Austin groups compete in ‘elevating voices’ fair Saturday

By |

Katherine Korey, director of development and marketing for Bright Promises Foundation, remembers her fondest memory of working in Austin.

“We spent the whole afternoon talking with (an) Austin community member, and I will never forget, he said, ‘You white girls are parked out front like it’s no big deal.’ And for us it really wasn’t a big deal,” Korey said. “We recognized that Austin was an amazing, vibrant and thriving community, and that it was no different than any part of Chicago.”

The Bright Promises Foundation, which funds programs that help at-risk youth, is one of three groups working in Austin that will participate Saturday in the first Elevating Youth Voices Fair. The fair will be held at the Columbia College Conaway Center,  1104 S. Wabash Ave.

Korey said the fair will be a celebration to honor Bright Promise’s 150th anniversary. Over 100 youth leaders representing 24 nonprofits across Chicago are expected to attend the event, where they will share their stories about how they’re making a positive impact in the community. The free event will include information booths, main stage performances, a large community art project, face painting and food.

“This is really our gift back to the community to thank them for helping us reach this 150 landmark and milestone,” Korey said.

The 24 organizations attending the fair are part of a year-long initiative and were selected through a competitive application process that entailed submitting a proposal describing what their organization would do if awarded a $10,000 grant to improve their community.

Communities United – Voices of Youth in Chicago (VOYCE), an organization that’s part of Communities United and doing work in Austin, submitted a video proposal of youth leaders introducing their Rethink Safety Campaign. Ruby Ruiz, a youth organizer for VOYCE, said the video is based on her personal story of losing her brother and cousin.

When making the video we wanted to make sure the audience could understand it is not just about my story; we are fueled by wanting to address the trauma people experience every day,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said the group’s goal is to help youth deal with the trauma they experience in a more positive way. She noted that VOYCE is comprised of youth affected by trauma.

While we are helping youth deal with their struggles, we are dealing with our own as well,” Ruiz said. “It is difficult for me to even function some days with the weight I carry, and I don’t have access to mental health care because I can’t afford it.”

VOYCE coordinator Maria Degillo said many of the youth leaders in the organization are from Austin.

“Our presence in Austin is crucial, the West Side has a lack of investment,” Degillo said.

Five of of the 24 groups participating in Saturday’s fair will be selected to receive a $10,000 grant to support their continued community work.

“What we’re trying to do is very hard; we have to make sure we are able to invest in the work,” Degillo said.

Korey said Bright Promises differs from other nonprofits in that they provide multi-year support. She added that the grants they give out range from $10,000 to $40,000, and a significant portion of the grant money comes from fundraising in the community.

“One of the things that makes Bright Promises special is that 100% of every dollar given to the foundation goes directly back into the community,” Korey said.

Korey said the Saturday’s event will help showcase their youth leaders.

“We wanted to share what we know with the world, and be able to shine a spotlight and lift up the voices of youth from Austin and from across Chicago, so that more people can hear the amazing ideas and incredible action our young people are taking to make our community stronger and safer,” Korey said.


Currently, the foundation is making direct grants to 10 organizations in the Chicago area. Three of the organizations are from the Austin neighborhood: A Long Walk Home, Chicago Freedom School and Communities United – Voices of Youth in Chicago (VOYCE).

, engages over 250 youth leaders from across the city each year as a youth organizing alliance for education and racial justice. Since it was founded in 2007 it has impacted around 350,000 youth who attend Chicago Public Schools.

Leave a Reply