KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The deadline to apply for small grants meant to support programs that prevent youth violence in Knoxville is fast approaching. The city will stop accepting applications on Thursday, Jan. 27 at 4:30 p.m.
The Spring Break Youth Engagement Micro-Grant program is run through the city's Office of Community Safety. Through it, the city hopes to fund programs that connect young people with positive networks and engage them with opportunities for social, personal and community development.
Officials said they hope the program will also help dismantle barriers many young people may face towards success. Specifically, the program was created after officials found that breaks in school and recreational programming created opportunities to engage with kids who are at risk for being involved in violent crime.
Officials call them "opportunity youth," and the city is hoping to reach them on new levels through this program, supporting organizations that put boots on the ground and work with communities directly.
"It could be for programming that involves young people," said LaKenya Middlebrook, the community director for the City of Knoxville. "It could be for programming that's directed at parents or community members."
Organizations that apply for the program should already work with at-risk youth and show them that there are more opportunities for them than what they may have been raised to believe. Organizers said the grants help show kids that violence is not the way to find purpose.
"Programs like this are mandatory because, without them, they won't know there's something better out there," said Robert Williams, the founder of Youth Obtaining Valuable Empowering Mentorship Encouraging New Thinking, or YOVEMENT. "It funds trips, it funds speakers that can come in."
Grants range from $500 to $3,000 and will go towards programming carried out between March 14 and March 18, which is spring break for Knox County Schools.
The city issued similar grants in 2021, and 13 local agencies received $200,000 to address violence and empower youth in the community.
"It may be that you want to do the one really great activity that's going to cost you $750," Williams said. "You shouldn't feel like you can't ask for that."