What is the Power of Youth Challenge?
The 5th Promise in Action
The Power of Youth Challenge provides resources and support for young people as they demonstrate their leadership and execute their passions through service to others.
The Power of Youth Challenge builds on the optimism and activism of young people to launch sustainable change. We believe that putting young people in the position to lead through service is a critical element to sparking change on a national (and international) level. With a generous grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation , we have provided more than 230 mini-grants directly to young people for youth-led service projects in their communities. Through these projects, young people have made a meaningful impact in communities across the country by—from projects focused on older community members to those focused on supporting the very young.
The following components are central to the Challenge:
#1) putting young people in the driver’s seat, from conceptualization to execution;
#2) offering virtual guidance
from their peers when they get stuck;
#3) providing financial resources up front when they really need them.
The #PowerofYouth Challenge is designed and powered by youth for youth. Young people who have had some experience with service have shaped this initiative to encourage others to serve.
The Youth Steering Committee was the design team, identifying what they needed as they got started and creating avenues for coaching others to act on their passions. They were joined by a larger Youth Council who reviewed applications and offered suggestions about how to make the grantees’ applications strong enough to qualify for the $250 mini grant.
Youth Steering Committee
Gabriel ‘Gabe’ Abdellatif
Andrea Moran Melendez
How it worked
The first year of the Challenge was scaffolded by youth-adult support systems in schools, afterschool networks, and youth service networks through which young people had online access and in-person adult support. Peace First was our lead partner in Year One, leveraging a powerful online mentoring platform designed by young people and an experienced support team to aid applicants.
Young people by the thousands responded. They chose their own issues, receiving coaching and encouragement from their peers when needed to support their project development. 86 projects received $250 mini-grants to make it happen, with 9 winners being selected to receive $1,000 acceleration grants to further grow and extend the reach of their projects.
The second year of the Challenge began with a massive disruption of the systems and structures upon which young people and their families rely, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The trauma was compounded by a number of incidents that laid bare once again the systemic issues of racism and inequity that are an ever-present reality in the lives of so many young people.
The entire Challenge was re-designed by young people who were at the center of these intersecting crises. A team of experienced young leaders re-designed the Challenge and stepped up as coaches for their peers. We now have 150 youth-designed and youth-led solutions to some of the most vexing problems our communities face—from social justice and racial discrimination to mental health, safety, and education.
The nine accelerated projects were selected in year one to accelerate progress with an additional $1,000 grant by a team of youth leaders at Peace First, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people around the world become powerful peacemakers. They looked for youth who had deepened their understanding of the root causes of a problem; demonstrated perseverance, compassion, and understanding for others’ perspectives; and were having a significant positive impact for and with the people who were affected by the community issue they chose to tackle.
Power of Youth Challenge State by State
Youth lead, youth designed projects across the country.
Dhruv P., age 16
is from Montgomery County, Maryland. Dhruv, with a friend, founded Teens Helping Seniors – a volunteer service for providing groceries and essential supplies to elderly and vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dhruv is an avid singer and is actively involved in virtual choir projects as a high school fellow of the National Philharmonic choir group and as a member of the Strathmore Children’s Chorus in Maryland.
Dyson C., age 19
started researching the environmental threat pollution poses to the world at-large, Dyson decided to address this social injustice. In an effort to reduce the use of single-use plastics contributing to plastic pollution in Hawaii, Dyson created a project to lessen society’s dependence on plastics. In total, 93 people took up Dyson’s challenge to not use single-use plastic straws and instead use stainless steel straws that the project distributed. By regularly visiting classrooms and community events, Project O.C.E.A.N. addressed a lack of education on why plastic pollution is a problem.