top of page
  • Writer's pictureRise Together

Equity in Action: April 2022 Rise Together Grant Update

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Undoubtedly, the money helps. The $423,000 in Rise Together grants made in June 2021 are funding new pilot projects, equity work that organizations were previously unable to fund, grassroots initiatives, and capacity building for volunteer-led organizations to finally hire paid staff. But these grants are about more than money–they are about building, sustaining, and growing a trusted network of leaders of color who support each other’s vision of racial equity and work together to ensure success.

As you’ll see from the project updates below, together we are building safe spaces for youth, fostering creativity and expression, helping families heal, and mentoring students. Together we are providing families needed resources, connecting storytellers to a professional network, and empowering a new generation of community organizers.

Together, we are rising.

If you feel moved to join in supporting these projects, please donate directly to the organizations leading this work. If you are excited to see the Rise Together group and grantmaking process grow, please donate to the Rise Together Fund.


Completed Projects

To secure a safe physical space for Aztecas youth to go for safety, belonging, connection, and support.

Aztecas secured a space at the La Manzana Community Resources building in downtown Watsonville and we outfitted it with furniture, a case for our soccer trophies, and art all donated by community members. The space will be open five days a week with volunteer tutors and Aztecas youth can access it whenever they need. (Photo: youth enjoying the clubhouse!)

For the Black Health Matters Initiative to build the staffing and programmatic infrastructure to support Black mental health through the arts and culture, community building, youth development and leadership.

Thanks to the Rise Together grant, we were able to hire a part-time director, a part-time program manager, a curator for BHMI community events and coordination, and a finance manager for the growing initiative. Receiving the Rise Together funding allowed for cultural and community events for BHMI to continue and fuel connection and healthy activities in both parks and local venues. We feel deeply grateful for the opportunity from this funding to continue to build community, foster healthy connections and bolster the mission of the Black Health Matters Initiative. (Photo: Cat Willis with nurse Jessica Thomas from Watsonville Community Hospital, who helped attendees at the first-anniversary celebration of Black Health Matters get a COVID vaccine.)

For the youth Mexican folkloric dance group to expand the repertoire Bailes de Oaxaca through dance lessons and performances.


Estrellas de Esperanza hosted Maestro Inocencio Rojas Cruz from the Costa Chica region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Through the grant, we paid for his travel, lodging, a stipend, and for authentic masks for the dancers to wear. For one intensive week, dancers and their families gathered every evening to learn the steps, movements, stories, and history of Danza de los Diablos, a traditional Afro-Mexican dance performed during the festivities of Día de los Muertos. They practiced the dance so thoroughly that they performed it at the Watsonville Film Festival’s Día de Los Muertos Celebration. The students were able to connect to the rich and diverse Mexican culture and learn different indigenous and Afro-Mexican traditions which are too often marginalized. It’s this connection to their heritage that helps students feel rooted in their identities, build confidence, and have a strong sense of community. (Photo: Dancers in the traditional Danza de los Diablos masks.)

To hire the first paid leadership position supporting programming, fundraising, and Senderos’ longer-term sustainability.


Senderos hired Gabriela Cruz as the first full-time paid employee in the organization’s 20-year history. This Executive Director position is the first step in our plan to sustain our organization equitably. Being 100% volunteer-run for 20 years, it was critical that we break the cycle of unpaid labor that improves the quality of life for people of color. (Photo: from left to right, happy Senderos leaders Gabriela, Nereida, Helen, and Fe during the most recent Latino Role Models conference.)

For United 4 Youth to organize a system of school and community partners to address gaps in opportunities and provide support for K-12 youth of color through mentorship, academic support, career readiness, health and wellness, and community engagement.


The Rise Together grant gave United4Youth more flexible funding for partners to help connect families to resources especially around rental assistance this past year, helped connect the partners closer together, and helped youth navigate the return to in-person learning. Each region involved decided how they best wanted to utilize the funds. Watsonville ended up splitting it evenly between the six organizations and most of it helped connect youth and their families to rental assistance. They connected 225 people with rent relief through United 4 Youth. Live Oak decided to use their part of the funds to help hire an after-school coordinator to pull all the resources for youth together.

To share appreciation for farmworkers by providing food, water, gift cards, and information about community resources. June 2021 - December 2021


We are still continuing to go out once or twice a month on the weekend. We provide lunches, gift cards, resources, and vaccine information to the agriculture workers. We still have 11 active volunteers dedicated to this work. We’ve given out the majority of the funds in lunches and gift cards. (Photo: a volunteer meets with farmworkers out in the field.)

To launch Cine Se Puede Fellowship to bring resources, connections, and support to emerging Latinx filmmakers at any stage of their project to realize their full potential.


