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VOL. 131 | NO. 216 | Friday, October 28, 2016

LITE to Use $40K Grant for Student Programs

BY MARGOT PERA, Special to the Daily News

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Fresh off of receiving a $40,000 grant, Hardy Farrow is poised to take his nonprofit program to the next level.

Simone Yates, right, with mother Lydia Yates, created a dance project against domestic violence through LITE. 


Farrow’s organization, Let’s Innovate Through Education (LITE), recently was one of 60 applicants nationwide to receive a grant from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board. The organization, which aims to turn minority students into entrepreneurs, was among 750 nonprofits to apply.

The State Farm Youth Advisory Board gives about $5 million a year for various projects involving things like higher education, environmental projects, and financial responsibility.

“100 percent of the grant is going toward workshops for students or supporting new student ideas,” Farrow said.

LITE was born out of Farrow’s Teach for America 11th grade economics class at Power Center Academy in 2013. His idea: Help African-American and Latino students develop entrepreneurial ideas over a six-month period.

Since then, the program has served more than 1,000 students and has created partnerships with a myriad of organizations around the city, including Bridges, Reach Memphis, Streets Ministries, Memphis Athletic Ministries and Middle College High School.

Farrow said the State Farm grant will enable LITE to “expand to 425 ideas over the next five years and help these students with pursuing their dreams.”

LITE was the first nonprofit from Memphis to be chosen by the State Farm Youth Advisory Board.

Applicants for the grant undergo a thorough screening process by board members to evaluate how effectively each nonprofit serves youth initiatives. Of the 750 nonprofits that applied this year, only 30 percent made it to the second round of review.

“The State Farm Youth Advisory Board is a very cool program because it addresses specific unmet needs of the community and how young people are solving these problems,” said Lucy Dang, a senior at The University of Memphis and board member. “I think this grant is very important because it really emphasizes learning through service and allows students to create projects and better their community at the same time.”

Students sponsored by LITE receive about $750 for supplies for their idea, venue costs and other costs associated with marketing their idea.

Additionally, the program helps high school students get assistance with college tuition as well as ensuring the students have a roadmap to follow after college graduation.

“One of the things we have been working on is our long-term vision to help minority entrepreneurs scale businesses and expand their networks,” Farrow said. “While they are in school, we partner them with internships that expose them to seed capital for their ideas.”

Simone Yates, a freshmen at the University of Tennessee, heard about the LITE program through her Bridge Builders counselor.

“After Hardy came and spoke, my counselor told us: ‘Everybody wants to be a beast, but nobody wants to do what it takes,’” Yates said. “When I heard that, I decided to take matters into my own hands and submit my idea to the staff at Bridge Builders.”

Yates’ project, “Dance Out Against Domestic Violence,” was a dance showcase that promoted awareness of domestic violence by hosting dance workshops in the community. Yates got the idea from seeing a fellow family member victimized by domestic violence.

“I formulated the idea by thinking of a problem that needed attention and how I could solve it doing something I was passionate about,” Yates said. “The project really helped me develop professional skills that I could not have otherwise gotten without hands-on experience, as well as develop a network of entrepreneurs I can bounce my ideas off of.”

Perhaps one of the most rewarding experiencing for Yates was seeing the effects of “Dance Out Against Domestic Violence” in her immediate community.

“I sort of had a heart-to-heart with one of my instructors before one of our workshops one day,” Yates said. “She told me how proud she was of me because she was a survivor of domestic violence, and I realized that this event and the project itself was something beyond me and was truly reaching survivors of domestic violence.”

Yates is still involved with two different dance companies at UT while balancing her dancing with her course load. Her goal is to attend veterinary school or another graduate program and she credits her experience with LITE with giving her skills to succeed.

“One thing I want my project to say to young people like me is that anything is possible if you are willing to put effort into following your dreams,” she said. “I hope that LITE continues to do amazing things and shows adults that Memphis youth can do anything just as well as they can.”

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