From Passion to Programs
How experience expanded into empowerment
The times we are living in are challenging and Wynter Eddins and Simply Youth Institute (SYI) are doing something about it.
According to the Simply Youth Institute website: The 2021 “Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California” concludes 13% of women and girls live in poverty. The pandemic effect for girls in K-12 reveals the economic and socio-emotional needs for youth due to financial disparities in Los Angeles county and lack of mental health services. The negative effects for women experiencing poverty conditions and financial resources are immeasurable, and serve as a deterrent for women to fully experience a state of holistic peace with the fear, anxiety, and worry that follows when access to safety and security appears unattainable. Women are more likely to fall victim to forms of violence, and Black women have the highest rates in domestic violence and may have more difficulty in escaping poverty.
Simply Youth Institute offers many programs that empower, educate and support young woman. We had the immense pleasure of asking Wynter Eddins about her role in founding Simply Youth Institute.
How did Simply Youth Institute come about?
My thought process behind starting my own business was rooted in hope and frustration in the public education system. I was hopeful that education could transform and be an overflowing well of growth and determination for youth. However, I felt frustrated that our current public education system was so disconnected with the realities facing young adults and the inability to transition into adulthood with fundamental life skills. As an experienced public school teacher for middle school, a survivor of domestic violence, and a creative person, I pulled from my strengths and began to envision spaces where young women could gather, build healthy relationships, and become empowered in their economic journeys.
I drew on my personal experience, remembering the unnerving feeling of finishing college, being overwhelmed with student debt, and unsure of how to make ends meet. Additionally, I never wanted a young woman to experience the kind of harm that I experienced after surviving an abusive relationship. I wanted to ensure that they entered into all relationships aware of red flags, creating healthy boundaries, and communicating their needs. Everyone deserves to live a financially healthy life, and live in a state of holistic peace. That is why my nonprofit, Simply Youth Institute was born in August of 2019.
Why was the organization created?
The organization was created to ensure young women were economically empowered in navigating higher education and adulthood. Additionally, the organization was created for young women to gain access to more nontraditional career pathways.
Nontraditional careers are where women represent less than 30 percent of the workforce in a specific sector, and those careers tend to have higher paying salaries and more comprehensible healthcare/retirement benefits. Therefore, SYI’s purpose is to create accessible pathways for young women to not only be introduced to those careers they may have not been aware of but also find a mentor in that industry that supports them in obtaining their financial, career, and wellness goals.
Finally, the organization was created to serve as a safe space for young women who may feel disconnected from their community, by cultivating welcoming and fun experiences for them to meet and make new friends.
What do you personally spend most of your time doing for Simply Youth Institute?
I personally spend most of my time planning out programmatic activities for our participants and building strategic relationships with community partners. With the help of my team, I organize and spearhead all of our in-person and virtual events, including the volunteer opportunities for teens. From March through May 2022, I organized three volunteer events for teens that supported 500 homeless teens, women and men in Los Angeles.
Additionally, I find, secure, and invest in strategic partnerships that promote a shared philosophy and present a long-term shared vision.
Finally, I advocate on behalf of the girls we serve. I go around and speak to various individuals, businesses, and other nonprofits about our mission. I share the testimonies from the participants in the programs and I ensure that I fundraise enough so that all of the services remain free and accessible.
“Ten years ago, I survived a brutal domestic violence incident that called me into the work of violence prevention education and self-empowerment. I became an accredited public educator in 2015, with the intention of teaching my students both the curriculum and real life skills for outside the classroom. I bring 10+ years experience of working with diverse students including English Learners, where I lead a reading intervention program to improve literacy.”
—Wynter Eddins, Executive Director & Founder, Simply Youth
What inspires you about Simply Youth Institute, perhaps a specific program or a story?
I am inspired by the limitless vision we have to see every student financially empowered. It is awesome to be at the forefront of history, as we are one of the first nonprofits in our area to go into high schools and teach financial literacy to students. It is inspiring to hear young women speak about the necessity of this education.
I am truly inspired by our program, SAGACity, which empowers youth to make wise decisions in their finances, higher-education, and career goals utilizing an on-going mentorship model that consistently checks in monthly with students on their progress.
One of our students, Tenaya, attended our program and found inspiration in starting her own community service project in her community. It is empowering to see young women become entrepreneurs while still investing in their education.
Advocacy, Mentorship, Innovation
Wynter, please tell us about the programs of Simply Youth Institute
Simply Youth Institute provides educational mentorship and innovative courses to young women in disadvantaged areas, enabling them to achieve financial stability and empowering them to live in a state of holistic peace. Simply Youth Institute’s program SAGACity is a California state approved pre–apprenticeship that fosters accessible and safe spaces for young women from economically and culturally diverse backgrounds to have financially healthy outlooks. Our innovative approach is for women by women, with the mission of eliminating generational poverty.
Our Healthy Relationship Series was established last year to help all youth identify healthy patterns vs unhealthy/toxic patterns and behaviors in relationships. We delivered a month-long dialogue with highlights, social media interviews and virtual workshops that range from Friendship, Communication, and Interpersonal Relationships. These tools and mastery have significant benefits to the college experience as many forge independent relationships for the first time
Our Basic Necessity Drives are monthly volunteer opportunities for teens to volunteer to give back to the community. We collect donations throughout the month to support another nonprofit who serves underserved communities.
