We Believe in Battle Creek

We Believe: Safe and Innovative Youth Events

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Date Started

December 8th, 2017

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

The Youth Alliance Committee (YAC) is a youth led committee that annually grants funds to nonprofit organizations from an endowment fund started by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. YAC grants money to programs that fit within our community youth needs assessment. For years, YAC has been improving the lives of youth in Battle Creek (BC) by aiding in the funding of youth programs. To maximize our impact and evolve with our community, the committee has begun to use mobilize funds in the creation of safe and fun youth activities. These events are important in our community due to some variables that makes Battle Creek a unique community that can sometimes be unsafe for youth. The overall motivation for “Believe in Battle Creek” is that youth will take pride in BC and will come together to engage in safe activities while helping to promote local businesses and organizations.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Businesses are closing in Battle Creek at a high rate. As our town becomes more vacant, our youth are resorting to activities that are potentially harmful, such as violent activities and drug and alcohol abuse. Battle Creek struggles in marketing community assets to young people. We are trying to draw youth into safe and accepting environments. It is imperative to solve this issue to make Battle Creek a more livable place for young people.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

The Youth Alliance Committee is a youth grantmaking committee of the Battle Creek Community Foundation. YAC consists of 35 high school students from different high schools in the area. As a committee, we break down boundaries and strip down stereotypes that exist between our schools. YAC conducts a youth needs assessment to form grantmaking focus areas every 3 years. This survey allows us to deploy our assets to make the most impact to improve the lives of youth in Battle Creek. One thing found from our most recent survey is this lack of safe youth activities in our town. YAC made a collective decision to try and create space in Battle Creek to make these events possible. Our goal is twofold: 1) to create safe, healthy and innovative events in Battle Creek at various for profit and nonprofit venues to give youth safe space to mingle and have fun and 2) A focus on helping support local businesses and organizations. We believe that by subsidizing and hosting free youth events at local businesses, we are highlighting these places as unique community assets that youth can access. YAC aims to provide these events throughout the city of Battle Creek and to create events that are fun.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

YAC aims to engage all Battle Creek youth to have a fun and safe time away from all of the negative activities that currently exist. At our “Ice Rink Skating Event” in December, 2017, we invited ALL youth 8th to 12th grade to come and ice skate for FREE. The entire arena was packed full of students with a line out the door to get in. There were more youth than ice skates available, which just shows the need for these types of events in our community. We were also able to highlight a great Battle Creek business, The Rink. Youth in our community are ready and willing to engage one another and to have a fun time somewhere that is safe. That night, the event prevented possible dangerous activity. These events are a necessity in our town to keep young people safe. These also helps form new friendships and an understanding of how amazing Battle Creek can really be.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

It is imperative to keep our young people safe and to make Battle Creek a more vibrant place for our youth. Battle Creek has shown up on several concerning lists, such as the Top 100 Most Dangerous Cities in the United States as well as on the list of the Worst Cities to Raise Children in (https://www.neighborhoodscout.com/blog/top100dangerous, https://247wallst.com/special-report/2017/08/31/worst-cities-to-raise-children/2/). Unfortunately, Battle Creek was also named the Most Dangerous Metro in Michigan. (http://wbckfm.com/battle-creek-named-most-dangerous-metro-in-michigan/).

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

So far, we have engaged over 450 youth through two events, though YAC has been creating charitable youth events for over 15 years. YAC is currently in the process of building out a calendar of events for the next 6 months and is excited to see what this can grow into. With seed money from T-Mobile and the Changemakers grant, YAC is confident that this is a sustainable project for many years to come. YAC has been in existence since 1988 and operates off of an endowment fund, which ensures sustainability. We have heard from the youth in our community that they are hungry for more events, and we are doing our best to keep up. YAC is hosting a screening of “Black Panther” at our Farmer’s Market on Saturday, June 2. These events have been vital to the well-being of youth in Battle Creek. At our Rink Event in December of 2017, BC youth helped raise over $400 for the Salvation Army.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Within the next year, the committee hopes to put on at least 6-10 more events. With these events, more and more youth continue to attend each time. We have had contact with and mutual interest in working with YMCA of Battle Creek, Leila Arboretum, the Parks and Rec Department of Battle Creek and many more organizations to help find unique community venues to host these events. At our retreat this August, we plan to build out an event calendar for the year and begin to reengage with organizations that have showed an interest in the past. Tying a charitable aspect to these events is also an interest. Partnering w/ nonprofit organizations to raise money while having fun is a great way to spread philanthropic values throughout Battle Creek.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

At the core, YAC is a grantmaking committee. We're fortunate enough to be associated with the Battle Creek Community Foundation and various donors. The money that we set aside from the endowment has put a severe strain on our budget for grantmaking, as that money from the endowment is intended to be granted out to the nonprofit organizations in the community who are helping with important problems that we face everyday. These nonprofits are doing great work in the community & by taking money out of the budget we are stopping the help of funding for these crucial organizations. We plan to engage individual donors and to get more local business backing for these events to help promote not only youth events, but to promote their businesses.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

Currently we have 2 Battle Creek YAC members on a countywide YAC. This connection between a number of different communities means that there are many other young people who are already trying to make a change and who would be willing to help. Also, the Battle Creek Youth Alliance Committee has young people belonging to 7 high schools throughout the area. Student bodies, teachers, and families are easily reached and can be connected to for more changemaking in the community. The Youth Alliance Committee has also partnered with nonprofit organizations, service clubs, National Honor Societies and various other student organizations in their schools to educate youth in Battle Creek on what philanthropy really means, as well as raising funds and conducting a mass material drives for the Battle Creek Neighborhood Food Panties and also the Charitable Union (an organization that provides clothing for low income residents in BC). YAC continues to seek out partnerships and relationships with all Battle Creek area organizations doing good work in the community. We're confident that we'll have the influence and man power to make this program sustainable with multiple partnerships.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Word of mouth

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Photo of Joshua Chavez

It is so awesome how you guys have already been such a bright light for youth in a rough community such as Battle Creek! This challenge is all about shining bright lights in dark places.

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