Spotlight on Grant Recipient East Side Aligned

Evan Krauss wants people to know about the incredible potential of East Saint Louis, IL. “While economically and systemically disadvantaged, there is so much talent here and so many committed people working day in and day out to create a community where our children and youth can thrive,” he says. Krauss is the Executive Director of East Side Aligned (ESA), an organization formed to bring people together to strengthen collaboration and facilitate transformation in a part of the region often overlooked, he says.

“It’s an industry and philanthropy desert,” says Krauss. “Many of the funding streams don’t cross the Mississippi and we’re too far from Chicago to be considered for most grants. I’m really grateful for organizations like YouthBridge who believe in what we’re trying to do here.”

East Side Aligned was among the 2022 recipients of the YouthBridge Capacity Building grant, which helps fund strategic planning, risk assessment, executive leadership training, operational systems and other areas necessary to support agency growth and stability. East Side Aligned started as an initiative in 2014 and last year became a 501c3. Krauss says the grant will support the development of a strategic plan to guide ESA growth, decision making and impact. “I’ve watched YouthBridge’s giving strategy and really admire it, especially the concept of their Think Big for Kids grant, because that’s what we believe too. Boldness is what brings about real change.”

Eight years ago, members of the East Saint Louis community developed a bold agenda, he says, which is a roadmap of 180 strategies aimed at improving the wellbeing of its youth. “How do we make sure they’re healthy and safe in their environment, emotionally secure, successful in their education and positively engaged with the community? The roadmap covers all of this,” says Krauss.

Within the roadmap are strategies around early childhood development, violence prevention, after-school programming, youth mental health and leadership, to name a few. A working document, Krauss said it became the catalyst for the creation of collaborations to address each area. “People were so excited for this shared agenda and organized groups they could be part of. For so long, they had been relying on their own strengths.”

These coalitions, he says, are made up of health and human service agencies, law enforcement, legal professionals, educators, child care providers, government officials and, most importantly, parents and families. East Side Aligned serves as the backbone organization, ensuring that the various coalitions are collaborating and progressing.

Some powerful progress has already been made, says Krauss. New after-school programs have helped improve student attendance and grades, and the school district has prioritized and fully invested in the social-emotional wellbeing of students, including creating a Family and Community Engagement Center. “I’m thrilled to see how far we can go when we continue to put young people first.”


If you would like to donate or have any questions about this organization, please contact Allison McDonald.