Oct 25, 2017

I Fall on My Sword...OUCH!!!

I Fall On My Sword...OUCH!!!
I Fall On My Sword...OUCH!!!

This project report is a submission to GlobalGiving's 2017 Fail Forward Contest, where organizations are asked to share a story of when they tried something new that didn't go as planned and how they learned from it. Enjoy!

Reliving this story brings back painful memories. I think it was one of those times that I actually broke down in tears but don’t tell anyone. Being a nonprofit, as you know, means we rely on grants and look forward to multi-year grants to help support our efforts. Our youth and families depend on us to provide the services we promise and we depend on the generosity of others and potential funders to help us keep our promises. Like every nonprofit out there, we are used to applying for grants and not getting funded but this one was different.

We had the opportunity to apply for support for The Youth Connection Career Academies that would support this program year round and allow us to open career doors for urban youth that are often unavailable to them. We had to partner with schools and community organizations, engage former gang members and law enforcement. We were ready. Competition was stiff because this was a multi-year grant meaning once we were awarded the grant we had the opportunity to keep renewing the grant year after year!

The most difficult part of any grant application is putting together the coalition of support you need to meet your goals. As the purported fearless leader I went to work and contacted the principals of the targeted schools. I met with and presented to them and their staff and convinced three out of the four that we were the organization to partner with. We demonstrated that we could do the work and had a history of providing the needed services for the schools. We had out-maneuvered the other providers trying to get into the schools!

Our TYCCA Program Director met with the former gang leader and planned how we would engage older youth and what was needed to give them the resources to pursue a career that would connect them to brighter futures. He partnered with us and we were able to include his work and resources in our narrative describing how truly awesome we would be with this partnership. She developed the work plan and designed the programming that was needed to create a stellar project.

Our Communications Director went to work and obtained all the letters of support from former youth who had participated in our program. Because of the long standing partnerships we had with many of our community organizations we had letters of support from leaders in the community who believed, as we did, that we could provide the services that were outlined in the grant and seriously make a difference with youth on the east side of Detroit! He was also responsible for using the narrative to create the budget and the budget narrative

Weeks of preparation and work was coming to a head with the deadline looming. This was not one where we could compile all of our data and information into an electronic file and hit a button before the clock struck the deadline. This was one where we had to complete the forms, write the narrative adhering to the number of pages, spacing and font sizes, scan the letters of support, complete the budget and the budget narrative, include the partnership agreements and number the pages. Once edited and compiled we had to then create five copies of a three ring binder size document and binder clip them making sure on the number pages we had our identifying information. We then had to stuff them in an envelope and drive across town (avoiding all traffic and police) to drop this package of papers that would carry our opportunity to provide expanded services to our youth to the funding agency!

The manual labor involved in actually processing the application was where failure loomed.

The necessary pieces of the application were in place but our lack of coordination to bring the pieces together started the backward slide. We were convinced this was one of the better grants we had written. Because we did not prioritize what was most important to focus on the week the grant was due we continued meetings and kept appointments that had no value added to our agency. Troubled loomed. We assumed we had time to complete the narrative the morning it was due but did not anticipate the power failure that made us redo our narrative, or how long it would take to collate five stacks of 100 sheets of paper per specific guidelines.

With 20 minutes to get to the drop off site. We left our office still binding the packets in the car having to defy the speed limits, praying for no police surveillance along the way. Running behind time we hit the freeway…noooooooooooooooo – it was backed up. We lost serious time and had five minutes to traverse a distance fifteen minutes away. Needless to say we did not make it. We were five minutes late and the doors were shut!

As I beat the steering wheel with tears pouring I felt we had lost a major chance to help a lot of youth in Detroit that needed it desperately! I knew I had to take the responsibility for not planning for all contingencies. But trust me, I did not need to or want to hear it from my son who travels all over the world and is a big time project manager telling me “Mom, you know that was your fault!”

Those were hard lessons learned. We have since written many grants but every aspect is managed with a focus on exactly what it will take to have every aspect of the proposal reviewed and in place to submit long before it is due. The other lesson we learned is to better coordinate everybody’s responsibilities in the grant-writing process. That way we know exactly who is responsible for what part of the grant and how it fits into our timeline.

The results have netted us three major grants in the past year since we missed the deadline - one is a five year grant that is renewable for another five years!

