Founded in 2014, Celebrate! Maya Project honors the life and legacy of Dr. Maya Angelou by creating literacy, art, poetry, history, and literary curricula for Arkansas youth. The Little Rock-based nonprofit partners with schools and communities throughout the state to teach the history of the literary icon and Arkansas native while sharing the importance of the humanities and arts with students and community members. We spoke with president and founder Janis F. Kearney about the work of Celebrate! Maya Project and what lies ahead for the organization.
What success stories have you experienced since receiving the grant from the Building Black Communities Fund, either internally and externally?
We are partnering with Heifer International on our Youth Writing and Career Education Conference: “Our Land. Our Food. Our Stories.” This March, up to 100 students from central Arkansas will be invited to participate in a two-day conference at the Heifer International campus to learn about agricultural, environmental, and climate-related careers. Professionals from around the country and world will be invited to participate on panels either in person or virtually. Students will interview panelists and then write their assessment of the presentations, as well as their career plans based on the presentations. The final product will be a book featuring students’ plans, photos, and speakers’ presentations.
What do you wish more people knew about Celebrate! Maya Project?
That we serve youth around the state and that we seek volunteers as well as funding to continue the important work we do.
Where do you see Celebrate! Maya Project in the next three to five years?
We expect to have our headquarters in Little Rock and our services expanded to every region of the state. In response to the dire findings regarding youth and community services during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are strategically planning to put in place “safety net” programming, which will involve expanding our youth programs to after-school tutoring, mentoring, and feeding. We also plan to begin a community garden and invite community members to be a part of our initiatives, including community and public forums.