Youth INC named as finalist in the 2nd Annual NYC Imagine Awards

October 18, 2022

NEW YORK – Youth INC was named a finalist in the 2nd Annual NYC Imagine Awards for its Rise Academy for Leaders of Color program. The NYC Imagine Awards was created to acknowledge some of New York City’s most effective and innovative nonprofit organizations.  

With nearly 250 applications submitted for consideration in five categories, including Innovation, Leadership Excellence, Rising Star, Social Impact and Arts & Culture, Youth INC was recognized as one of the four finalists in the Innovation category. NYC Imagine Awards winners are selected by members of the Awards' distinguished judging panel and will be announced at the Awards’ ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022.  

Rise Academy for Leaders of Color champions equitable organizations and representative leadership in the nonprofit sector by dismantling structural barriers that limit the advancement of people of color and dispelling the diversity pipeline myth. The program shifts the landscape for emergent Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) nonprofit leaders of youth development organizations.

As an accomplished grantmaker in New York City, Tracie Gilstrap, director of partner network engagement at Youth INC, has witnessed firsthand the issues Rise Academy for Leaders of Color strives to overcome. She conceived this program with a BIPOC-informed, equity-centered design, partnering with a powerful collective of nonprofit leaders, centering their voices and experience in the sector at every stage of the process. 

“The lack of opportunity for the emergent leader of color in the nonprofit sector negatively impacts the diversity in thought leadership and adversely impacts the youth served when they don’t see themselves represented,” said Tracie Gilstrap Marshall, director of partner network engagement, Youth INC. “Rise Academy expands opportunities to access and advances equitable representation.”

“Rise Academy expanded my view of my professional growth and has also helped me heal some past wounds caused by toxic work environments,” said Melissa Benjamin, MPA, director of development, Fiver Children’s Foundation and Rise Academy Leader.  “I'm very grateful for this experience, and plan to take what I've learned to make even more of an impact at my organization.”

Developed in partnership with the Center for Nonprofit Leadership at Adelphi University School of Social Work, the immersive experience integrates personal leadership development, nonprofit management, community leadership, mental health strategies, executive coaching led by AIIR Consulting, and a mentor program. Rise Academy for Leaders of Color launched in July 2021 with funding from Youth INC’s long-standing corporate partners, Canaccord Genuity LLC and Goldman Sachs.  

“The Imagine Awards honors the best of the best, so being named an Imagine Award finalist is a big deal,” said NYC Imagine Awards founder Ken Cerini of Cerini & Associates. “All of the finalists are incredible with extremely effective, innovative, and impactful operations. They are truly making a difference for all of us.”


Youth INC

Youth INC is a network of 80+ of the best youth development nonprofits in New York City. We provide our nonprofit partners with the coaching, capital, and connections required to achieve sustainable growth and maximum impact. Our nonprofit partners collectively champion over 250,000 young people each year. The Aspen Institute estimates that investing in the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) of young people generates an 11x return. This measure means Youth INC's $110 million raised since inception has yielded over $1B in impact.

New York City Imagine Awards

About The Imagine AwardsThe Imagine Awards was created in 2012 for Long Island by Managing Partner, Ken Cerini of Cerini & Associates, LLP. Its continued success prompted the expansion into the NYC metro area to honor organizations of all types and sizes and the people behind them. The NYC Imagine Awards recognizes outstanding nonprofit performances in the region. Learn more about the NYC Imagine Awards, visit