Program grants teens a charitable role


A Baltimore Police Law Enforcement Explorer Post asked 16-year-old DeRay McKesson and a group of six other teens for $3,000 yesterday.

McKesson told them he'd consider it.

"Thank you for coming," McKesson told members of the Explorer Post, who want the funds to install address signs on houses in East Baltimore. "We'll let you know soon."

After they left the room, McKesson and the rest of the panel listened to a plea from teens from the Pigtown Dance Committee who wanted $2,600 to start a summer academic tutoring program.

It was the beginning of the fall grant cycle for Baltimore-based Youth As Resources, an organization that spends $55,000 each year to fund community projects designed and carried out by young people in the Baltimore area.

The board of directors is made up of 20 young people, ages 11 to 21, and nine adults. McKesson, a junior at Catonsville High School, is the organization's youth chairman.

"It's hard sometimes, it's a lot of responsibility," McKesson said. "You have to remain calm a lot."

For one week, they listen to dozens of pitches from kids who need money for community-based projects.

When it's over, the panel meets with the entire board of directors - which includes adults - to decide who gets the grants, which cannot be more than $3,000 each. That meeting will be Dec. 12.

"Nine times out of 10, the adults are easier on them than the kids," said Julie Reeder, adult director of the program.

Youth As Resources is a national program that came to Baltimore in 1994.

Groups funded in the last seven years in the Baltimore area include the William Donald Schaeffer Substance Abuse Program, which received $1,315 for a mentoring program; the Skaters from Pigtown, who were given $2,660 for skateboarding equipment; and Youth Encouraging Youth Shared Solutions, the recipient of $835 for field trips.

Funding for Youth As Resources comes from groups such as the Baltimore Community Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation and the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

In addition to giving grants to youth-oriented programs, board members for Youth As Resources also help secure their own funding from the foundations, said youth treasurer Lisa Einhorn, 16, a junior from Bryn Mawr School.

"It makes me feel closer to my own generation. We're a closely knit circle of people wanting to do the same thing and help out," said Einhorn. "We joke around a lot. We eat a lot of food, which is very important."

Einhorn said that even though each grant they give is fairly small, she feels that she's making a big difference.

"I feel like what we do is so important to the people who apply. We try to make things better in their daily lives," she said. "I feel really helpful, in a way."

Especially for people like Tyone Keith, 14, who yesterday made his third presentation to Youth As Resources. He helped Skaters from Pigtown get a grant last year, and the Pigtown Dance Committee get a grant the year before to hold social for kids in Southwest Baltimore.

Keith said he was nervous at first about making a presentation to his peers.

"But then I realized they understand things in the neighborhood and what I'm talking about," he said. "It helps people who have ideas to have somewhere to go and someone to listen to them. Kids hear us out more than adults."

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