What Happens To Us If TYC Is Not Funded?
What Happens To Us If TYC Is Not Funded?
Dr. D Said Failure Is Not Final!
Dr. D Said Failure Is Not Final!
Ain't No Stopping Us Now!
Ain't No Stopping Us Now!

Links:

Aug 4, 2017

Against All Odds...Our Kids Shine!

Let's Hear It For Our Girls!
Let's Hear It For Our Girls!

The last days of summer are fast approaching and every effort is being made to support and positively impact our youth as we continue to connect them to brighter futures. Sometimes many of you who give may not realize what an impact you truly have. I am always delighted to share with you the stories that may take your breath away. When my staff shared Za’Maria’s story we all had to pause and look away and be ever so thankful that we were able to make a difference. Za’Maria participated in our food and nutrition program, the I2D2 Fit ‘N Fun Family Club. This is a program that we provide in many of our schools. Every time staff would arrive at her school she was there to open the door and display the biggest brightest smile that would melt your heart. She learned all of the nutrition facts and would pop her hand up to answer all of the questions. She participated in all of the physical activities and at the end of the program she had amassed the greatest number of participation points that allowed her to walk away with the top incentive… a two wheel bike! When she came to the office to pick up her bike she was wearing a pair of fur lined boots on a 90 degree day. We were told that was all she had. Staff immediately went into action and pulled new shoes and other resources the family needed from donations and supplies we were able to obtain because of generous supporters like you!

You wouldn’t know that Za’Maria has a nurse that sometimes shadows her during the school day and helps the family. The family enrolled in our strengthening families program and already they appear to be bolstered by the attention and activities.

Youth everywhere look forward to summer and school being out! But the facts regarding summer learning loss are staggering. Two-thirds of the income based achievement gap is attributed to summer learning loss by the start of high school. Most young children experience learning loss when they do not participate in educational activities during the summer! Children lose more than academic knowledge over the summer… some children gain weight faster when they are out of school during summer break! Well, not on our watch. Our programs continue all summer and we make every effort to see to it that our youth experience a summer full of learning opportunities and are able to share stores when they return to school that will amaze their friends. Your support is helping us distribute over 1,000 beautiful hard cover books to youth to read over the summer.

When potential partners view our web site and see we are vetted through global giving more doors and opportunities open up to us. Because of you we will distribute free schools supplies, shoes and socks at our After School Back to School Off to College Fair this summer.

To help address the summer learning loss we sent youth to Spring Arbor University’s CEO Academy to learn how to become entrepreneurs. They participated with youth across southeastern Michigan and had to compete on teams to come up with innovative marketable ideas. Let’s hear it for our girls, Tayler and Tiara, who were on the winning team and shared in a $1,000 award. Because of you we were able to rent a van to get them to the spring arbor campus every day for a week!

This summer we are taking over 1,000 urban youth kayaking on the Huron River. As part of that experience youth will learn about the war of 1812 in a creative and interactive way through our partnership with the River Raisin National Battlefield Park. More than 200 youth enrolled in our summer youth employment program will learn about environmental stewardship, invasive species, trail maintenance, and water quality testing. Many of our youth will have fun this summer kayaking, canoeing, hiking, camping and zip lining.

Your support helps us purchase healthy snacks, water, special equipment and supplies. Because of you we are able to provide interview outfits and shoes so our youth can make that knock out first impression as they apply for their summer jobs. 

The summer is only half way over and I have to give high fives to my staff who continue to provide high quality programming and go above and beyond the call of duty. Their tenacity to attempt the impossible and argue persuasively why we should even consider taking over 50 youth clear across the state (over a five hour drive) to camp in one of our state parks and complete a service project. Their argument…… because they will be able to see the Mackinac bridge and ride a ferry to Mackinac island a trip of a lifetime for any Michigander!

Thanks to all of our Global Giving friends and family. To each and every one of our contributors and supporters thank you for helping us make a difference. Please continue to support The Youth Connection through our Global Giving Connecting Youth to Brighter Futures Project. Encourage your friends and families to reach out as well. Just an FYI – Global Giving’s International Youth Week Matching Campaign that celebrate our youth is August 7th -12th please remember us. It is mind boggling what they are offering, 100% matches, bonus prizes and more. Please help make us one of the top projects through your giving.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! To all of our supporters and those who have yet to give please remember The Youth Connection as we continue to connect Detroit youth to brighter futures.

