CHICAGO, June 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Ten youth teams from around the country with creative approaches to addressing societal issues like bullying, homelessness and community violence will compete for $10,000 to put their ideas into action. The friendly competition is part of The Allstate Foundation Good Starts Young Rally℠, which takes place at theWit Hotel in downtown Chicago June 19-21.
During the inaugural three-day rally, the 10 finalist teams will be paired with mentors who are experts on the societal issues the teams have selected to tackle. Finalists will participate in working sessions with their mentors who will help them prepare for presentations to be delivered on June 21 before a judges' panel. At the end of the Good Starts Young Rally, nine groups will receive $2,000 to support their ideas back home, while one group will be awarded the grand prize of $10,000, made possible by The Allstate Foundation.
The Good Starts Young Rally is part of The Allstate Foundation Good Starts Young initiative to empower youth with the confidence, skills and resources they need to step up as leaders and achieve academic success, improve their college and workplace readiness and make meaningful contributions to society. In 2016, more than 1.7 million youth participated in Good Starts Young programs.
Partnering with The Allstate Foundation on the rally is Peace First, an international nonprofit that prepares young people with the skills and commitments to solve community problems by connecting across lines of difference with compassion, standing up for ideals with courage, and creating collaborative change by leading with others. Peace First's work supports a growing community of peacemakers in all 50 U.S. states and in over 90 countries.
The 10 finalist teams were chosen by a panel of judges from The Allstate Foundation and Peace First. They were selected from a larger pool of 230 applicants who participated in the Peace First Challenge this spring. Mini-grants of up to $250 were made possible by The Allstate Foundation to help groups put their ideas into action. Participating teams also received access to online resources and adult mentors to help them identify social justice issues they're passionate about. The 10 finalists were selected based on the following criteria:
(1) Impact. Demonstrated outcomes through testimonials and data.
(2) Compassion. Reached out to others to understand different perspectives.
(3) Courage. Took actions to help others and to stand up for what is right.
(4) Collaboration. Mobilized others to help create sustainable positive change.
"There are amazing youth across the U.S. who have found a passion for service and are tackling some of the most pressing societal issues we face today," said Vicky Dinges, Allstate's senior vice president of corporate relations. "We're so proud to spotlight some of our country's young leaders whose big hearts and big ideas are driving positive change. As a company, we're committed to empowering our young people to bring their ideas to life. That's what The Allstate Foundation Good Starts Young Rally is all about."
The 10 finalists are:
Catching Joy (Needham, Mass.) – Catching Joy was founded by three teens to provide hands-on opportunities for children and teenagers to experience the joy of helping others. The group held a SOUP-ER BOWL, in conjunction with the 2017 NFL Super Bowl, to collect canned food for a local food pantry. Organizers also held a "Kids Poetry Night" to gather pajamas and books for children in need. Similarly, they collected 500 pairs of socks and greeting cards for homeless individuals. Their goal is to help people in their community understand the experience of being homeless.
Diverse Gaming Coalition (Waynesburg, Pa.) – This group of three teens was inspired by one of the members' experience of being bullied online. To help other bullied students, group members created a safe space in their school for students to talk about bullying. They also put together a comic book that shares advice, from kids to kids, about how to handle bullying. The group plans to donate its comic book to bookstores and school libraries across Waynesburg.
Good to Grow Green (G2GG) (Jeffersonville, Ind.) – Good to Grow Green was founded by a small group of teens who decided to address the lack of quality food available to low-income populations after a school food drive resulted in a donation of 3,000 packets of ramen noodles. That event inspired the group to educate fellow students about the origin of various foods, and to create a vertical tower garden that uses 90 percent less water and no pesticides to grow healthy food. To date, Good to Grow Green has installed vertical tower gardens in one high school and one elementary school, and plans for future school sites are underway.
Peace Builders (Columbus, Ohio) – This group of female high school students representing Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths is addressing intolerance and violence in their high school and community by working with local faith-based nonprofit organizations. Peace Builders participated in an April 2 "Interfaith March for Peace and Justice" parade along with more than 300 people and 20 local organizations. The group plans to include male students and to create a multi-faith peace movement. As part of its efforts to bridge cultural and religious divides, Peace Builders plans to host events where adults and children of different faiths can share holiday meals and traditions.
