Applying for government grants can be a tedious and uncertain process for even seasoned professionals who work in the industry.
Someone forgot to tell that to 10-year-old Azia Banagan of North Richmond, who not only took it upon herself to write a grant proposal for a project to improve her community, but also won funding for her idea.
This promising young girl has now become the leader of a growing art education project that has developed partnerships with city departments, the Richmond Art Center and Girls Inc. of West Contra Costa County, a long-running Richmond nonprofit in which Banagan is a member.
“She wants everyone in Richmond to know you’re never too old, or young, to make the world a more beautiful place,” said Tiffany Harris, executive director of Girls Inc. WCCC.
It all started when the city of Richmond became one of seven U.S. cities to receive the Love Your Block initiative, a national program that encourages community members and leaders to apply for mini-grants for neighborhood improvements projects.
Banagan, an artist, figured, so what if I’m only 10? She had big plans, after all. She asked her mother, Cristal, a local educator and start-up nonprofit founder, if she could follow through with it. Cristal wasn’t certain her daughter was serious, but went with it.
Azia Banagan wrote a grant proposal to teach art classes for the community. Her mother asked Harris at Girls Inc. to submit the grant application on Azia’s behalf. The grant was awarded, Harris said.
Azia didn’t stop there.
“Before the grant was awarded, Azia started making plans for what she would teach in her classes,” Harris said.
And, as aforementioned, her project has since formed community partnerships where she can carry out her art education. Azia hopes to spark local creative minds in a way that might help beautify her city.
Her initial ideas are to run classes that will lead to mosaics on big ugly walls in her community, or murals that convert train overpasses into beautiful entryways.
“There will be a lot of work to do in order to create and implement successful classes that Azia can spearhead and turn that effort into something that helps make Richmond beautiful,” Harris said.
But to Azia, helping others make beautiful things — something they may not get to do often in our busy world — may do the most to make Richmond a better place to live.
“Azia has a vision of not only teaching but showing other kids that they can do anything as long as they are willing to go for it,” Harris said.