One day, four years ago, a guy named Maurice Cook found us on Twitter. He recognized some similarities in mission between CHAW and the organization he founded called Serve Your City (SYC), and wanted to be friends. We eventually met and immediately hit it off.
SYC provides athletic and academic opportunities to under resourced and at risk youth. Through his program, kids get swimming and tennis instruction, take yoga classes, compete on a rowing team, get tutoring and college prep support. CHAW’s tuition assistance subsidizes outreach and provides arts workshops for a variety of youth-serving non-profit organizations and registration fees for anyone in need. It can be life-changing stuff for those who otherwise would not be exposed to, let alone reap the benefits of, these experiences.
We shared common barriers in getting our respective programs to the kids likely to benefit the most from them but are the least likely to receive them. We also shared the belief that all kids are deserving of the same opportunities regardless of social station. Ultimately, we agreed that we could get further working together to build pathways and new access points for reaching kids in the margins. Jan’s Tutoring House (another Capitol Hill institution) joined our efforts which resulted in our creation of CFLY - Coalition for Limitless Youth.
We share resources, ideas and information, refer students to and provide activities for each others’ programs. It’s uplifting because it’s premised on the strength of a community building something together and speaks to development of creative, collaborative leadership and leaders rather than marginalization that can unintentionally result from a charity model of programs and services.
This past week CFLY was awarded its first ever grant as a joint entity. It’s exciting because it feels like the start of a paradigm shift in outreach programming with new potential for stronger impacts and more discernible outcomes for our kids and our community. It’s a validation that CHAW’s nearly 50 year mission of building community through the arts is more relevant than ever.