VOiCEup Berks has been awarded a $25,000 grant from Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation for the Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading School-Based Service Program. Through their Kindness In Community Fund, Born This Way Foundation is granting $1,000,000 to support organizations and their community-led mental health work in coordination with Lady Gaga’s The Chromatica Ball Summer Stadium Tour. VOiCEup Berks is one of 22 grant recipients which are located in the metro areas of the U.S. tour stops and are focused on youth mental wellness, informed and/or led by youth, and rooted in practices of inclusion, access, and equity.
Maya Enista Smith, Executive Director of Born This Way Foundation said, “Young people have clearly stated their need for proactive mental health support, especially as they face overlapping global crises. These  organizations work for and with young people, ensuring their perspectives and needs are placed first.”
The grant to VOiCEup will support a leadership and service-learning program for underserved middle- and high-schoolers. The program is designed to increase school connectedness, youth community engagement, and personal discovery through service-learning whereby improving students’ mental health, building protective factors, and decreasing youth disengagement. The addition of QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention for program facilitators, parents, and partner staff will significantly enhance the program and the support available to these students.
“We’re thrilled and grateful to have been selected in the inaugural cohort of Born This Way Foundations’ Kindness in Community Fund recipients.” said Christi Terefenko, Executive Director of VOiCEup Berks. “Our YVC School-Based Service Program is completely youth-driven with program participants identifying issue areas about which they are passionate, and facilitators helping the students develop community projects to affect change in those areas. The ability of youth to choose the issue-area for project development is a key aspect of the YVC School-Based Program. It gives students a platform for developing their voice and creating change in issue areas that are important to them.”
The Kindness In Community Fund is a fund created by Born This Way Foundation to meet unmet needs with kindness and in the spirit of community. The grants will help further the shared commitment to working for and with young people to validate their emotions and eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health.