Eight Mini Grants Awarded to Winston-Salem Youth

Winston-Salem Skyline

Through funding from Youth Service America, the Office of Civic & Community Engagement (OCCE) is supporting eight youth-led, community-based projects in Winston-Salem.

Proposals were reviewed and winners were selected by a collaborative team from the OCCE, HandsOn NWNC and youth from Forsyth County Young Leaders Program – members of the Youth Engagement Coalition – which aims to increase youth service engagement in Winston-Salem.

Criteria for grant proposals can be viewed here.

Kenya CroppsKenya Cropps
RJ Reynolds High School 
Community Partner: City With Dwellings and Bethesda Center


With the funds from the Youth Engagement Coalition mini-grant, I am planning to create Winter Emergency Kits – that will be packaged in a backpack – and fill them with items that both City With Dwellings and the Bethesda Center have identified as essential for the people they serve. They’ll be filled with washcloths, deodorant, hand sanitizer, snacks, easy meals – like macaroni and cheese and Vienna sausages, 39-gallon trash bags along with a note. 

My hope is that for any individual that they are unable to house, they can provide them with one of these kits. My goal is to provide 10 kits to each organization at least once a month, December through March, which totals 80 Winter Emergency Kits, or 40 kits at each organization.

Alston GaillardAlston Gaillard
Parkland High School
Community Partner: Vienna Elementary School CARES Team 


My project’s goal is to help the people of a remote and modest community access resources like school and basic hygiene supplies that are available at no cost to them. 

This originally started as my Eagle Scout Project, which was a Free Little Library where children from Vienne Elementary School could access books throughout the year. In light of the pandemic, I decided to also add both school and basic hygiene supplies to the library when it was installed this October. When I went to check on the library, many books had been taken, but what really stood out was that all of the supplies were gone. After seeing this, I knew that the people of this community not only had a need for these supplies but needed easier access to them. With the funds from the Youth Engagement Coalition mini-grant, I’ll be able to stock the Free Little Library with books, along with school supplies for children, and basic hygiene supplies that are in demand.

Kiran KapileshwariKiran Kapileshwari
Atkins Academic & Technology High School
Community Partner: HOPE of Winston-Salem


I founded the Childers Memorial Garden as a way to honor the vision of our late principal – Joe Childers. The garden brings together students from the Atkins community to help alleviate food insecurity in Winston-Salem via a partnership with HOPE of Winston-Salem.

With the funds from the Youth Engagement Coalition mini-grant, we’ll be able to continue growing crops throughout the winter months, allowing the Childers Memorial Garden to continue providing fresh produce to members of the community.

Jenna MayerJenna Mayer
Wake Forest University
Community Partner: Action4Equity


I am currently serving as a Project Manager to develop a district-wide parent advocacy organization for Winston-Salem Forsyth County Title I Schools called Forsyth Parent Power. My goal is to have parents meeting regularly with principals and other district leaders and to ensure that there is a stable leadership structure through an executive board
. Education advocacy and equity is an area that I am extremely passionate about, so to have this opportunity to help further support Parent Power through the Youth Engagement Coalition is wonderful. ”

Ella-Brooke MorganElla-Brooke Morgan
West Forsyth High School
Community Partner: Big Brothers Big Sisters Services Inc.


Virtual & in-Person Tutoring Services (ViP) is a youth-led nonprofit and community outreach organization – based in Clemmons, N.C. – that serves as a free education resource for underserved students in Forsyth County who need extra support.  In partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters Services, Inc., ViP matches a child in need of one-on-one homework help with gifted and trained local high school students ready to assist them. 

Our team is highly motivated to reach the children who need our support now and in the future. Due to the effects of COVID-19, which has created more significant disparities in education within our community,  there are more children we would like to support. With the funds from the Youth Engagement Coalition, my hope is to supply resources and supplies to as many new tutors as possible. Our goal is to tutor 100 students in Forsyth County by early 2021 and to move to in-person tutoring as public health guidelines allow.

Mitchell RiceMitchell Rice
Reagan High School
Community Partner: Center Grove Church


The Compassion Project’s mission is to meet the needs of those most impacted by the stay-at-home orders caused by the COVID-19 pandemic: the elderly. Members of the elderly community, especially those living alone, may experience isolation and fear. Created to help ease that fear, The Compassion Project offers comfort and hope. 

At the start of The Compassion Project, I reached out to the leadership at my congregation, Center Grove Church, and acquired a list of names and addresses of elderly individuals living alone or in local assisted living facilities. With the help of volunteers, we were able to send out hundreds of encouraging letters to those needing it most. My hope for the project is to continue to extend both a helping hand and encouragement to the elderly who are struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grayson WeavilGrayson Weavil
East Forsyth High School
Community Partner: Next Step Ministries – A Safe Haven from Domestic Violence


My goal is to positively impact the lives of women and children domestic violence survivors within Forsyth county by supporting the pillars of hope, independence, and education. 

With the grant funds, I plan to create and supply an art and homework center within the Next Step Ministries support facility. Updating and providing an abundance of supplies and storage for this space will serve as a therapeutic outlet for the women and children, as well as a learning and homework center for the children, specifically. I hope to create a warm and welcoming environment with this new art and homework center, in order to promote a sense of normalcy for the survivors, something key to their ability to move forward.

I would encourage anyone to visit the Next Step Ministries Thrift Store in Kernersville. The sales from the store help support Next Step Ministries as a whole, and are essential to its operation.”

Berk YalcinkayaBerk Yalcinkaya
Forsyth Country Day School
Community Partner: Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools


As a part of a student-led effort with the Winston-Salem Opportunity Project, our goal is to create an inclusive community in which students support students. 

This project will bring high school students together throughout Forsyth county to discuss how we can continue to strive for academic success while also supporting each other in the process during these unique times. It will work to provide the opportunities and resources that students might need to achieve their goals – and ultimately a successful future – by creating a diverse student support system composed of mentors, community leaders, and most importantly our peers.