Youth for Community Improvement (YCI) promotes civic leadership through a 12 week teen-led experience resulting in grants to local nonprofits working in areas of high importance to young people.


YCI is a youth-led program where students come together to identify community issues they care about and award $25,000 - $40,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations working to solve those issues.

This 12 week fall semester program presents an opportunity for students to work together to make a difference in their communities while also building critical leadership and communication skills by facilitating meetings, developing shared goals, developing public speaking skills and decision making through consensus building. Together they engage in community research, develop and implement a grants program, create evaluation criteria and build their network of peers while gaining access to local leaders.

YCI has been supporting young people across Worcester County as civic leaders since 1998. The program has graduated over 225 students, and has awarded over $350,000 in grants to local nonprofit organizations.

Who is eligible for YCI?

All high school students in Worcester County who are interested in developing leadership skills, enjoying working collaboratively with others, and who are willing to commit to participating enthusiastically and thinking critically to create a real, effective change in their communities.

YCI students are typically in their sophomore or junior year of high school, but we encourage all years of students to apply. We believe that every student, no matter your year or amount of experience with extracurriculars, has a valuable voice and can contribute meaningfully.

The program kicks off with two summer orientation sessions and then lasts 12 weeks, over the course of the fall months. YCI meets from 4-7 p.m. every Wednesday during those weeks at the Greater Worcester Community Foundation office in downtown Worcester. We expect that all students who apply can attend and participate in the program fully. A transportation stipend is provided.

Students can participate for two years, and will serve in a further leadership capacity for their second year.

"This practice is driven by the core belief that everyone, and in particular young people, possess wisdom, strengths, and informative experiences to contribute to the field of philanthropy."

- Sarah Shugrue, Director of Grantmaking & Capacity Building, GWCF

How to Get Involved

Applications for the next class of YCI will open in September 2024, and the program will begin mid-October. To indicate your interest in YCI, please fill out the form below. You can also subscribe to our mailing list and follow YCI on Instagram!

Interested in YCI? Please fill out this interest form so that we can inform you when the 2024 application opens!

Want to learn more about this community-centric approach to youth philanthropy?

Read a case study on our Youth for Community Improvement program from The Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy at Brandeis University.