2018 Youth Fund for Social Change Grantees

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Photo from Young Cultural Stewards Fellowship program

Crossroads Fund is committed to supporting youth-led organizing and we are excited to award $84,500 in grants to twenty-four organizations through our Youth Fund for Social Change (Youth Fund). The 2018 Youth Fund cycle marks the 10th anniversary of the fund and the most money awarded in a single cycle since its inception in 2008.

Right now, the strongest voices for change across the country are young people who are leading movements for gun control, immigrant rights, education justice, and an end to police brutality. These visionary young people are part of a long legacy of resistance movements throughout history who refuse to be silent when facing injustice.

In Chicago, there is a vibrant history of youth-led movements, such as the Chicago Freedom Day Public School Boycott in October 1963, the Coalition for Positive Sexuality's support of LGBTQ young people and campaigns for honest and comprehensive sex education and condom distribution in the 1990s, the community-rooted youth-organizing of the Southwest Youth Collaborative in the 1990s and 2000s, the 2010 launch of the Immigrant Youth Justice League's "Coming Out of the Shadows" as undocumented and unafraid campaign, and the Fearless Leading by the Youth's (FLY) organizing victory to open a trauma center on Chicago's Southside in 2015. Today, young people continue to lead complex and intersectional movements for racial, social, and economic justice.

Thank you for supporting the first ten years of the Youth Fund for Social Change! Let's continue to support youth leaders in our communities.


About the Youth Fund for Social Change

The Youth Fund for Social Change supports youth activists who are leading efforts to change and challenge existing policies and/or organized structures that prevent their communities from achieving justice.

The Youth Fund provides funding for youth-led activism and gives grantmaking power to youth leaders. Crossroads Fund believes that the people who best understand the issues at hand should participate in our funding decisions, which is why Youth Fund grant decisions are made by a committee of current and former Youth Fund grantees who convene, review grant proposals, conduct site visits, and make the formal funding recommendation to Crossroads Fund’s Board of Directors.

Since 2008, Crossroads Fund has given over $500,000 to support over 80 organizations through the Youth Fund. These grants are made possible by donors and foundations who have pooled their resources to build vibrant youth-directed movements for racial, social, and economic justice in Chicago. These donors and foundations include Girl’s Best Friends Foundation (initial seed money to establish the Youth Fund), the Chicago Teachers Union Foundation, Cathy Cohen Black Youth Fund, the Cricket Island Foundation, donors to the Vernita Gray Fund, a gift from the estate of Jean Hardisty, a generous anonymous donor, and hundreds of individual donors.

 2018 Youth Fund for Social Change Grantees

A Long Walk Home uses art to educate, mobilize, and empower young people to end violence against girls and women. The grant will support the development of an art-based curriculum that includes youth-led art campaigns development, lesson plans on gender based violence prevention, reproductive health, state and police brutality prevention, parent engagement, youth leadership, and self-care activities.


About Face Youth Theatre is a theatre, activism, and leadership development program offered free of charge to LGBTQI+ and allied youth, ages 13-24. The grant will provide general operating support for their 2018 Education and Outreach activities, which include a full youth-led artistic performance, and education in schools and other institutions throughout the city. 


Alliance of the Southeast brings together youth from schools, churches, and after-school programs on the Southeast side of Chicago to address issues they have identified around reducing neighborhood violence. This year, their Youth Team will host a community event focused on peace and will also partner with other youth organizing campaigns around the city, while building their own leadership skills.


The Youth Leadership Team at the Arab American Action Network runs a youth-led campaign to end racial profiling as it affects the Arab and Muslim communities. The ultimate goal is to end the use of Suspicious Activity Reports by law enforcement as well as  prevent the implementation of the up-and-coming Countering Violent Extremism program. 


Assata’s Daughters’ programming works with girls aged 4-12, and is inspired by Assata Shakur and her revolutionary politics and love of Black people. Youth participate in workshops that teach them about power and oppression, and help them understand their role in a long history of Black freedom fighting.  The grant will support them in building a similar program for young men and boys.


Blocks Together serves the West Humboldt Park community on Chicago's Westside. The grant supports their Village Keepers program which provides trauma informed restorative justice training and mentoring for youth and adults in the community. After the training, these leaders become first responders and restorative justice practitioners in local schools and in the community.


Chicago Freedom School provides training and education for young people and adult allies to create a just world. The grant will support their youth-led action projects, their Freedom Fellows program and Project HealUs where youth explore, engage, and expand the work of the reproductive justice movement within their communities. 


The Young Cultural Steward Fellowship is a youth arts program operated by the Chicago Park District. This youth-led initiative cultivates young people (ages 12-15) as caretakers of culture and agents of change within their parks and neighborhoods. Youth explore the meaning of culture and community in relation to issues impacting their communities such as immigration, gentrification, police brutality, and decolonizing schools.


