6 Out-of-the-Box Youth Initiatives You Should Know

Helping youth grow into fabulous adults


Youth on a skateboard.

(lzf / Shutterstock.com)

Since young people are the future leaders of tomorrow, how do we ensure that they grow up to be productive and happy members of society? We have compiled a list of six diverse organizations that connect to youth by offering them alternative ways to channel their energies. From skateboarding to filmmaking, these organizations are making an investment in one of the world’s most precious resources – our young people.


WHAT A nonprofit that teaches girls computer science, robotics, algorithms, web
design and mobile development.
SCOPE The national nonprofit is looking to close the gender gap in computing fields. Through their summer immersion camp and clubs, Girls Who Code aims to provide computer science education and exposure to a million young women by 2020.
PERSONAL TOUCH Founded by Reshma Saujani, the organization has masterminded a new education model, complete with all elements of practical technological tools. The Girls Who Code participants learn from leading educators, engineers and entrepreneurs who also serve as mentors.


WHAT Beat Making Lab started as a college course at the University of North Carolina in which students are taught the essentials of beat making. They learn to compose instrumental music using computers and software programs.
SCOPE The Beat Making Lab has been transported around the world and is active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Panama, Fiji and Ethiopia. The program is tailored to train young folks in DIY music production and entrepreneurship. In a pay-it-forward style, Beat Making Lab graduates teach community members what they learned.
PERSONAL TOUCH Music is a medium for connection and expression, and beat making especially appeals to younger people as the sounds come from the musical worlds of hip hop and electronica. It’s also incredibly accessible; a backpack can eventually house a complete music studio and no prior musical background is required for future beat making masters.


WHAT A New York-based nonprofit dedicated to using skateboarding as a channel to connect with inner-city youth.
SCOPE HHF offers a ton of programming for young people including scholarships to attend a premier action sports training camp and skate clinics and trips where local kids receive free skateboarding lessons and tips from pros. One of the standout programs is HHF In The Classroom, a day in which students in special education programs meet with top skateboarding figures in the industry. Students are exposed to alternative professions and the panel session concludes with instructional skating.
PERSONAL TOUCH  Harold Hunter was a talented skateboarder, actor and comedian who passed away at a young age. The Foundation was created in his memory to spread his love of skateboarding to inner city kids, and provide an outlet for personal development and support.


WHAT An organization that connects to youth through teaching and immersing them in the ins and outs of filmmaking.
SCOPE  Originally started in Chicago as an initiative to keep at-risk kids occupied after school, Dreaming Tree Foundation’s flagship program Fresh Films has branched out to 27 cities in the United States. Young folks have the opportunity to work on a feature film from the bottom-up by writing, editing and producing. The organization most recently released an all-youth-made film The Stream which was featured on Goodnet.  
PERSONAL TOUCH Many corporations and Hollywood stars have jumped on board to facilitate filmmaking experiences for young people through Dreaming Tree Foundation. Additionally, the nonprofit hosts Youth Fest, an event which premieres youth-created films and invites industry professionals to speak and hobnob with budding filmmakers.


WHAT A Canadian nonprofit that uses art and technology to teach and involve young people in the democratic process.
SCOPE Apathy is Boring organizes concerts and social events to engage young voters about the political scene and how it affects them. The nonpartisan organization uses their website as a platform for disseminating information about elections and political parties, as well as serving as an online community to connect and inform young voters.
PERSONAL TOUCH Apathy is Boring works closely with artists who use their celebrity to speak about the connection between art and democracy or to collaborate on public service announcements. The nonprofit’s goals are to increase youth voting rates and create dialogue between young voters and elected officials, reminding everyone that to care is where it’s at.


WHAT A nonprofit that uses running and physical activity as a vehicle to instill confidence in young girls aged 7-13.
SCOPE The 12-week program is held throughout the United States and Canada, and has already reached out to over 700,000 girls. Instructors are certified Girls on the Run coaches who work with a curriculum divided into three parts: understanding ourselves, valuing relationships and learning how to connect with and shape the world at large.
PERSONAL TOUCH Every Girls on the Run program culminates in a 5K running event in which each girl runs with a running buddy; friends and family are also welcome to volunteer or run themselves. The confidence building program is intent on introducing young girls to a physically healthy lifestyle, while at the same time instilling them with a confident, can-do attitude.