Going for Gold

August 10, 2012

Stoked to Serve youth volunteers at East River State Park  

Claressa Shields. Missy Franklin. Gabby Douglas. Brooklyn’s own Lia Neal. What do they all have in common? This week, they became household names due to their superhuman performances for Team USA in the Olympics Games. What else? All four phenoms are teenage girls.

It’s easy to forget how extraordinary it is that most Olympians are barely out of high school. And it’s even more astounding when so many are still in their teens, and successfully rising to the challenges before them in spite of vast pressures put upon them by coaches, parents, and hundreds of millions of fans watching around the world.

Leadership and courage are not just reserved for Olympians. Here in Brooklyn, through our Education & Youth Achievement Fund, donors are backing programs that focus on building these qualities among all of our youth, especially those who face challenges greater than a 200m backstroke, four rounds of boxing, or scoring a perfect ten.

Particularly among kids coming from our low income neighborhoods, leadership, courage, and ambition are practical, necessary skills. And with the right coaches and mentors, they can take the heroic leaps that put them beyond the barriers of poverty, toward college and careers while making a difference in their communities.

This summer, across our borough, these critical programs are in action—redefining the camp experience and training participants to be champions in their own lives.

Headquartered in Downtown Brooklyn, Sadie Nash Leadership Project works with over 400 young women a year from across the five boroughs and Newark—most of whom live below the poverty line—to strengthen, empower, and equip them to be agents of change for themselves and the world around them.

Over the past three years, we’ve provided $85,000 to support their innovative youth development work, a highlight of which is their annual Summer Institute. Five days a week for six weeks, participants experience college-level courses and meet women role models. Most importantly they learn what it means to be a leader, and how they can become stronger leaders because of their life experiences, not in spite of them.


Pictured: Participants in Sadie Nash Leadership Project's Summer Institute. The organization is named after its founder's great-grandmother, a community leader and poverty activist.

“I tend to be quiet and not voice my opinion because I didn’t want people to laugh at me or get mad at me, but I think I have changed over the summer. I can’t wait until school starts so I can show them what I’m made of!”
– Summer Institute “Nasher”

Using skateboards and surfboards as tools for change, our grantees at Brooklyn-based Stoked Mentoring partner with public high schools in New York and LA to focus on youth development through action sports. Since 2009, we’ve given them $50,000 to further their year-round work, providing our teens with a new way of developing strong relationships with adult mentors over the summer, afterschool, and on weekends, while having fun and getting active in our great outdoors.

This summer, their mentors and students are surfing the Rockaways and greening parks, as part of their Surf Mentor and Stoked to Serve programs, respectively. At the beach, teens partner with responsible, positive role models, to learn to surf and take healthy risks in a safe environment. And by engaging in community service opportunities, teens get “swag” like gear and tickets to skateboarding events. It’s a win-win for all.


Stoked to Serve teens participate in a clean-up at East River State Park in Williamsburg. In exchange for three hours of service, they receive tickets to Street League Pro-Skateboarding Championship.

Students also have the chance to build their own skateboards, and work with artists and companies like Mountain Dew to create new designs and artwork that express their active sports lifestyle.

"I feel like for the first time people are listening to me, to my ideas. No one’s ever really done that."
- Jabari, 17

"I really like that I can be as creative as possible because I feel like I don't have another outlet for it."
- Jasmin, 15

While achieving serious aims, these programs are also about having fun. Earlier this week while visiting Sadie Nash’s Summer Institute, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn gave the young women this advice: “You can’t lead and inspire without having fun. Find the voices that tell you ‘you can do it’ and have confidence and passion for what you do. Confidence is a muscle. The more you practice, the stronger it gets.”

With your support of these innovative local programs through the Brooklyn Community Foundation, more Brooklyn teens are becoming Brooklyn champs and leading the way for a stronger future for us all.

Help These and Other Dynamic Brooklyn Programs Stick the Landing!

 Make a tax-deductible gift to our Education & Youth Achievement Fund today.

  100% of your donation is invested in our communities.


What's "Good" in Brooklyn

Here are a few highlights of news and events we’ve shared with our followers this week. Don’t miss a thing! Like us at Facebook.com/DoGoodBklyn and follow us at Twitter.com/DoGoodBklyn.

The Greenest Block in Brooklyn Is...
This week, the winners of our borough's fiercest - but friendliest! - gardening competition were announced. The winning block, Lincoln Road between Bedford and Rogers Avenues in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, demonstrated how community spirit, cooperation, and pride can produce a beautiful reward. See the full list of winners in each category here. Stay tuned for more in next week's Doing Good update!

Girls Take Back Their Education August 17
We’re thrilled to sponsor the Brooklyn Girls Collaborative's 2012 Summit: Yes She Can!, taking place next Friday at Urban Assembly Institute of Math & Science for Young Women, with workshops from our partners at Girls Inc, HEAT, Girls for Gender Equity, The Center for Anti-Violence Education, Urban Word NYC, and many more! The event is free for young women ages 12 – 20. Details and registration here.

Our Summer 2012 Newsletter Is Here!

Download the latest issue here. Want copies to share? Email press@bcfny.org with your request.