Empowering Ourselves, a nonprofit based in Brooklyn, New York that works to improve the lives of inner-city youth, has received an $8,446.16 grant from the Berkshire Philanthropy Outreach Program (BPOP), the philanthropic arm of a new Economics and Philanthropy class that started in the fall of 2015.
The grant was presented to Jarrett Mathis '04, a Berkshire graduate and founder of Empowering Ourselves, by Emily Walsh '16 during a ceremony on May 21 in Allen Theater.
"We're going to take this grant and expand our Summer Enrichment Academy and use this for a lot of people who've been interested in the program," Mathis said after accepting the award.
The grant is the first ever awarded by the student-led program at Berkshire, which was launched earlier this year after two anonymous donors generously gave $250,000 to support philanthropy in the classroom at Berkshire. The endowment will allow the students to give $10,000 annually, according to Economics and Philanthropy teacher Bill Bullock.
Bullock said he was excited about the enthusiasm and commitment from students involved with the first year program.
"The kids really embraced the opportunity to invite non-profits to apply for our inaugural grant and to advocate on their behalf. My favorite part of this process was that the decision making process was entirely up to the students. In our final board meeting, there was passion, ownership and even some tears as the students lobbied for these deserving organizations," he said.
Earlier this semester, students in the class were asked to individually identify and evaluate 501(c)(3) nonprofits and present the information to their classmates. Eventually 12 organizations were reduced to five, and the students chose Walsh's charity as the grant award winner.
"The message of Empowering Ourselves resonates with me," Walsh said. "Jarrett is an exceptional human being and has made it his life's mission to not only empower youth but those around him."
Mathis, who earned his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and recently completed his law degree from Fordham University, launched Empowering Ourselves in 2011 to help at-risk youth in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
"Our main objective is to place these young people on an early path to success," the organization's mission statement reads.
Walsh said the grant would allow the organization to expand its summer program from one week to three weeks, as well as increase enrollment from 20 to 30 students. Students enrolled in the program are taught skills that include leadership, time management, effective study habits, healthy eating, and the value of community service.
In addition to the top award, Luke Amero '16 was able to provide the remaining $1,553.84 to RARE's Fish Forever initiative for its work to restore marine ecosystems in Mozambique.
A third student, Morgan Kohlmeyer '16, was able to raise nearly $10,000 in matching funds for her nonprofit, KidsUganda, which supports schooling for orphaned children in the African country.
Editor's note: If you are interested in learning more about the Berkshire Philanthropy Outreach Program or may be interested in applying for a grant, please contact Bill Bullock at firstname.lastname@example.org