We launched the Cine Se Puede inaugural cohort of seven fellows, who range in age from 19 to 33, three of whom identify as LGBTQ+. The fellowship includes up to $1,000 to fund their project, mentorship, networking opportunities, pitch sessions with industry specialists, and customized support for 13 months. This pilot program is organically evolving into a community of locally-rooted filmmakers sharing ideas, resources, and support. WFF produced a video and a catalog of projects for funders and potential collaborators. With funding from Cine Se Puede, a fellow was able to travel to Texas to film a pivotal moment in his current documentary film about transnational soccer experiences. Another fellow produced the second episode of her series. Read more. (Photo: The inaugural Cine Se Puede Fellows from left to right: Pedro Gonzalez Renteria, Marcos Cisneros, Eugenia Renteria, Gabriel J. Medina, Carlos Campos, Megan Martinez Goltz, and Angela “Angie” Rockey.)


Ongoing projects

$13,000 To support instructors and materials for Young Adult Film School and Set School for youth of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Update: In January/February 2022, we held the first-ever Set School, where 12 young adults learned how to work every station on a film set from industry professionals–gaffing, lighting, sound, camera operation, wardrobe, continuity, makeup, craft services, and more. The shoot took place over the course of two weeks during filming of a feature by a first-time Latine woman writer/director. We’ve also hired our instructors for Young Adult Film school in July. All instructors are people of color, and within that representation, we've also got LGBTQ+, disabled, and immigrant intersections. (Photo: Ashlyn, in the foreground, on the set with colleagues.)

To develop an equitable human resources structure and hiring practices that center the values of communities of color and increase opportunities for leaders of color to grow.

Update: In late 2021, CAB hired an HR Equity/Operations Specialist who will be growing CAB’s Diversity/Equity/Inclusion efforts. Upcoming goals are to draft an equity statement, evaluate and improve onboarding practices, update the employee handbook, and update the new hire packet all with a lens toward diversity and inclusion.

To hire a community organizer for Santa Cruz County to lead the COVID-19 recovery through training, mentoring, increasing leadership, and community organizing.


COPA has begun the foundational work in the hiring process, which is built on leadership development and volunteer collaboration with a cohort rather than a traditional application process. The cohort then helps determine potential organizers that can be hired through COPA to take on the lead organizing role in Santa Cruz County. Three cohort meetings have been held so far in 2022 with the goal of hiring to be complete by the end of the year. (Photo: the February gathering of COPA volunteers.)

$21,000 For NESTcorps to continue creating youth-driven changes in their community by researching issues, developing strategies, and taking action that supports their community while also preparing them for future careers.


NESTcorps is an entirely youth-driven program where youth research community issues for one semester and then do data collection to better understand the issue and then work together to implement youth-driven solutions. In the fall of 2021, the youth identified an issue impacting their community: lack of culturally competent curriculum in schools and ethnic studies courses. They spent last semester interviewing students and teachers, distributing surveys and having conversations to better understand the issue. This spring they are compiling all that research and data and developing strategies for action and solutions around how schools can best implement culturally competent curriculum. This summer they will implement their actions which may involve presenting at a city council meeting, sharing it with the school board and sharing back their suggestions with teachers and students. (Photo: notes from a NESTcorps meeting on the project.)

To launch the "Moms in the Middle" pilot program providing direct grants and resources to single mother caregivers that identify as Black and/or Indigenous in Santa Cruz County and are experiencing financial hardship to reduce their income volatility, improve health, and support financial planning.


Our Rise Together grant helped launch the entire program and website in both Spanish and English. Additionally, we have given out half of the available grants to 10 black or indigenous single mom caregivers and are getting real-time feedback about their impact through surveys we send out 1-2 months after. The survey data is helping us understand what this has meant for them and what changes to make for next time. The next phase will be to open the grants to all single moms in Santa Cruz County with a translated version of the survey in Spanish as well.

$47,000 To create a comprehensive suite of educational services for Black-identifying youth in Santa Cruz County including an incentivized mentoring program that offers leadership opportunities, academic and culturally appropriate programming to help students maximize their potential as rising professionals.

Update: We’ve begun program research and design by connecting with and learning from successful long-lived mentoring programs for black-identifying youth and meeting with and surveying local black-identifying high school students. We’ve also started recruiting college students to act as possible mentors and are in the process of coordinating interviews.

$40,000 To support trauma-informed healing for youth through art therapy and a communal art project at PVPSA.

UPDATE: The Watsonville City Council Arts Commission approved a youth-led design of the mosaic called “Empower Watsonville” that will reside on the new PVPSA facility. The design, which focuses on community, leadership, and brotherhood & sisterhood, was conceived after the youth toured and studied Watsonville’s existing public art. (Photo: PVPSA students working on the mural at the Muzzio Mosaics Art Center with Watsonville Brillante.)

117 views0 comments
bottom of page