Helping Youth Heal from Racism-Based Trauma through Empowerment and Activism

How to Apply

Through our Focused Funding initiatives, Bright Promises Foundation directs resources to innovative programs that address a critical emerging issue faced by at-risk children that is under-recognized and underfunded. We provide capacity-building support and  multi-year funding while also striving to increase awareness and resources to address these issues.

How do we know what social concerns constitute as the next most pressing emerging issue for at-risk children? We rely on the experts.

To determine where Bright Promises should focus our support, we convene an impressive community of leaders from diverse fields and backgrounds in the child-serving community including health, education, youth development, and social work. Based on the recommendations of these experts, Bright Promises selects a single emerging issue that greatly impacts at-risk children in Illinois and is currently under-recognized and underfunded.

As other funders and agencies take on greater responsibility to address these issues, we shift our attention to the next emerging issue. We change or add a focus every 4 to 6 years to ensure we are always addressing the most, urgent, unmet needs of vulnerable children.


For the Healing, Leading, Changing initiative, please see the current guidelines below for information about eligibility. To learn more about this initiative, download the Healing, Leading, Changing white paper here.

Current & Recent Initiatives


Healing, Leading, Changing

Supporting Youth to Address Trauma Caused by Racism & Creating Healing Spaces for All Youth

In recent years, both child-serving agencies and the general public have come to recognize that children affected by trauma experience many negative responses, which, if left untreated, can cause life-long damage. What is less known is that racism, when experienced either personally or vicariously, can cause traumatic stress that impacts the physical and psychological health and wellbeing of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and communities. These factors coupled with inequity in education, economic opportunities, and numerous other systemic barriers are causing widespread distress, especially for BIPOC children and youth.

Currently, very few youth organizations explicitly identify racism as a root cause of chronic stress and understand how to best help youth to begin to address the issue and begin to heal. Every organization that serves youth should be aware of and acknowledge the impacts of racial trauma on children and youth and have the knowledge and tools to create healing environments where children can become more resilient. Organizations need resources and support to achieve this.

Youth are powerful agents for change and their voices and experiences matter. Research shows that an important aspect of healing from trauma caused by racism is to engage in empowerment through resistance as racism often causes helplessness, hopelessness, avoidance and fatigue. Helping youth to exercise their own agency and supporting youth to feel empowered to bring about equity are important and effective ways to both support healing from racially based traumatic stress and to give rise to the change we need as a society.

Download the full Healing, Leading, Changing white paper


Social  Emotional Learning at Home

Helping Parents & Caregivers to Teach Social Emotional Skills to Children

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is integral to a child's well-being, teaching healthy stress management,  positive self-esteem, conflict resolution, positive interpersonal relationships, and self-control. Research has consistently shown that these are learned skills; however, children do not always learn these skills at home. Research also confirms that children succeed when parents are engaged and involved with their children's education.  

Most SEL programs and curricula are currently delivered either directly to children at schools and in some after school and summer programs.  Through our Focus Panel Process, together with leading experts in SEL, Bright Promises determined that there is a lack of and a need for programming that provides
parents with the skills to model and teach SEL skills to their children. 

Bright Promises believes that if parents and caregivers are equipped to promote these positive life skills at home, children will be exponentially more likely to lead happy, successful and fulfilling lives.

Read the most recent evaluation results for this initiative here.

Apply for Focused Funding

Please read through our guidelines.

No new grants will be made for the SEL@Home: Social Emotional Learning at Home program.

For Healing, Leading Changing, please read the guidelines for eligibility requirements and information about how to apply. Please note that funding is limited and only a few organizations will receive funding in 2024. If you are not invited to apply for funding this year, there is a possibility that your organization may be invited in subsequent years. The 2024 Letter of Intent Form is due February 23 by 5:00pm.

NOTE: Current grantee partners do not need to submit a Letter of Intent form. A link to the combined report form and renewal proposal will be sent to your organization at the end of the grant period.

Beginning in 2024, all proposals and reports must be submitted using Bright Promises online portal.

All current grantees and applying organizations will need to create a new account. Please click on "Create New Account" to complete the registration process and create your logon credentials.

If you think that you or someone at your organization has already registered in the system, do not create a new account.   Please contact Tiffany McQueen Lewis, Program Officer at with any questions.

Download Guidelines and Forms: