It has been more than 10 years since Marcus Pope joined the making of an organization called Youthprise as a member of its founding leadership team in 2011. Now the organization’s president, Pope knows the organization has changed his life, along with the other more than 100 youth organizations and over $30 million given to youth initiatives since its launch in 2012. Despite the numbers, it’s the mission that makes Youthprise the organization that it is today as well as the people it has impacted along the way.
Youthprise is a Minnesota-based nonprofit and a grantee of the NBA Foundation. The Foundation’s goal is to promote Black economic empowerment and growth and Youthprise’s values closely align with that.
“In simplest terms, Youthprise is a champion for young people in Minnesota” said Pope, who became president of the organization in 2022 after serving as its vice president since 2017.
“And we do our work with and for young people. So that means we integrate and involve young people in everything we do, at the highest level of our work, including our governance.”
According to its mission statement, Youthprise “[increases] equity with and for Minnesota’s indigenous, low-income, and racially diverse youth,” a large task at hand with an even larger support system. Youthprise completes this goal with a multifaceted approach through education, leadership and economics (to name just a few). To its team, the way that they’ve continued to empower the young people around them has made all the difference.
“Youthprise is not only for young people, it’s also by young people” said Hayat Muse, who joined Youthprise’s youth board when she was 17.
“That’s like an age when you feel like nobody is listening to you, or nobody really cares about what you have to say — joining this board and being as much of a member as the adult board members was really empowering, and I think it definitely helped me in regards to speaking up for myself in other spaces”
Young people aged 16-25 make up 50% of Youthprise’s board, an intentional way of amplifying their voices.
“Having folks who have proximity to the issue being involved in shaping decisions leads to better responsiveness and better outcomes.” Pope said.
“We at Youthprise are often being challenged to rethink how we do things in unconventional ways and to take bold risks that we otherwise wouldn’t take because … we’re led by people who are impacted.”
This work has led to youth leaders spending years with the organization. Muse has been with Youthprise for two years, and college student Quincy Powe who was introduced to Youthprise in the eighth grade and is now a Twin Cities Opportunity Youth Network manager.
“Above all, I think [Youthprise] promotes that intergenerational connection that I think a lot of people seem to forget” Muse said.
“I think intergenerational work is tough, it’s challenging, but it’s powerful and it leads to better outcomes” Pope added.
In April, Youthprise was honored at the Minnesota Timberwolves game with a custom jersey, and their work was displayed on the Target Center’s in-arena displays, five days after their grant — a part of the Foundation’s fifth round of grantees. Jennifer Ridgeway, Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx Executive Vice President of Social Responsibility commented on Youthprise’s impactful work in a press release stating: “We applaud [Youthprise’s] leadership and innovative social impact initiatives.”
Through their work, Youthprise has not only accomplished big goals, but according to their site has an even bigger vision, “where outcomes for youth are no longer predictable by race, geography, or socioeconomic status”.
“Elevating young people also helps them elevate themselves — and also helps them tap into their own potential” Muse said.
“There is just so much to be gained when you leave traditional power structures at the door.”
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