April 01, 2021 | Articles

From Our Director: Part Two

I am so pleased to continue this discussion about the important work The Upswing Fund for Adolescent Mental Health is doing to support organizations advancing the well-being of young people nationwide. In part one of this series, I shared my personal journey to committing my career to adolescent mental health. Throughout the different experiences along this path, I have come to learn that care providers must innovate to meet young people where they are.

That’s why I’m so passionate about our work at The Upswing Fund. Our October 2020 request for proposals drew an overwhelming response. We received and reviewed hundreds of applications from dedicated direct service providers across the country who work with adolescents every day. Making decisions about how to distribute resources for these essential services was no easy feat, so we engaged experts from the field to help select a diverse set of organizations that span sizes, approaches, communities, and geographies.

On behalf of The Upswing Fund, our partners, and supporters, I am thrilled to announce that 88 incredible non-profit organizations received COVID-19 response grants. I’m so inspired by the work they are doing, and the ways they are centering youth voices to drive innovation in delivering mental health and emotional support services. I am especially proud that The Upswing Fund’s inaugural group of grant recipients features large and small organizations side by side. To truly serve young people in the ways they deserve, this work must happen at multiple levels and in interdisciplinary ways, so it was important to us that we invest in organizations of all sizes and approaches.

In addition to partnering with established organizations with scale, reach, and breadth, it’s also very meaningful to me these grants spotlight emerging organizations driven by BIPOC and LGBTQ+ leaders. These passionate social entrepreneurs reflect the lived experiences, realities, and communities of the adolescents we are trying to reach. For many of these organizations, the philanthropic support from The Upswing Fund will accelerate and elevate their work in ways we are so excited to see.

In honor of the community-driven approaches practiced by grant recipients, I want to highlight a few ways organizations are standing with youth, in their own words:

  • The Urban Media Project amplifies youth voices to anyone who needs to hear them—from peers to parents to policymakers. “With articles, videos, infographics and more on mental health in local and national publications to large and small events, including a panel on LGBTQ+ youth homelessness at our second fair housing conference next month, our students’ voices are being read and heard. They’re enlightening the public and empowering themselves along the way." - Jayne O’Donnell, Founder and CEO, Urban Health Media Project
  • In 2020, Time Out Youth expanded resources and staffing to provide services that “we know from experience directly work to increase the resiliency and survivability of our community and to reduce depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation that LGBTQ youth experience.” - David Samson, Director of Development & Communications, Time Out Youth
  • To meet the growing needs brought on by 2020, The Steve Fund is “growing our partnerships, scaling our programming and services to reach more youth of color and colleges and universities, and creating larger thought leadership platforms in the media and through our 2020 Crisis Response Task Force.” - Evan Rose, President of the Board of Directors, The Steve Fund
  • Rise Recovery is unique in our co-creation approach: 90% of our direct staff are former participants and 100% are in recovery from addiction or a loved one's addiction. We have prioritized expansion of our services directly within the school setting and through virtual platforms, where our adolescents are.” – Evita Morin, LMSW, CEO, Rise Recovery
  • Girls Write Now uses poetry to encourage youth to express themselves. “When I was struggling to cope with the overwhelming racial violence in the media and a truckload of uncertainties about my senior year due to COVID-19, Girls Write Now was there for me. I was practically a zombie. Then, I attended a Girls Write Now Friday Night Salon on Spoken Word Poetry led by Mentor Cynthia Amoah, and I started to come alive. The environment of positivity, warmth and encouragement helped me transfer all my negative emotions into rich lines of metaphors and imagery. I learned to strengthen my voice and transform it into a weapon, both to defend myself and attack the systems that aim to harm me. I remembered that poetry is not confined to books. It does not strictly belong to a seventeenth-century British poet and his endless sonnets. Poetry is the ache of a single mother’s back, the slight brush of your crush’s hand against yours, the tears in your eyes when you kiss your old life goodbye and embrace your new one. Poetry is people and more importantly, poetry is you.” - Girls Write Now mentee (Class of 2021)

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating the work of all 88 grant recipients supported by The Upswing Fund.

In addition to honoring these amazing organizations, leaders, and young people, I also want to deeply thank all of the organizations who shared their time, words, ideas, and testimonials in their applications. We have been inspired and humbled by the tenacity, solidarity, and ingenuity taken by committed community members to support the adolescents in their lives.

Sustained, persistent efforts are so important to showing up for young people. Through the applications, we heard time and again that being there for adolescents is critical to their mental health, well-being, and positive development into the thriving, resilient contributors they strive to be.

And of course, this process has all unfolded alongside the development of the COVID-19 pandemic. While we are approaching the light at the end of the tunnel, and the resources distributed through The Upswing Fund will undoubtedly support adolescents who need care, this is just the beginning. The effects of COVID-19 on adolescent mental health will be long-term and some are potentially unknowable at this time. I hope this is the first step in other donors linking hands to join us in making sure that more adolescents have access to the services and programs they need.


Solomé Tibebu

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