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Teens in Buffalo get $1,000 to reimagine local after-school programs

Generator Z initiative pays teens to reimagine after school programming
Posted at 9:16 PM, Jun 28, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There's a new platform trying to reimagine after-school programs for teenagers in Western New York.

They gathered a group of 1,000 experts and paid them for their ideas. Who are these experts? The very teens are using these programs.

"We recognize that afterschool providers, they are the source of those opportunities for tweens and teens are the experts of their own lives. So when you put those two sides of the equation together, the magic really does happen," said Abir Ali, director, Generator Z Initiative.

Each teen got $1,000 to contribute their thoughts and ideas on after-school programming through this new Generator Z Initiative; funding comes from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.

"They couldn’t believe it, and it made me sad they couldn’t believe it. There’s so much of Gen Z that understands their power, but we also want them to understand their value," said Ali.

Using those ideas, they gave a total of $2 million spread between 42 local after-school providers.

"Our grantees will have one year to work with the teens they serve on the ground to bring those ideas to life," said Ali.

Providers fit in 10 different categories:

  • Creative Arts & Culture
  • Jobs & Careers
  • Friends & Community
  • Mental, Social & Emotional Health
  • Identity & Acceptance
  • Excellence in Learning
  • Play & Sports
  • Life Skills & Balance
  • Growth & Wellness
  • Fun & Games

“It’s an opportunity for our youth and the youth of this community to get more of a voice and shape what after-school programming looks like for them," said Matt Kauffman, Founder and Farm manager at 5 Loaves Farm.

Farmers at 5 loaves farm on West Delavan work to bring healthy food options to tables in Buffalo. Their after-school program provides local teens with a first job.

"Building those soft skills and hard skills, we have a lot of fun together," said Kauffman.

They received $36,000 through the Generator Z Initiative.

It’s the perfect way to spend free time for 15-year-old Hassan Suleiman. He and his family moved to Buffalo from Kenya in 2016.

"I used to be a farmer there; when I came here, I wanted to do the same thing, so that’s why I started working here," said Suleiman.

Some of the other local after-school programs include youth centers, performing arts centers, and mental health centers reaching across Western New York in just about every county.

Program leaders say this was really all about giving teens a seat at tables that they’re often not invited to, giving them control of their own futures.

Taylor Epps at WKBW first reported this story.