The Topeka Youth Commission will distribute $10,000 to eight youth-led community projects this school year as part of its Stay785 initiative.
The annual grant program, supported with help from the Topeka Community Foundation since it began a few years ago, seeks to fund youth-led and designed projects that help them realize their vision for a better Topeka.
Moreover:Organization working to engage youth in Topeka
Members of the Topeka Youth Commission reviewed and screened grant applications submitted by their peers. Rene Cabrera, treasurer of the organization, said the process itself helps more youth understand the writing and grant application process they might encounter in their future as youth leaders and community advocates.
“I think what we consistently saw in a lot of the projects was that people were really motivated about something,” said Cabrera, a senior at Seaman High School. “The one common trait is that people really care about wanting to make Topeka better for people, which has been really nice to see across all the projects.”
Stay785 Projects Will Include Coffee Passports, Paint Blessing Boxes, and Chess Clubs
Throughout the program’s short history, Stay785 has funded projects related to public art, restoration, racial equity, beautification, and attraction modernization.
This year’s eight grants include the following:
• $1,500 to Bryce Liedtke, of Washburn University, to continue an earlier project to create a “coffee trail” in Topeka. The funds will go to printing more “passports” that participants get stamped at bars around the city, as well as prizes for those who fill out their passports.
• $1,200 to Isavel Nuno, of Highland Park High Schoolto improve Nana’s Park in southeast Topeka with an art wall, as well as possibly obtain new park equipment.
• $1,055 to Megan Wise, Sienna Hamiltion and Naledia Mackenzie, all of Washburn Rural High School, to fix and vibrantly paint various Bee the Blessing Boxes around Topeka.
• $2,000 to Kate Eckert, of Seaman High School, put “Aunt Flo” dispensers in all the women’s bathrooms in the school. The funds will buy the dispensers, as well as the feminine hygiene products to stock them.
• $500 to Kushal Mamillapalli, of Topeka High School, organize math competitions for middle school students in the Topeka area. Funds will go towards lunches, snacks and competition material.
• $1,000 to Kiersten Harris, of Washburn Rural High School, to host health and self-defense classes for low-income women.
• $1,993.58 to Ishta Wabaunsee, of Seaman High School, to host a multicultural diversity expert panel at the school and lead conversations between students and school leaders.
• $750.89 to Anhumann Zutshi, by Washburn Rural High School, to start chess clubs in Topeka-area elementary schools. Zutshi will use the funds to buy chessboards and other related supplies to start up the clubs.
Programs like Stay785, Cabrera said, not only invest in Topeka’s youth, but also in their dreams and ambitions.
“I think if we invest in young people, especially in the city of Topeka, we will see a big push for more young people to want to stay in Topeka, because there will be opportunities for people to grow up here,” Cabrera said.
Rafael Garcia is an educational reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 785-289-5325. Follow him on Twitter at @byRafaelGarcia.