Our History

Youthprise was founded as a nonprofit philanthropic intermediary in 2010 by the McKnight Foundation with an original mission to champion learning beyond the classroom so that all Minnesota youth thrive. With guidance from an illustrious advisory committee and a founding Board of Directors, McKnight encouraged Youthprise to listen to the voices of young people, to give them a seat at the table, and to build programs and systems that are responsive to their needs — and guided by their ideas. Youthprise’s first President, Wokie Weah, was hired in April of 2011. A full leadership team was on board by November of 2011 and Youthprise publically launched in January of 2012.

Since launching, Youthprise has leveraged its financial, political, and relational capital and expertise in youth development to increase funding for Minnesota youth programming and promote innovation in how our communities work with youth. As a philanthropic intermediary, Youthprise is designed to invest more than just money. Youthprise partners with youth and youth service organizations to share knowledge, capture lessons learned, and spread best practices to advance outcomes for young people throughout Minnesota.

Youthprise has granted over $50 million to youth initiatives, provided training and technical support to over 100 youth organizations, and successfully lobbied for over $3.1 million in direct state appropriates to support key initiatives advancing of our mission, and championed youth on boards including our own. In 2017, Youthprise established a youth-adult co-chair model as well as increased the proportion of youth between the ages of 16 and 25 on the board and committee members and leadership to fifty percent.

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  • Raised and distributed over $50 million to support youth development initiatives statewide, emphasizing support to organizations led by people of color and small organizations that were doing excellent work but their growth was stifled because they lacked financial support from institutional funders;
  • Successfully petitioned the state for denying young people federally funded unemployment benefits, resulting in an over $30 million payout to thousands of youth throughout every corner of Minnesota. We continued this work by mobilizing a coalition of youth and adults to change a discriminatory state unemployment insurance law dating back to 1939.
  • Partnered with the City of Northfield to grow the number of young people on Mayor-appointed boards and commissions to over 90, which has produced the first person of color elected to the City Council in the city’s history;
  • Effectively lobbied to establish the first dedicated pool of state resources focused on East African youth and economic development, including advocating for state legislators to approve $3 million in support of Somali youth
  • Partnered with Ramsey County to contribute to a 65% decline in the number of children and youth in juvenile detention over a 10-year period. Also collaborated to co-invest in a wraparound service model that led to only a 6% recidivism rate among participants compared to over a 30% recidivism rate for youth involved in other interventions;
  • Distributed more than 3.5 million nutritious meals and snacks to over 60 sites across five counties in Minnesota since 2014, serving over 10,000 children weekly during the height of the pandemic.
  • Responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing millions in emergency grants to community organizations meeting pressing needs in their respective neighborhoods.
  •  Facilitated access to technology and out-of-school time activities for more than 2,000 youth from low-income families in 70 counties across Minnesota since 2019. This includes thousands of hours of private tutoring, distribution of 2,000+ Chromebooks, and access to other enrichment activities.