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I Am Trenton's 2022 Grants Promote Equity, Social Justice, and Resilience

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Trenton, NJ I Am Trenton Community Foundation is proud to announce awards totaling more than $50,000 to 19 grassroots community programs building resilience in the face of challenges, challenging structural inequality and enhancing the lives of Trenton residents through its Citywide grant program. Grantees include first-time recipients Gladys Gonzalez who delivers healthy food to families in need and provides food, household items, clothing and toys throughout the city at community events and Jersey Divas running a Youth Book Club weekly academic activity that will guide 30 Trenton youth in independent reading. Two additional projects are being co-funded with Isles, Inc., using Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit (NRTC) funds for the Old Trenton neighborhood, bringing the total projects funded to 21.

I Am Trenton Community Foundation is an all-volunteer nonprofit putting resources where they matter most—in local projects run by residents. Since 2010, IAT has invested more than $400,000 in more than 200 projects.

“We are so excited to help support these programs,” said IAT Board President Raj Manimaran. “From gardening to sneaker design, entrepreneurship to academics, computers to youth sports, these programs engage Trenton residents too often overlooked or ignored, and enable them to overcome structural challenges.”

Shioban Peters, director of Jersey Divas, a first-time IAT grant recipient, will use the funds for a youth book club.

“We are elated as we take small steps to help bridge the gap between literature and our youth,” Peters said. “We thank I Am Trenton for understanding that the small grassroots of Trenton can be beneficial, and for continuing to help the visionaries in our city –one step at a time.”

Gladys Gonzalez is another grassroots activist receiving her first I Am Trenton grant; she will use the fund to continue delivering food and other needed items to people in her community. Her outreach began six years ago, in memory of her son Kevin Rafael Gonzalez. “His dream was helping people, and her work makes his dream come true,” explained Corin Garcia, a friend – and fellow grant recipient for her own community work. Corin encouraged Gladys to apply to IAT based on its track record of supporting local projects. “Everything she does, she goes to the cemetery to tell Kevin about it,” Garcia said. “She went and told him she got her first grant to help people.”

  • Eric Bullock - The Culture is K.E.Y. Summer Enrichment & School Prep Program aims to ensure that students are academically, socially and emotionally prepared to thrive. Programs focus on self-expression, engineering, arts, music and yoga, as well as field trips and meals.

  • Vonzella’s Crown – Von's Seasoned Seniors brings Trenton senior citizens and youth together through intergenerational art, health, and wellness programming.

  • Jersey Divas --the Youth Book Club is a weekly academic activity that will guide 30 Trenton youth in independent reading, teaching them to apply meaning across texts, create analytical pieces of writing, and love reading for reading’s sake. Each participant will also be guided in conceptualizing, outlining, writing, editing, and proofreading an original book of their own, which will be published at the end of the program.

  • Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) -- the students in the FUTURO youth mentoring program will present a Poetry Slam for the Trenton community in spring 2023 about their experiences as first- and second-generation immigrants.

  • TDI Connect -- PC Refurbishment Program: Our grant will enable TDI Connect to acquire the components they need to refurbish and upgrade donated PCs that they will then donate to groups and individuals in Trenton.

  • Academy One Garden -- The Little Sprouts Program will provide a structured learning and recreational experience for our garden members in elementary and middle schools.

  • Dress for Success will create a Career Academy within Trenton Central High School, which will provide free career clothing and accessories to female students as well as career mentoring and job preparedness workshops. The intent of the space is to give young women from Trenton all they need to take advantage of career opportunities in the city and region.

  • Lora Productions – TCHS Creative Lab: Josue Lora, a Trenton resident who runs a highly successful audio-visual recording studio in the city, will offer a free course for 30 students from Trenton Central High School, leading them in writing, performing, and recording an original song, as well as filming an original music video, and learning about the recording industry. Lora is a TCHS graduate who benefited from similar mentorship while a student; it is his fourth year offering this free lab as a way of inspiring other young Trentonians to pursue their dreams.

  • Global Youth Transformation Initiative, Inc. – The Trenton Service Learning Project is an after-school program for middle school students in Trenton, which introduces participants to the steps of service-learning: assess the needs in their community as a group; build out a project that they choose; and present what they learned.

  • Kindersmile Foundation – the Community Oral Health Center in Trenton to provide needed access to oral health education and dental care to underserved and uninsured children and adults.

  • Play Soccer Nonprofit International -- The Trenton Youth Soccer League provides a free, fun, safe, equal opportunity for school children, youth and families to access and participate in a City-wide recreational program.

  • Freedom Skate Park, New Jersey’s only indoor skate park, will provide free skateboards, helmets, and lessons on the basics of skating to 25 Trenton youth in October.

  • Trenton Puerto Rican Community and Friends Organization – Puerto Rico Through the Senses will be a series of events highlighting Puerto Rican culture, each of which will feature a complementary curated conversation on cultural history. The goal is to educate the Trenton community about the valuable roles Puerto Ricans play in the US, globally, and in Trenton, and to create opportunities for Puerto Ricans and friends to share their vibrant splendor.

  • Reinas y Diamantes – the Little Diamond Chef Program provides free summer educational activities for children and youth, including tutoring in math and reading, health and nutrition, and art.

  • Gladys Gonzalez – Luz, Esperanza y Vida: Trenton resident Gladys Gonzalez delivers healthy food to families in need and provides food, household items, clothing and toys throughout the city at community events. Gladys has been doing this work for years on her own, and I Am Trenton’s grant will support her ability to deliver items to families who are homebound or lack transportation.

  • FlyKickz --Connecting through Art & Sole/Soul is a two-part sneaker customizing workshop that will teach participants the basics of sneaker customization while building creative and emotional connections between participants.

  • Black Cannabis – Providing education materials and raising awareness among high school students regarding career opportunities in the cannabis industry.

  • Latino Merchants Association of New Jersey – Assisting with capacity building for minority-owned businesses which will help build long-term resilience in the community.

  • Trenton Makes Athletic Center – Sports training at pop-up events open to the community, with the goal of raising awareness of the need for competitive sports for Trenton youth.

  • Trenton Community A-TEAM – “Equality: The heART of Trenton” (co-funded by Isles): This project combines reflections on social justice with community-engaged public art. Each TCAT artist will paint a piece on a large panel that expresses their experiences with and feelings about structural inequality. The creation process will be open to the Trenton community, to engage with the artists and create their own art pieces speaking to equity and social justice themes.

  • Trenton Free Public Library – “Being your own best advocate - Teen Edition”: A series of monthly workshops for – and on topics requested by – teens aged 13-18. Topics will include financial literacy, career and college readiness, and increased self confidence.

IAT seeks to engage all Trenton communities in the Citywide Grants program. IAT encourages first-time grant seekers by streamlining the application and allowing submissions in video format. IAT also provide grant materials and online information sessions in both Spanish and English.

The only regret, Manimaran noted, is that IAT could not fund several deserving and innovative projects. “Due to limited funds, we had to pass on a number of projects that would really benefit our community,” he said. “But that just makes us more determined to keep highlighting the good in our city and finding more resources for ongoing investment in our local visionaries.”

To learn more about I Am Trenton and our work, or to donate to support more projects like this, please visit www.iamtrenton.org. A full directory of our grants is available at iamtrenton.org/directory.


From top left: Jersey Divas, Trenton Puerto Rican Community and Friends Organization, Culture is KEY, Gladys Gonzalez.

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