Engaging Communities to Lead the Change – A Big Idea

Change happens with awareness, action and, according to Charli Cooksey, “the audacity to sustain radically different behaviors and beliefs together.” It’s the reason she started WEPOWER in 2018 with a mission of activating community members to redesign systems to be just and equitable: “because all of our children, families and communities deserve a future radically different than the brutal present we are now enduring.”

It is also why YouthBridge routinely funds bold, innovative and ambitious initiatives that have transformative potential, says Barbara Carswell, YouthBridge CEO. “2020 enlightened more of us about the inequities that persist in our education, healthcare and economic systems, particularly for people of color,” she says. “At YouthBridge, we have always taken risks to support new solutions that we believe may lead to systemic change, so that all within our community can realize their full potential.”

YouthBridge provided $150,000 in funding to WEPOWER in 2020 through its Think Big for Kids grant to help build the organization’s capacity and sustainability. Among the 2020 accomplishments, WEPOWER lists its support of legislation, approved in November, which will bring an estimated $2.3 million in funding for early childhood education in the City of St. Louis.

Total 2020 Think Big for Kids grants: $210,000
WEPOWER: $150,000; MO Child Development Account Coalition: $35,000; Youth in Need: $25,000