Hartford Foundation Awards Nearly $370,000 to Support Dismantling Structural Racism

The Foundation’s Access Grants program has awarded $2.2 million to 62 nonprofits in the past two years.

For more than 35 years the Charter Oak Boxing Academy (COBA) has attracted students with the opportunity to become great athletes and "Champions in the Ring." Their more important work has always been helping young people become "Champions of Life” outside the ring. 

COBA offers an array of programs that recognize the “whole” child. Amateur boxing is used as the vehicle to teach necessary personal qualities and life skills. “Books Before Boxing” has always been their motto; having their boxers attain some form of post-secondary education is the end game. While many young people are attracted to COBA because of its USA Olympic Boxing Program, others enroll because of COBA’s outstanding community reputation and the fact it is a fun place to better themselves. It is also a place where kids can find emotional safety alongside trusting, caring adults.

Recognizing the challenges many young people face in completing high school and transitioning to College or their post-secondary education (PSE) Program, COBA received a $49,563 Access Grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving to pilot the COBA Education Portal Program (EPP).  The program promotes high school completion and technical career institution or college applications among youth in Hartford. The program also focuses on finding accessible pipelines to meaningful and prosperous careers via several post-secondary education options. This grant will allow 50 high school youth to participate in EPP, where they will receive the direct support of an educational / vocational expert to transition them to college or their post-secondary education program, visit colleges, meet with successful Black and Latine role models, and engage in supportive discussions. Participants will also attend a psycho-educational group led by COBA’s clinical team to address fears, concerns, and other life challenges interfering with school attendance and the transition to ongoing education.

“COBA has been successful in helping many of its youth transition to college as well as pursuing other post-secondary education opportunities,” said COBA Founder, Executive Director, and Head Coach Johnny Callas. “With this grant from the Hartford Foundation, we will be able to pilot a formal program that will provide this support in a more uniform and intensive basis.  We have seen our COBA students graduate with engineering degrees, receive their master’s degree from an Ivy League school, and have had a student begin their academic journey to become a physician. With the Hartford Foundation in our corner, we will help even more students achieve their academic and professional goals.”

In 2021, the Hartford Foundation launched the Access Grants initiative to support nonprofits aligned with its strategic priorities: dismantle structural racism and increase social and economic mobility for Greater Hartford’s communities of color. These grants are designed to identify and support nonprofits which may be new partners of the Foundation or to support projects or programs aligned with the Foundation’s strategic goals that may not have received funding previously. Through five rounds of funding, the Foundation awarded more than $2.2 million to 62 organizations. The latest round of Access Grants supported eleven organizations with nearly $370,000 in support.

Of the 62 grants awarded over the past two years, twelve went to grantees that had never previously received a grant from the Foundation. Applicants that were not successful were invited to receive staff feedback and to update their application for consideration in the following round, including two organizations in 2023.

“We have been so pleased to support so many new approaches and welcome new partners whose work is contributing to the Hartford Foundation’s strategic goals,” said Hartford Foundation Senior Community Impact Officer Kate Piotrowski. “Our experience with Access Grants has inspired the Foundation to look for ways to open the door wider to organizations and work to respond to emergent community needs.”

Requests of up to $50,000 over a period of one year are considered. Grant award sizes are aligned with the size and scope of the project, the organization’s capacity to implement the work, and its expected impact. Grants support new projects or existing efforts, including operating support for organizations which have a mission dedicated to addressing systemic racism.

Recognizing that BIPOC-led and -serving nonprofits have historically been under resourced, the Foundation has made the choice to prioritize requests from organizations that are BIPOC-led, particularly for efforts that primarily serve communities of color. More than 60 percent of the Access Grants awarded over the past two years have gone to organizations led by people of color and whose staff and leadership reflect the communities they serve.

The ten other grants awarded include:

OrganizationProject DescriptionAmount
Advancing CT TogetherProvide Connecticut Association of Human Services Volunteer Income Tax Assistance services in the 2024 tax year for more than 400 returning citizens in Greater Hartford. Provide financial literacy workshops for more than 500 returning citizens, and progress 280 returning citizens to a "Healthy Banking" module to support opening a low-cost/no-fee back account and transferring funds from their Department of Correction accounts into new accounts.$49,796
Chicks Ahoy FarmBuild and support a group of women and BILPOC (Black, Indigenous, Latine, & People of Color) seeking to start farming in Greater Hartford. The program will expand, train, and support a leading and learning cohort, the FLOC (Farmers and Leaders of Color), support existing small farming projects in Hartford and Bloomfield, and start up 16 additional farming projects in Greater Hartford with support from the FLOC; expand community outreach with residents in Bloomfield, Windsor, West Hartford, Manchester, and Simsbury.$50,000
The Connecticut Council for Interreligious Understanding (CIRU)Facilitate moderated panels that bring together representatives of nine major world religions for discussion about their faiths and coordinate local events and other workshop sessions that reflect on the intersections of faith and race/ethnicity. The grant will expand the number and breadth of CIRU’s activities with a substantial increase in the number of panels held in predominantly white towns in the Greater Hartford area.$25,000
Connecticut Democracy CenterFacilitate a workshop series historical society and museum staff to learn how to effectively research about slavery, freedom, and the American Revolution to uncover the stories and acts of enslaved people whose fights for personal and national liberty have been left out of town histories. A cohort of five to eight historical societies and museums will interpret primary source documents that uncover untold American Revolutionary stories of the struggles for freedom in relation to the ideas of liberty and freedom.$31,250
ConnectiKidsProvide holistic development of 500 to 600 Hartford students through a range of comprehensive programs - including meaningful mentor relationships, tutoring, and cultural enrichment activities - to enhance classroom learning and improve grades, attendance, and attitudes in school, and promote a lifelong love of learning and positive development.$37,000
Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS)Expand the number of immigrant mothers of young children participating in IRIS’ Hartford Family Literacy Program, a two-year adult education initiative program for female English Language learners to improve their English language skills while their preschool aged children are enrolled in IRIS’ preschool readiness program. $50,000
LayavinyasaContinuation funding to support the expanding program, "Culture Matters.” The project provides exposure and connection to Indian arts and culture using thematic performance, discussion, and art education through community activities and events and in-school arts education$16,400
The Governor's Prevention PartnershipTo build the social capital of Black and Latine youth in Hartford, The Partnership, along with the Greater Hartford Mentoring Collaborative (GHMC), will lead a Hartford-based mentor recruitment initiative to raise awareness of the need for youth mentors, expand and train the pool of potential BIPOC mentors in evidence-based mentoring practices, and connect more adult volunteers with Hartford youth. Mentors will be connected to youth-serving organizations such as YMCA Wilson-Grey, Urban League of Greater Hartford, and Active City.$50,000
Wood Memorial Library and Museum (South Windsor)After its initial engagement in a related introductory workshop series, the library will continue its research on the hidden history of slavery in South Windsor and work with an archivist to record information and stories in transparent ways that incorporate timelines, geography, and community connections, followed by programming and communications to increase public education and discourse.$20,000

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding towns. Through partnerships, the Foundation seeks to strengthen communities in Greater Hartford by putting philanthropy in action to dismantle structural racism and achieve equity in social and economic mobility. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $948 million since its founding in 1925. For more information, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.