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BGCL Presents $5,000 in Grants to Local Nonprofits Through Highland Street Foundation

July 24, 2017

With funding from the Highland Street Foundation Youth Philanthropy Initiative, members of the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence recently presented a total of $5,000 in grants to three Lawrence-based organizations: $2,500 to Progress Clothing to prepare teens for job success; $1,250 to Esperanza Academy for its summer STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) program for middle school girls; and $1,250 to the Lawrence History Center for Rising Loaves, a free creative and expository writing workshop for low- to moderate-income middle school students.

Based in Newton, the Highland Street Foundation Youth Philanthropy Initiative engages and empowers middle, high school, and college students to collectively choose and fund locally-based nonprofit organizations that are addressing the most pressing community and societal needs. Through the program, more than 500 students have donated more than $500,000 to nonprofit organizations within their communities since 2008.

According to Jody Raineri, teen director at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, youth members gained an understanding of effective nonprofit management techniques and how nonprofits improve our society overall through their research and evaluation of formal presentations from the finalists.

Zuleydy Perez, a rising junior at Central Catholic High School, said the group decided to allocate the funds to three nonprofits, rather than a single organization, in order to make an impact on multiple societal issues. "As a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, I know how important donations are to nonprofit organizations," she said. "It feels good to give to other people, and feel part of the change."

Marielis Rodriguez, a previous program participant who is also a rising junior at Central Catholic, said researching the organizations' missions, financial needs, and respective impacts on the community was "eye-opening."

"I learned so much last year that I couldn't wait to do it again," she said. "Without this program, we wouldn't have the opportunity to learn about all the different sides of philanthropy. It gives us hope for how we can get involved in the future."

Sabrina Boggio, founder and director of Progress Clothing, said she was "blown away" by the support for her thrift store which provides economically disadvantaged individuals with job preparation, clothing, and support services. Through collaboration with local partners, a new "adulting" workshop series requested by high school students will teach "the things we don't learn until we need them as adults," such as how to budget, save money while grocery shopping, and purchase a car.

"I am certainly thankful for receiving this grant," said Boggio, noting that the funds will help provide resume guidance, proper attire for job interviews, and lessons in responsibly handling wages.

Allison Caffrey, director of development for Esperanza Academy, said their grant will mitigate summer learning loss by providing one month of high-quality programming to 60 young women in Lawrence, while employing a number of graduates as teaching assistants.

"We applaud the Highland Street Foundation for giving the young people at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence the opportunity to invest in their community and empower their peers with this funding," Caffrey said. "We are extremely grateful for their support, and look forward to hosting them for a site visit during the summer program so they can see the impact of their investment firsthand."

Susan Grabski, executive director of the Lawrence History Center, said she is "thrilled to have been selected to be a part of this process, and even more delighted to have been awarded a grant." Rising Loaves, a collaboration with Andover Bread Loaf and UMass Lowell, is designed to bolster students' academic skills and understanding of place around themes relevant to their community.

"Our historic courtyard will come to life as we welcome Lawrence students into our home in the Essex Company complex," Grabski added. "The stable will act as their primary classroom, but the archive, carpenter shop, and blacksmith shop-and the city-will be their playground!"

Blake Jordan, executive director of the Highland Street Foundation, noted that the community cohesion that is so necessary in our society can be found within the nonprofit sector, yet an understanding of this sector remains a mystery to many American youth.

"The ultimate goal of our lesson plan is to perpetuate a civil society where young people work together to serve their communities, developing within themselves a lifelong commitment to voluntary action for the common good," he said.

Did You Know?

86% of the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence’s income comes through donations from individuals, corporations, organiztions, foundations and special events.