dec. 19th featuring The 1619 Project. Starting in October 2019, our enrollment went up to 115 high school students.
Bird #2: Lack of support and communication between black-owned businesses in the community - We contracted 4 businesses from within the community and created shared goals to service our youth together. Each business has increased its impact by working together and using the additional services we were able to provide on the backend. Principals and teachers have noticed transformational changes with their students after only 4 months of services!
Bird #3: Lack of Culturally Responsive Programs - Students of color are learning from a eurocentric curriculum and do not receive programming that is told from a point a view that reflects their culture. Research has shown that students who are aware of and connected to their cultural identity perform at a higher rate academically. Each Inspiring Minds program is culturally responsive and our data has shown increases in awareness of racial identity and leadership with our students.
Bird #4: Lack of collaboration between multiple schools on campus - In NYC, large high schools have been broken down into smaller schools that share the same building. More often then not, the schools work in silhoes and tension can build between the leaders over space and students. The Inspiring Minds model serves all schools on one campus by providing programs to all 3 and bringing them together for youth conferences, college tours, and field trips.
As of right now, we are only serving 10% of the students on campus. Our participating students have stated in their post-assessments a desire for more students to go through the same process they just went through. Each day we turn away students due to our capacity. With your donation, we can increase the number of students we serve on campus and add a scholarship fund that will award up to 5 students each year.