Circles & Ciphers is a hip-hop infused restorative justice organization led by and for young people impacted by the carceral state.  Through art-based peace circles, education, and direct actions, they collectively heal and work to bring about the abolition of the prison-industrial complex. The grant will support their Morse Avenue Young Men’s Group, which meets weekly to provide a space for young men to grow fluent in the practices and principles of restorative justice.  


This Youth Fund Convening Grant supported the Martin Luther King Day Youth Gathering, "Setting Our Own Mountaintops", provided a safe space for youth organizers to build relationships and shared work. The gathering included relationship-building activities; small group discussions; multiple workshops (including restorative justice peace circles, tools and strategies for activism, youth experience of homelessness, anti-oppression, wellness and healing, youth detention in Palestine and Chicago, the experience of undocumented youth, and using theater to ignite action), and a final presentation by youth participants. 


The HANA Center's youth council, Fighting Youth Shouting Out for Humanity (FYSH), is conducting the second phase of its Decolonize CPS Curriculum campaign. The focus is on trainings to strengthen organizing to increase the number of schools implementing the new syllabi and educate key policymakers in the CPS system to increase the number schools that are implementing the new syllabi. 


The Illinois Safe School Alliance works to promote safety, support and healthy development for LGBTQ youth in Illinois schools and communities, through advocacy, education, youth organizing and research. The grant will support Action Camp, a five full days sleep away camp for both current and prospective LGBTQ+ middle and high school leaders focused on youth organizing, body positivity, anti-oppression, non-punitive conflict resolution, and trauma awareness. 


Imagine Englewood If's "The Growing Citizen Leaders" program in the Greater Englewood community fosters an environment where youth analyze the connection between systemic discrimination and current situations in their own neighborhood. This unique youth leadership program empowers teens through trainings, activities, and workshops to become change agents in the community. 


In the upcoming year ONE Northside's youth will participate in the fight for more transparent police union contracts, and the passage and implementation of an ordinance instituting community oversight of the police.  The youth who lead these efforts play active roles in determining goals and strategy for citywide police accountability coalitions and ensure that those most impacted by police violence are building a Chicago police department accountable to the community.



The Pilsen Alliance Youth Committee gives young people in the Pilsen community the space to devise, build and implement their own initiatives in Pilsen. The youth committee enables young people to have a voice in the current struggles and organizing efforts being carried out by Pilsen Alliance, including the campaign to lift the ban on rent control and the fight to keep schools open. The grant will support them in hiring a part-time organizer to expand and support this work. 


Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation engages at-risk and court-involved young men, aged 14-24, who reside in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. They are a longtime leader in practicing and providing training in restorative justice work. The grant will support trained youth leaders in coordinating restorative justice trainings for youth from other neighborhoods with a collective visioned geared to youth safety.


{she crew} is a multidisciplinary journaling/performance empowerment program for girls in Chicago ages 12-18. Their year-round, free leadership development programs focus on social justice, writing, collaborative skills, and empowerment. The grant will support them in: expanding SHE CAST, Chicago’s for-youth-by youth podcast tackling issues that affect youth, and their summer programing.


Solidarity Studios aims to empower disconnected communities facing similar economic and political injustices by amplifying the voices of local artists and giving them the tools to organize and mobilize their communities locally and globally via music, especially hip-hop. This year, they are expanding their programming by opening a new site at the Arab American Action Network, and commissioning a Solidarity Studios alum who is a youth organizer and practicing musician as an Artist in Residence. 


Territory supports young people in building voice, vision, and agency through the practice of design in Albany Park and Uptown communities.  In addition to creating youth freindly design spaces, they also provide walking tours called "Walk In Our Shoes" for adults to  experience Chicago as teens navigating a teen/youth averse city. 


The Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE) is partnering with the Export Quality Collective, a group of 12 young Filipinx creatives, to create a series of videos illustrating some of the intricacies of identity resulting from the Philippines’ history of colonization and immigration. The series will engage the Chicago Filipinx community in critical dialogues on topics such as gender identity, queerness, immigration, and mental healh.


The Warehouse Project and Gallery is based in Summit, Illinois, an area with limited youth activism. They use various forms of arts to enable youth to find their voice and demand changes to policies that discriminate the largely immigrant population. The grant will support them in creating a traveling performance piece on youth homelessness, gender identity issues, mental health supports, and combatting racism and oppression within their schools. 


Universidad Popular’s youth program empowers youth to become change inducing actors in their community by helping them define peace in Little Village. The youth-led campaign will identify "hotspots" of crime and violence in the community, then work to improve these spaces with art and attention, and finally engage residents to visit the artwork and engage in meaningful discussions on the policy changes needed to address the root causes that propagate these "hotspots".


YEPP seeks a safe environment for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness to explore their history, investigate new ways to address their struggles, and celebrate their strengths through the process of developing a theatrical performance piece. They use harm reduction, trauma-informed practices, transformative and restorative justice, popular education, and Theater of the Oppressed throughout their process. 


Youth Outlook supports LGBTQ youth in west suburbs  of DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, DeKalb and the surrounding areas by providing youth organizing training, drop in centers, parents engagement and community education workshops that counteract heterosexism and homophobia in the region.