The 2017 winners of the Renewal Awards, which are supervised by The Atlantic and sponsored by Allstate, capture an array of innovative responses to that challenge. Con Mi Madre supports young Latinas in Austin and El Paso, Texas, with academic enrichment and emotional counseling from sixth grade through college. Let’s Innovate Through Education, based in Memphis, provides classes, mentors, internships, and grants to encourage more young African Americans and Latinos to start businesses. Anew America provides support to immigrant, minority, female, and low-income entrepreneurs in Oakland and San Jose, California. The Hazleton Integration Project works to expand opportunity for Latino kids in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and to smooth relations between the city’s rapidly growing Latino community and its mostly older white population. Lastly, the Youth Empowerment Project in New Orleans operates 11 different programs, from educational initiatives to mentoring to job readiness. Each is designed to create pathways to employment and stability for young people who are either reentering society after incarceration, disconnected from work and school, or simply looking for more opportunity than is available in their neighborhoods.
“We want to reach kids whenever we have the opportunity,” said Melissa Sawyer, the co-founder and executive director of YEP. “We [as a society] continue to fail our young people in so many different places across their life span. We want to tell young people, ‘Yeah, come on in; we have something for you,’ because our young people have been told ‘No’ so many times.”
The five winners each received grants of $20,000 from Allstate. This year, the awards drew nearly 3,000 nominations. A team of Atlantic researchers and editors narrowed the selections down to 25 finalists. From that list, four general-category winners were selected by a panel of outside judges and through public online voting. Allstate selected a fifth winner for its Youth Empowerment Award, aimed specifically at groups that work with young people. (YEP, in New Orleans, won that prize this year.)
In addition, Allstate gave $10,000 grants to five runners-up, chosen through the same process. In the general category was: Family Agriculture Resource Management Services in Rock Hill, South Carolina, which supports low-income farmers and organizes large-scale donations of fresh produce to food banks, shelters, and other social agencies across seven Southern states; Fugees Academy in Clarkston, Georgia, which operates the nation’s first school solely for the children of refugees and is opening a second campus in Columbus, Ohio; Soldier’s Angels, in San Antonio, which provided over $15 million in assistance last year to members of the military, their families, and veterans; and Profound Gentlemen, in Charlotte, which provides on-the-ground support services in five cities for young men of color serving as teachers. Summer Search, in San Francisco, was named the runner-up for the youth award; it helps low-income students in five metro areas around the country transition to college through a years-long mentoring program and immersive summer trips.