Last week we awarded our third $500,000 GSK IMPACT Grant to East Side Thrives – a collective of 10 local nonprofits in East St. Louis, IL, working with young people to help them lead healthy and successful lives.
In the days before this event, I had the opportunity to visit each of the 4 neighborhood centers in St. Louis that will be delivering after-school programming as part of East Side Thrives and learn more about this wonderful community.
At the Lessie Bates Neighborhood House, I met students of all ages who were getting math and reading support. But academics aren’t the only thing kids at Lessie Bates House are working on – at the launch event, their dance squad entertained the crowd.
Later, visiting the beautiful Christian Activity Center (CAC), I met kids doing everything from playing pick-up basketball to preparing their college applications. On Thursday, the CAC drummers kicked us off – and CAC member Zalexia Johnson even served as the evening’s emcee!
The next evening I had the pleasure of visiting the Sinai Family Life Center, where Jackie Joyner-Kersee herself visited to lead a fitness competition – complete with gold, silver and bronze medals! The next night, young people from Sinai got the crowd’s energy up with dances and a holiday rap.
The grant launch was held at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, where students participate in organized sports and other programs, including Jackie’s Winning in Life curriculum that teaches young people the importance of staying healthy, getting educated and being leaders in their community. Winning in Life will be offered to students at all 4 neighborhood centers through the support of our GSK IMPACT Grant.
Jackie led an activity for our guests on Thursday to demonstrate the importance of teamwork and communication, adults versus young people – no surprise, our young people won!
I was humbled and honored to meet these great young people and the committed staff of the neighborhood centers that serve them every day. We are excited to support the efforts of the East St. Louis community and the leadership of East Side Aligned as they align policy, practice and investment across sectors in the community to support young people. As Mayor Jackson-Hicks’ said at the launch, “our young people deserve the best” and we hope this GSK IMPACT Grant helps to deliver even more for the talented children of East St. Louis!