Pioneering Agency Lifts African American Youth

BY SAM WATERSTONE | June 10, 2021

As SBF works to share language and culture in Santa Barbara County, we would like to note that some individuals and communities may identify as African American, Black or both. In this article, we will use both to be inclusive of these identities.

An Endowment for Youth Committee (EYC) Scholar participating in the Jazz-Gospel Fusion group sponsored by EYC.

Since 1986, the Endowment for Youth Committee (EYC) has provided impactful programming and support for one of Santa Barbara County’s historically underserved communities – African American/Black youth. Today, EYC continues its work as one of the Central Coast’s largest nonprofit organizations committed to the educational success and advancement of African American/Black students.

The Endowment for Youth Committee focuses on lifting African American youth throughout Santa Barbara County by providing scholarships and access to educational and professional development opportunities. From 2018 through 2021, EYC partnered with the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara to distribute nearly $170,000 in scholarships to 70 students of color. To learn more about their scholarship program, visit EYC’s website.

However, in order to understand the full scope of EYC’s impact on our county – and the African American/Black community in particular – one must begin by exploring the Committee’s origins on Santa Barbara’s Eastside in the 1980s.

Santa Barbara’s historic Eastside has been home to many of the city’s African American/Black residents throughout the 20th century, and in the 1970s and ‘80s this community was disproportionately impacted by the surge of crack cocaine use, the war on drugs, and gun violence. In an effort to create pathways to bright futures for vulnerable youth on the Eastside, local African American community leader Melvin (Mel) Richey founded the Endowment for Youth Committee, with support from co-founders Cliff Lambert, Abdulhamid Akoni, and Theo Thomas, as well as assistance from the Santa Barbara Foundation (SBF).

“EYC started as a group of us who joined together to save the kids on the Eastside,” explained Lambert, who remains deeply involved with EYC nearly 35 years later. “SBF gave us a check for $20,000 so we could set up shop at Franklin Center on Santa Barbara’s Eastside. We opened up the office there in ’87, and that was the beginning of a relationship that EYC formed with the Foundation.”

Through the 1980s and ‘90s, EYC offered a variety of programs and resources for young community members, with an emphasis on serving Black and Latinx youth, including educational and leadership development programs, after school programs, summer camps, youth basketball tournaments, and much more. Then, in the early 2000s, EYC continued its growth by establishing an Agency Endowment Fund at SBF.

“Working with [former SBF President & CEO] Chuck Slosser and [Hutton Parker Foundation President] Tom Parker, EYC decided to set up a permanent Agency Endowed Fund at SBF, so that we could continue on in perpetuity,” Lambert continued. “We fundraised and pooled money from a number of individuals and local funders, and over six months we raised about $480,000. That was the take-off point for EYC in terms of moving up to the next level. That fund now is close to $600,000 and growing.”

EYC President Guy Walker (right) with Jayden Lewis (left), who received a full scholarship to Dunn School in Santa Ynez Valley through his affiliation with EYC.

EYC was a pioneering organization when they began serving at-risk youth in Santa Barbara County, but they were also trailblazers when they opened one of the first Agency Endowment Funds at SBF. At the time the partnership was formed, Agency Endowment Funds were an emerging trend, but have since grown into a popular way to ensure the perpetuity of nonprofit organizations. As of 2020, SBF’s portfolio of endowment funds has grown to 50 agencies totaling $24 million dollars.

By establishing an Agency Endowment Fund with the Foundation, EYC entrusts their funds to SBF, allowing the agency to focus on its important community work while benefiting from the Foundation’s comprehensive investment process, strong fiduciary oversight, and expertise in investment management and administration.

After setting up the fund, the Endowment for Youth Committee continued to flourish during the 2000s as a resource and advocate for Santa Barbara’s youth, and specifically local youth of color.

“EYC had a great run from 1986 to 2015, and then, like a lot of organizations, demographics were changing, people were moving in and out, and EYC needed to make some structural changes to continue meeting the needs of the community,” said current EYC president, Guy Walker. “At that time, myself, Cliff, Chris Johnson, and Ben Drati began working with the Foundation to restructure EYC, and I became the president of what we called EYC 2.0.”

In the early years, EYC served all youth, not just African American youth, and most of their programs impacted folks living in South County. Under iteration 2.0, however, the agency adjusted to the county’s shifting needs and demographics. North County has seen a sizable growth in terms of the African American population, so EYC expanded to reach more youth in need of support. Recent scholarship recipients hail from every corner of the county.

“As our endowment grew and we increased the number of youth we serve, we became a truly countywide organization – although we’re still building in North County,” Walker shared.

Just like Santa Barbara County itself, the Endowment for Youth Committee has evolved over the years, and the organization continues to show up for African American youth in meaningful ways. EYC is now less involved in direct services and more concentrated on their Scholarship Program and other community partnerships that provide guidance and funding to African American youth and their families.

Today, EYC focuses on lifting African American youth by providing scholarships and access to educational and professional development opportunities.

In April 2021, SBF awarded EYC with a Small Capacity Building Grant, allowing EYC to revamp their brand and build a new website. This project is designed to offer the community a more comprehensive overview of the agency’s programs, activities, calendar of events, goals and objectives, and partnerships while providing easier navigation and electronic giving functionalities.

The Foundation is proud of our historic relationship with the Endowment for Youth Committee, and is grateful for partners like EYC that work to ensure that African American students have the support and resources they need to achieve bright and successful futures.

To learn more about how EYC supports local African American/Black youth and their academic success, visit:

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