The Smile That Melts Your Heart.
The Smile That Melts Your Heart.
Water Quality Testing.
Water Quality Testing.
A Ticket To Float On The Huron River.
A Ticket To Float On The Huron River.
Trail Maintenace & Invasive Species Removal.
Trail Maintenace & Invasive Species Removal.
Against All Odds...Our Kids Shine!
Against All Odds...Our Kids Shine!

Links:

May 30, 2017

And The Winners Are...Our Youth!

And The Winners Are... Our Youth!
And The Winners Are... Our Youth!

What a thrill and a blessing to be able to tell our story to more people who believe enough in us to support our efforts. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I am excited to write this report to let you know how your contributions are making a difference. Your contributions allowed us to implement a new component to our substance abuse prevention program that touched over 125 middle school youth. We added the TYC Academy Awards to recognize our best-performing students that participated in our Substance Abuse Prevention Life Skills training program. The return on your investment in us was amazing! Students were encouraged to write poems, perform raps and creatively share what the ongoing lessons meant to them. Violence, poverty and substance abuse are forever present in the lives of some of the youth we serve. Their ability to share their concerns and master how to deal with their own decisions have really made a positive difference.

In her own words eighth grader K. Williams wrote:

I woke up this morning and had to make a decision,
I had to make a wise decision to envision my future.
Cause where I’m from… a man will rob you and shoot you,
My dad got mad fought with my brother.
I had to make a wise decision,
To apologize and tell ‘em I love ‘em.
Life is short and families small,
So I decided to better myself for them all.
Prayers go up and blessings come down,
And will fall down on me like beads from a misty waterfall.

The opportunity for our youth to share their fears and concerns sharpened our focus and determination to make a difference. Eighth grader D. Cooper wrote:

The decisions I make,
With every breath I take,
Decides should I live another day.
It’s all about the decisions you make,
So make the best ones.
Live for you, laugh for you, love for you,
Be you, be you.

The Academy Awards component we added allowed youth to accrue points for writing about what they learned and additional points for performing or reading their work. Youth led cheers and performed their raps. Even more amazing – they reported to our staff when they made good and bad decisions and understood the consequences of their own behavior. The program was implemented with the donations we received that paid for the final awards, the Academy Awards Ceremony held in the school, and an ornate hard cover book, “Inspired by Prevention 2017” that included all of their work. The outcome data showed that the overall program made a significant impact.

First place winners from each class received $150 online shopping sprees.

Our second place winners from each class received mountain bikes donated by Aberdeen Bike and Outdoors, a local Michigan bike shop located in Chelsea, MI.

Our Third place winners from each class received $50 online shopping sprees.

Our fourth place winners from each class received $25 online shopping sprees.

The ceremony was awe inspiring. When the winners were announced they received loud ovations from their fellow classmates, teachers and Principal Harry Coakley.  

We received a thank you letter from one of the teachers. Ms. McGuire wrote:

From the students of Rooms 8-302; 8-301 and 8-305 - Thank You.
Dear Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Fred, Thank you for blessing my students with the information they need in order to make better decisions in life. Your heart is amazing and I thank you both for the work you do.

The Principal has asked us to return next year and ordered the “Inspired by Prevention Book 2017” for each of the students whose work appeared in the book!

Because of you and the donations you have generously given, the winners are…..Our youth!

To each and every one of our contributors and supporters thank you for helping us make a difference. Please continue to support The Youth Connection through our Global Giving Connecting Detroit Youth to Brighter Futures Project. Encourage your friends and families to reach out as well. Just an FYI – July 12, 2017, is a bonus day through Global Giving and your contribution has a chance of being matched, so sign up early and often.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! To all of our supporters and those who have and those who will continue to support our efforts to connect Detroit youth to brighter futures.

I Had To Make A Wise Decision...
I Had To Make A Wise Decision...
Online Shopping Sprees!
Online Shopping Sprees!
Inspired by Prevention 2017
Inspired by Prevention 2017
I Am So Proud of My Daughter!
I Am So Proud of My Daughter!
Be You!
Be You!

Links:

 
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