The Kalamazoo Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council (YAC) is empowering youth to inform and lead grantmaking and other philanthropic activities to advance equity in Kalamazoo County. We are honored to work alongside and learn from youth leaders, like Gabriella Barry, throughout Kalamazoo County in this new capacity.

Gabby is a junior at Kalamazoo Central High School and has been a member of the YAC since February of 2020.

What inspired you to apply to be a member of the YAC?
I had previously worked on grantmaking with Youth United Way. I wanted to continue this work because I found grantmaking productive and helpful for the community.

What does philanthropy mean to you?
It means standing up and advocating for others. Being the person willing to help someone, even when you stand alone. It's having the compassionate drive to assist somebody simply because you believe they deserve it.

What causes are you passionate about?
I am passionate about a variety of issues and believe in the intersectionality between themyou cannot support one without supporting them all! I believe in women's rights, LGBTQIAP+ rights, racial equity (which will lead to equality), climate advocacy, that no one is illegal on stolen land, gun reform, defunding of the police, ending the stigma behind mental health, and a radical reform of the court system. (I will NOT refer to it as the "justice" system).

What has been your favorite grant or project you've worked on with YAC?
My favorite grant was for FIRE, a safe and open space for youth to gather and express themselves through art and poetry. FIRE works to support youth, especially those with marginalized identities in order to give them a voice and platform to express themselves. FIRE did a poetry workshop with my school's Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and being part of it actually helped me get started on writing through my own struggles. FIRE personally helped me find ways to express myself without feeling judged or criticized.

What do you love most about living in Kalamazoo County?
What I love most about living in Kalamazoo is the diversity and inclusivity it offers. People in Kalamazoo come from all different backgrounds and experiences which allows me to expand my perspective on the world. Being in such a diverse environment helps me to acknowledge the different hardships people face and allows me to view the world with a more open mind. The city also offers a sort of openness to all people, regardless of gender, sexuality or race. Kalamazoo isn't perfect, but it feels safer than many places across the state. It is a home I am proud to have come from.

Is there a song, movie, person, hobby that you turn to when you want to feel inspired?
When I want to feel inspired, I think about Kailash Satyarthi, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. In 2019, I attended the PeaceJam Conference at Loy Norrix where Kailash came to talk to youth in the community. He carried such a kindness and love for everyone, regardless of if he knew you. We passed once in the hallway and he smiled and waved at me like I was a good friend, not a stranger. He is such a genuinely loving person, it's hard not to smile when he's in the room. I wanted to carry that same kindness and love for others. He inspires me to smile at strangers and help others even if I don't know them well. On top of his otherworldly love, Kailash carries a deep passion for children's rights. I can tell that he loves and wants to give every child a better life. His determination to save thousands of children from child labor inspired me to stand up for my own beliefs. By his example, I started to speak up when I felt someone had been wronged. I became active in politics and social justice. To this day, I can remember Kailash's unending kindness and drive for change which motivates me to do what is right, not what is comfortable.

Learn more about the YAC grantmaking.

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