Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds bipartisan political discussion group, project management education program for youth

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded $500 mini-grants to WeListen and Serve Squad on February 3, 2019.

WeListen is a grassroots, campus-based organization at the University of Michigan working to bridge the American political divide through small-group conversation. The group’s goal is to spark political discussion, rather than debate, between students from all across the political spectrum. Inspired by the 2016 presidential election, WeListen has held discussions reaching over 90 participants, tackling contentious issues such as gun rights, free speech, and abortion while developing partnerships with student organizations and faculty across campus.

Awesome Foundation trustees present WeListen organizers with their grant funds.

Awesome Foundation trustees present WeListen organizers with their grant funds.

WeListen has prioritized intellectual diversity by engaging an evenly-split executive board of conservatives and liberals. The group has also done outreach to conservative student groups, so that its dialogues represent conservative voices at a rate 10 percent higher than the overall student body. WeListen’s goals go far beyond easing political tension, with the intention of creating a more connected campus that values divergent viewpoints as an opportunity to grow and learn. Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to cover WeListen’s annual marketing and operating expenses.

Serve Squad is a hybrid, social impact IT project management (PM) service and STEM career prep program for underserved youth. Five interns, ages 16-19, from under-resourced communities will receive stipends, top-tier PM training, wraparound services, and pre-college/apprenticeship preparation over the 12-month pilot program. Youth will take a proctored PM exam and graduate with a national PM badge in alignment with the Project Management Institute’s curriculum.

Awesome Foundation trustees present Tene Logan of Serve Squad with her grant funds.

Awesome Foundation trustees present Tene Logan of Serve Squad with her grant funds.

Youth will be paid stipends during their active-learning experiences, which will entail providing assistance to IT-challenged social impact program providers. Serve Squad will target both urban and rural communities with a focus on giving opportunities to youth who have aged out of foster care, been adjudicated, and experienced poverty-related indicators. The pilot will start in the Northwest Detroit area and expand statewide with the goal of eventually creating a global program. Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to fund the necessary collaboration and communication software licenses for Serve Squad’s first five interns to obtain IT PM training and technology access.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.