For example, between March and May 2022, we held three basic necessity drives to support various groups who are experiencing homelesness in Los Angeles county, including teens, men, and women. Those kits are assembled by the youth who share in leadership to complete the packaging. This year we have donated over 600 kits to those who are experiencing homelessness.
Can you give us an example of the way you’ve seen Simply Youth Institute make a difference?
Our first year in service, I met Liz. She was in her first year of community college, and was looking for a space to share in community with like minded women. I was in awe that she showed up to every financial workshop, present and asking questions. She genuinely wanted to learn.
One day, she came to me and told me how we had made an impact on her throughout the program. It was interesting because I thought she might mention the financial education that she had learned throughout her time. Instead, she told me that SYI gave her the courage to take ownership over her health. She said she was struggling with her mental health and balancing school for sometime, but she learned tools to help her manage and navigate through challenging times. Stories, like hers, have only fueled my drive to ensure the organization truly recognizes, appreciates, and uplifts the whole person.
How has the organization improved or evolved over time?
SYI is in a constant state of evolution. We started with monthly workshops where we recruited young women from all over Los Angeles county to attend and receive the education. We are now partnered with dozens of local nonprofit organizations to work with their communities’ in empowering financial literacy and overall wellness.
Furthermore, we are now servicing public and charter schools in Los Angeles, collaborating with teacher, administration, and community stakeholders to achieve our goals. The organization initially functioned solely, but through constant growth and reflection, it was ideal to create strategic and long-lasting partnerships that serve the youth diligently and joyously.
Simply Youth Institute Goals
Increase TAY youth (ages 16-24) awareness of the value of finance education and improve youth’s ability to support educational and career attainment.
SYI students request financial information, resources, and support to help navigate the world around them. SYI is uniquely positioned to play a role as a transformative leader in providing thought provoking lessons, financial mentorships, and financial/ mental health resources for youth. Young adults need direct access to education on current financial conditions facing their independent situations, how to demonstrate financial responsibility, communicate their financial needs, and to imagine what financial peace will look like.
Empower holistic peace in every young woman through emotional, intellectual, physical, social, and spiritual wellness education
We ensure our students experience an inviting and safe learning environment. SYI will intentionally foster connections between students in all areas that promote mental and physical wellbeing. Our students have a great deal to gain by sharing and creating space together in exchanging relevant information and working together on issues of common interest.
Create equitable opportunities for every young woman to mentor with women in successful leadership positions across the state
SYI will work in partnership with stakeholders, students, parents, and leaders in nontraditional roles to create a strong network and safety net system for young adults. With this in mind, SYI will work to promote career opportunities, higher education, strategic financial mentoring, and understanding between and among these groups.
Increase opportunities for cost saving programs and shared spaces
During the next several years there will be an increasing need for young adults and families to make most of what is available – by taking advantage of high- paying career pathways, and programs promoting financial wellness. We will provide access to more robust career and educational opportunities. SYI will also provide increased access to expertise on these careers and a framework for better understanding the implications of making financial and career decisions.
Strengthen community engagement
Young adults should be rooted in deep and trusting relationships with their communities, positioning these young people to educate and mobilize individuals around the issues that matter to them. To effectively do this, young adults need to build the skills and experience that will enable them to effectively engage with and adapt to address the changing needs of their constituents and communities. SYI will play a critical role in providing a framework, relative financial education, and resources so these young adults can fully realize their power to affect change.
What are some areas of opportunity for Simply Youth Institute? How can readers get involved?
We are currently preparing for our SAGACity summer camp starting July 20th – July 30th, 2022. 15 young women ages 16-22 who live in disadvantaged areas in Los Angeles will experience a one-of-a kind summer camp that empowers them to take action in their financial, college, and career goals. To ensure we keep our services free, we are looking for sponsors for each girl, which would include a one to one laptop to access technology equitably. To become a sponsor and be a part of a young woman’s journey, you can reach out to me at [email protected].
Additionally, we are seeking women entrepreneurs to be guest speakers during the summer camp. We hosted the camp last year, and it was amazing to hear from women leaders in positions that the students were unaware about, but after hearing from the various speakers it opened up opportunities that would not have been readily available prior.
Finally, we are seeking donations through our Amazon wishlist to create a memorable and fun experience for the amazing young women!
Readers can also support in becoming a monthly donor. For as little as $20 a month, you would have access to premium features in our organization, including being a VIP at our events, empowering a young woman in her journey, and special opportunities only made available for our monthly donors. You can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter, and there we share our monthly opportunities to volunteer. Our volunteer drives will start back in August 2022.
How do you unwind or relax?
I relax through writing poetry. I find it very therapeutic, and I find peace between the spaces and pages of my writing. Poetry saved my life years back, and I write for solace. I write to explain things that I do not have the exact description for, poetry helps me to clear my head, and my heart on the pages. It also helps me to read out my poetry, or other poets because their is so much beauty in language.
Pie, Cake, or Ice cream?
I will take a nice slice of Rhubarb pie. Ever since I was a little girl, I would look forward to my dad walking in with that Marie Calendar’s box, and I knew what was inside. We’d sit down together and enjoy a piece… or two!
“I lose patience with those who preach being in the moment as if it’s always a pleasant thing. It’s not and that’s OK.”—Dr. Elvira Aletta
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