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Spark Grants: Creative Solutions from Grassroots Leaders

Filed Under: Expanded Learning,Spark Grants - Posted @ 11:36am

While volunteering with elementary school students in Tacoma’s Eastside neighborhood, Chelsea McElroy saw a lot of girls fighting and getting into trouble at school.  Wanting to help, she brought the girls together to work out their issues peacefully.  The problem was, when she got all the girls in a room together, nobody wanted to talk.

Looking to break the ice, Chelsea put on some music and started doing a simple step routine.  One by one the girls joined in and followed her lead.  Before long, they were all dancing in rhythm and asking if they could get together more often.

“It kind of transformed itself from talking to stepping.  And through the step we grew a lot closer, and then we actually got to work out some of those social-emotional things that we intended on working on to begin with.” – Chelsea McElroy, Vision of Eastside Step Team

Soon the group evolved into a step team with aspirations of performing at events around the city.  As more girls joined, Chelsea looked for funding to help support their efforts.  In late 2017, Chelsea received a Spark Grant from GTCF and used the funds to purchase uniforms and pay for rehearsal space.  She says the grant provided an additional “spark” because it got her and the girls thinking about sponsorships and strategizing other ways they could find support to build their team.

“It expanded where I was at too because then I had to research how can we get to where the girls are envisioning their team to go?”

The relationships between the girls are growing stronger as well.  Getting them to talk isn’t a problem anymore, and Chelsea says their teachers have commented on changes they’ve seen in the way the girls carry themselves at school.

“Every girl on my team is a happy full person because they have something that’s filling their bucket, something that puts back into who they are and boosts up how they feel about themselves.”

Chelsea’s vision of helping Eastside girls build friendships and leadership through step is a prime example of the types of grassroots change GTCF supports with Spark Grants.

Early 2018 Spark Grant Recipients

Just like Chelsea, our most recent group of Spark Grant recipients are developing creative solutions to needs they see in their neighborhoods and communities across Pierce County.  You can read more about their projects below.

SKINFOLK – Necashaw Montgomery & CHIMAERA 

SKINFOLK is a grassroots, collaborative, multi-sensory, cultural “skinography” project capturing, archiving, and celebrating the powerful headwrap stories of Diasporic Black communities in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Merry on Main – Sandra Smith

Merry on Main is a December event aimed at bringing festive cheer and increased business traffic to downtown Buckley.

Sidewalk Chalk Extravaganza – Amber Monson

A diversity-themed sidewalk chalk contest that invites community members to share their artistic talents and cultural influences in conjunction with the Summer Concerts on the Esplanade events hosted by Friends of Foss and TWA

Environmental Justice Camp for Girls – T’wina Franklin

A two-day camp, organized by local women and girls of color, that utilizes STEM-based activities and experiences to build a sisterhood of girl scientists and environmental justice advocates.

Krownless Kings Showcase – Idris Joyce & Roxy Mango

Krownless Kings will host a showcase incorporating art, dance, food and music featuring young people from the Krownless Kids Youth program.


Do you have an idea that addresses and important need in your community?  Apply for the next round of Spark Grants now through October 12, 2018.  For more information or to apply, click here,