Youth Empowerment

Black children holding hands on beach smiling

Youth Empowerment Grants

United Way of Olmsted County is a community change organization that fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community. We recognize there are systemic influences that present some parts of our community with opportunities, while presenting others with barriers. UWOC aims to support communities in implementing self-determined solutions to the challenges they face.  

After a 1.5-year process lead by Black community members, United Way of Olmsted County is proud to invest in 6 Black-led organizations that focus on serving Black youth.  

We will soon be publishing more about how this important community-driven work came to be. Watch our website and newsletter for more to come later this summer. 

What We’re Funding: 

We are investing in Black-led programs that provide high quality youth development programming for Black youth, because when young people have access to the resources they need, it helps transition them into stable adulthood. Our youth empowerment grants provide grantees multiyear funding to operate youth development programs for Black youth in middle and high school.  

When we say youth development programs, we mean out-of-school time activities that connect youth to caring adults, opportunities to develop new skills, build healthy relationships, and support academic achievement. A high-quality program will serve primarily Black youth from low-income households and use current best practices in the youth development field. They will also result in one or more of the following outcomes: 

  • Improving or maintaining positive social skills 

  • Improving or maintaining positive physical, mental, and emotional health 

  • Improving or maintaining satisfactory grades and/or attendance at school 

  • Improving or maintaining leadership and/or career-affiliated skills 

We have identified the following best practices and invite applicants to discuss if they utilize them: the 5 key elements of developmental relationships, starting programming early in a young person’s life, one-on-one vs group mentoring, supporting positive identity formation and critical consciousness, supporting positive relationships with caregivers, and how Black culture influences their work. Please review our research section for more information on what we consider high-quality programming. 

Our Partners: 

Sports Mentorship Academy Rec Center

Sports Mentorship Academy Rec Center furthers the mission of SMA which is to enhance academics, athletics, life, and leadership skills. The community center is designed to serve Black youth all over Olmsted County but is especially relevant to the youth in the Gage and surrounding neighborhoods. The center will offer opportunities for basketball, tutoring, STEM programs, workshops, and more. These opportunities are aimed at increasing the number of positive role models Black youth have in our community. This center will be a hub for kids of color and the organizations that serve them.  

Partner: Sports Mentorship Academy 


Life and Community Development's After School Academic Program 

Life and Community Development Corporation’s after school program educates and empowers youth and their families for successful careers, healthy lifestyles, and well-balanced relationships. Their program provides tutoring, mentoring, educational advocacy support for families, and opportunities for middle and high school youth to be creative. They ensure Black students and their families have support navigating the school system, learning and celebrating their culture, and exploring the arts.  

Partner: Life and Community Development 


Sisters Save Sisters

Sisters Save Sisters’ mission is to increase the on-time graduation rate of Black girls  and other girls of color in Olmsted County and set them up for successful post-secondary opportunities. Their community-based program provides volunteering, mentoring, and career exploration activities for middle and high school girls. Through one-on-one mentoring alongside group learning, these young women are building healthy relationship skills, coping skills, and improving their grades and attendance.  

Partner: Sisters Save Sisters and Barbershop and Social Services 


Change You

Change You’s programming provides one-on-one and group mentorship to middle and high school youth through sports and puts an emphasis on academic achievement. They meet twice a week for tutoring, workshops, and basketball practice. Through the game of basketball, youth will learn to trust others, communicate effectively, build self-confidence, and work towards common goals together.  

Partner: Change You and Sports Mentorship Academy


8 Steps to Promotion

The 8 steps to promotion program is about equipping Black youth with the life skills they need to be successful. This program was designed from the leadership’s life experiences and what she wished she knew as a young Black woman. This program includes an 8 week workshop, mentorship, and resource navigation for youth and their families. Throughout participation, youth learn about themselves, their community, and how to build and maintain positive relationships.  

Partner: Journie and Propel Nonprofits 


Junior C.E.R.T

Junior C.E.R.T develops young leaders and supports them in getting involved in improving their community and schools, while growing their capacity to become agents of change. This program is about building a pipeline of leaders that will invest their strengths back into the Olmsted County community. Youth will participate in weekly group mentoring sessions and have the opportunity to learn from inspirational Black community members. 

Partner: Barbershop and Social Services