Twenty-nine students from across Worcester County worked together to allocate $41,000 in funding to 13 nonprofit organizations, the culmination of their 12-week participation in Greater Worcester Community Foundation’s Youth for Community Improvement program.

At their year-end celebration last week at the Worcester Center for Crafts, YCI participant Gerry Qiu spoke on behalf of the cohort, saying:

One of the things I appreciated about YCI was that the program fostered youth voice and promoted youth leadership. Since the program was entirely youth-led, we made all the decisions about the applications by ourselves without interventions from [GWCF staff]. I loved the autonomy and responsibility we received because it made our philanthropic work feel more authentic and meaningful.

- Gerry Qiu, YCI Class Speaker

This year’s YCI cohort was the largest to date, representing students from 12 high schools in Westborough, Grafton, Worcester, Douglas, Shrewsbury, and Charlton. Together, the group identified mental health, educational support programs, and basic needs such as housing and food as the primary focus areas for this year’s grant cycle.

YCI is an incredible example of community-centric philanthropy. It demonstrates to the younger generation that anybody can be a philanthropist and have a meaningful impact on our community and the issues that impact them.

- Pete Dunn, President & CEO, Greater Worcester Community Foundation

All grant proposals were required to authentically integrate youth voice. The grant recipients include:

  • Boys & Girls Club: $4,000 for club members to embark on a Southern College Tour, visiting predominantly Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
  • Mustard Seed Catholic Workers Community: $2,500 to create hygiene kits for individuals experiencing homelessness.
  • Nativity School of Worcester: $3,000 to support students and graduates in applying to and attending high schools and colleges.
  • Pernet Family Health Services, Inc.: $3,000 for an art immersion project that will culminate in student participants creating a public mural.
  • Provision Ministry: $2,000 to create care packages for individuals experiencing homelessness.
  • Quaboag Hills Community Coalition: $4,500 for the Seeds of Hope program, providing wrap-around care and stipends for EMT training for rural youth.
  • Rise Above Foundation: $5,000 for activities and resources benefiting youth in foster care.
  • Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts: $3,000 to support its Lion Dance Program for youth.
  • Visitation House: $3,000 for welcome baskets for new residents.
  • Welcoming Alliance for Refugee Ministry: $3,500 for blankets and to offer rock climbing to refugee youth.
  • Worcester Center for Performing Arts: $1,500 for the Worcester Youth Speak Honestly theatre program.
  • Worcester Refugee Assistance Project: $2,500 for the Refugee Youth Academic and Life Skills Empowerment Program, aiming to bridge the academic performance gap between refugee youth and their peers.
  • YMCA of Central Massachusetts: $3,500 for Y Teens Together, a youth-led peer mental health support program.

About Youth for Community Improvement

In its 24th year, Youth for Community Improvement is a youth-led program managed by the Greater Worcester Community Foundation. Through YCI, high school students come together to identify community concerns they are passionate about and provide grants to nonprofit organizations striving to address these issues. Collaboratively, they engage in community research, develop and implement grant programs, establish evaluation criteria, and expand their network of peers while gaining exposure to local leaders.