A Black-owned nonprofit in Tampa, Florida, is putting money back into the urban areas that need it most.
“This is more passion and work than a paycheck,” said Chris Ward, co-founder of The Skills Center in Tampa. “We received an $800,000 research grant to service 600 girls over the next two years.”
The Skills Center received the Youth Engagement in Sports grant through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in October 2019; the grant covers the period of 2019 to 2021. Since receiving the grant, the center has registered more than 100 girls, with over 70 enrolled in the YES Initiative Grant Program.
“The skill center is a Black-owned non-for-profit, and the ultimate goal is to teach transferable skills,” explained Ward. “This grant now allows us to deliver the girls healthy meal prep every week, grant access to full-service gyms with workout groups, and provide Fitbit watches to monitor their health.”
The grant also allows for mentoring and open counseling sessions with the student’s families.
“The biggest piece is teaching kids how to eat healthy: basic fruits, vegetables, yogurts, granola — teach them how to prepare healthy meals that they can eat daily.”
Ward’s company targets minority students who may not have access to sufficient resources outside the school system. His program is currently located in Hillsborough County, which has ranked lowest in Florida test scores for over a decade.
“We invested over a million dollars into the program before the grant,” said Ward, as he walked Atlanta Black Star around The Skills Center.
The girls are exposed to the program in six month intervals.
“It’s a place where we can talk about stuff that actually happens,” said high school junior, Nyela Sims. “Like, this guy called me the N-word the other day at work because he said his food was taking too long.”
Tampa Yes ambassador Felicia Bell helps the girls walk through some of these experiences, while problem solving.
“It’s about teaching these girls to be confident,” said Bell. “We’ve been working through a lot of things, including planning ahead.”
Bell told Atlanta Black Star that planning ahead is key for the high school students who want to attend college.
“If she’s a junior now, we have to start planning,” she said.
The Skills Center is currently looking for over 100 sixth-grade girls in the greater Tampa Bay Area who want to become involved through the Yes Grant Initiative.
For more information on The Skills Center, visit the website: https://www.theskillscenter.org/
If you’d like to see if any local programs in your city are offering opportunities through the YES Grant Initiative, go to: https://www.dltgrants.info/GrantDetails.aspx?gid=56032