Hartford youth-services organizations receive $1.9 million in second round of UNITY grants

Originally posted by Hartford Courant – Faithlyn Johnson, the founder and CEO of ActUp Theater, says she starts a workshop at the theater by saying “ActUp.”

“Then everybody says, ‘I am enough.’ We all like to be in a place where we feel complete, whole and our true selves. Agree?”

ActUp is one of 63 youth-serving organizations to receive a portion of the $1.9 million in Hartford’s second round of UNITY youth engagement grants. The second round of funding was announced by Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and U.S. Rep. John Larson at City Hall on Thursday.

The American Rescue Plan Act funds that the city received will serve about 9,000 city youths in a variety of activities, including sports, arts, music, dance, reading and mentorship. (The first round of funding was about $1.5 million, according to Kim Oliver, director of the Department of Families, Children, Youth and Recreation.)

Grants are just a part of the broader plan of how the city allocated its ARPA funds to “help and recover and heal everything the pandemic wrought,” Bronin said.

Faithlyn Johnson, left, is the founder and CEO of ActUp Theater, one of the 63 youth-serving organizations to receive a portion of the $1.9 million in Hartford’s second round of UNITY grants. The city, Bronin said, made significant long-term investments in community violence prevention and safety and wellness, as well as economic recovery and development. But the ARPA funds are also being used to make “significant investments in our young people,” Bronin said.

“[It’s] doing the vital work of helping our young people reconnect, heal, recover and just have fun after everything they’ve been through the last couple of years during the pandemic,” he said.

Bronin credited Hartford’s federal delegation — U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, as well as Larson — for having the funds be entrusted at the municipal level rather than the county level “so they would make the biggest impact.”

Larson, for his part, credited Bronin for lobbying on behalf of not only Hartford, but the entire state as to how the funds should be allocated.

“When you get to the heart of what moves the nation, is when people who are on the ground in their community understand the needs of the community and are then able to translate that,” Larson said. “This is a model for the country and how the country should go about spending ARPA dollars. …

“It doesn’t happen unless you have a plan, a commitment and a vision. This mayor has got vision while the rest of the world is wearing bifocals.”