St. Paul Youth Services Empowers Youth of Color with its Nonprofit Training Center


Empowering youth of color is a community-wide effort that takes partnership for St. Paul Youth Services (SPYS), our 2021 Minnesota Resourcefullness Award winner. SPYS’ mission is to improve the community’s collective ability to engage with and support youth of color by implementing practices, creating tools and sharing resources to foster a supportive community and overcome inequitable systems.

The youth involved with this award-winning nonprofit are provided training, development and leadership opportunities while being taught valuable skills to help them succeed. SPYS aims to create positive change by supporting partner organizations to assess and change how they work with youth of color.

Campaign Initiative – YouthPowerMN Nonprofit Training Center

SPYS’ revenue-generating initiative is the YouthPowerMN Nonprofit Training Center. In partnership with SPYS’ YouthPowerMN programming, this youth-led program serves with the motto, “Kids Changing Systems v. Systems Changing Kids”. Launched in 2017, the YouthPowerMN Nonprofit Training Center offers comprehensive training and workshops for partner nonprofits and public agencies who interact with youth.

Youth trainers from this program are participants of YouthPowerMN after-school and summer programs which work to address barriers that prevent these youth from leading change and building communities. Trainers are paid for their expertise as they provide the staff and leadership at partner organization with the skills, knowledge and tools they need to create youth-centric policies, programs, and organizational cultures, with a particular focus on equitably serving youth of color. The end results are more informed and educated partners with more inclusive organizations while the youth trainers from the YPMN program are empowered to serve as trainers and experts for the training center.

Goals of YouthPowerMN Nonprofit Training Center include:

  • Provide valuable and useful training for partner organizations
  • Create positive change for SPYS youth by supporting partner organizations to assess and change how they work with youth of color
  • Partner with SPYS youth to serve as experts and trainers
  • Establish a sustainable source of general operating support for SPYS’ work through earned income
  • Equip nonprofits and public agencies with the knowledge and skills they need to unlearn negative biases
  • Utilize an asset-based framework when working with youth
  • Invest in youth of color as leaders, innovators and experts
  • Center youth of color as expert resources for organizations
  • Create sustainable tools and strategies for policies, services, and organizational cultures that produce equitable outcomes for youth of color
  • Employ youth of color at a living wage

Creativity and Sustainability

Utilizing and empowering youth from its YPMN after-school and summer programs in its operation of the Nonprofit Training Center allowed SPYS to address the barriers that prevent youth of color from leading change and building community. These youth leaders are able to exercise the skills learned at YPMN to serve as paid trainers. When SPYS receive a training request from a partner organization, youth conduct the initial analysis of the need, adapt SPYS’ curricula to the specific needs, and design and present the training, either virtually or in-person.

For example, in summer 2021, SPYS provided a training for the Hosmer Library in Hennepin County on how library policies and processes can create welcoming spaces for all youth, in particular youth of color. Youth reviewed existing library marketing materials, procedures, and policies, and developed a training that discussed strengths and gaps, including specific suggestions for improvements. The library reviewed how staff work with youth during onboarding, how library signage can be more accessible to youth, and how security interacts with youth.

In addition to an increased net revenue of $18,000 for the nonprofit, this initiative has deepened community partnerships and organizational awareness. SPYS has worked with more than 100 nonprofit and public agency partners both through individual trainings and large-group trainings. YPMN has created amazing change among its partners in the community, helping to improve the way they work for and partner with youth of color.

“Pushing the limits is an essential part of healthy youth development. Yet, how adults respond when youth act out can change the trajectory of their lives -- for better or much, much worse. Our vision is a loving community where these youth are safe to live fully and freely both individually and within the community.”

– Tracine Asberry, CEO, St. Paul Youth Services

Key Insights for Nonprofits

When developing sustainable, revenue-generating programs for your nonprofit, be sure to implement SPYS resourceful tactics:

  • Partner with other nonprofits and agencies
  • Provide training opportunities
  • Empower people for leadership roles no matter their age, gender or ethnicity

About the Nonprofit

St. Paul Youth Services (SPYS) was established 45 years ago jointly by the City of Saint Paul and the Saint Paul Police Department, in response to concerns about increased youth interaction with the juvenile justice system. Its mission is to improve the community’s collective ability to engage and support youth of color by pioneering practices, creating tools and sharing resources. Learn more.

Has your nonprofit developed new innovative campaign initiatives? Be sure to enter our nationwide 2022 Resourcefullness Awards for a chance to win $50,000. The application period is set to open July 14, 2022 with 501(c)(3) organizations across the nation being eligible to apply.

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