Phipps Neighborhood Sonia Sotomayor Bulldogs (Bronx, N.Y.) – Members of the Phipps Neighborhood Sonia Sotomayor Bulldogs are focused on community violence in the South Bronx. Their approach has centered on opening a dialogue among Bronx residents and the police through their Community Watch Project. The Bulldogs' efforts have resulted in monthly meetings where community members discuss their safety concerns. The organization also has set up a hotline and website for community members to share information. Today, The Community Watch Project receives four to eight tips a day, and members of the Bulldogs feel their community is safer due to their efforts.
QC (Quad City) Closet2Closet (Rock Island, Ill.) – Started by high school students, most of them formerly in foster care, Closet2Closet provides clothing to local teens who are homeless or in foster care with the goal of helping them feel more confident. The organization collects new and gently worn clothes, and members speak at public events to spread awareness of the need. Nearly 1,000 teens have received wardrobe assistance from Closet2Closet. Members also have spoken out about issues related to older foster children and mentored others transitioning from foster care to permanent families. Today Closet2Closet engages 200 volunteers to help with creating care packages for teenagers. The organization's founders hope to open a store where fostered and homeless children can experience the joy of shopping.
Rancho Cielo Leadership Council (Salinas, Calif.) – Members of Rancho Cielo Leadership Council want all teens to know they are not alone and that it only takes a small act of kindness to change someone's day. Council members have met with pre-teens in two schools to share their personal stories to help other students dealing with issues such as bullying, gang violence and depression. So far, they have reached 350 students, and they plan to host more presentations and create a mentoring program for teenagers.
Team Fig (New York City, N.Y.) – This all-girls group comprises five teens who are focused on addressing hunger in the New York City school system and improving community awareness of the issue. After studying the problem of food insecurity and realizing that low-income students in their own school feel stigmatized by the free school lunch program, Team Fig started Project Food for Thought to bring awareness and empathy to those affected. The group is collaborating with coders, writers, designers and researchers to create an app that would allow users to "pay it forward" by donating healthy food to schools and students.
The Teaching Peace Initiative (New Haven, Conn.) – To build more compassion in their community, this 12-member organization is focused on reducing bullying, school violence and intolerance. The group has adopted a "train the trainer" model whereby they train high school and college students to deliver a curriculum that promotes peace and tolerance. So far, Teaching Peace has 75 trainers around the country. Together, trainers have taught the organization's curriculum to 270 middle school students. The organization's founders plan to examine best practices so they can refine their curriculum, and conduct site visits to similar programs outside Connecticut.
Women of Color in Solidarity (Brooklyn, N.Y.) – With few resources, the three members of Women of Color in Solidarity staged a free conference earlier this year in New York City to encourage peer support among women of color through workshops and panel discussions. The conference was attended by 150 women, and organizers plan to collaborate with other groups in the future, host more events, and expand beyond New York.
"Young people often underestimated and underutilized as problem solvers, but the Good Starts Young Rally shows that youth in our country are willing and energized about solving injustices in their communities, not someday in the future, but right now," said Eric Dawson, Peace First's CEO and co-founder. "These young people are championing the disaffected, mobilizing others to join their cause, meeting with legislators and educating themselves about big issues facing all our communities. They are leaders in their own right. We're proud to partner with The Allstate Foundation to celebrate and encourage these amazing young people to continue making a difference in the world."
About The Allstate Foundation
Established in 1952, The Allstate Foundation is an independent, charitable organization made possible by subsidiaries of The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL). Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations across the country, The Allstate Foundation brings the relationships, reputation and resources of Allstate to support innovative and lasting solutions that enhance people's well-being and prosperity. With a focus on building financial independence for domestic violence survivors, empowering youth and celebrating the charitable community involvement of Allstate agency owners and employees, The Allstate Foundation works to bring out the good in people's lives. To learn more about Good Starts Young, visit www.allstatefoundation.org/goodstartsyoung.
About Peace First
Peace First, is a nonprofit (501(c)(3)) public benefit corporation founded with a belief in the power of all young people to change the world for the better through peacemaking — not someday in the future — right now. For 25 years, Peace First has prepared young people with the skills and commitments to solve community problems by connecting across lines of difference with compassion, standing up for ideals and others with courage, and creating collaborative change by leading with others. Peace First's work supports young people in all 50 states in the United Stated of America and in over 90 countries around the world. For more information, visit www.peacefirst.org.
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SOURCE The Allstate Foundation