Photo courtesy of Tucker's Kozy Korner.

Next Thursday, Oct. 16, marks the second anniversary of the local Awesome Foundation chapter, Awesome SA. Naturally, the Awesome SA trustees will be throwing an extra-awesome party to celebrate the occasion and announce October’s winner of the monthly $1,000 grant. Tucker’s Kozy Korner will host the 6 p.m. celebration.

Every month since October 2011, Awesome SA has awarded the grant to individuals and/or organizations with ideas that simply make San Antonio more awesome. The Rivard Report is a founding media sponsor of Awesome SA.

Read about Awesome SA’s humble beginnings here: Amazing! The Awesome Foundation Spreads to San Antonio.

Applications can be filled out online. Below are the finalists’ applications in their own words, aside from minor style editing.

M.U.S.I.C. by George Garza, Jr.

A M.U.S.I.C Project performer plays for senior citizens. Courtesy photo.
A M.U.S.I.C Project performer plays for senior citizens. Courtesy photo.

Here’s my idea:

M.U.S.I.C. Project is an acronym for Musicians Uniting & Supporting in Communities. Our mission is to strengthen relationships between musicians and their communities by creating unity and support through music. M.U.S.I.C. Project is a nonprofit that links local musicians to unique volunteer and gig opportunities. We have worked with Pre-K for SA, Humor for Heroes, The Children’s Shelter, Alzheimer’s Association, and various nursing homes. M.U.S.I.C. Project was started last year and officially received nonprofit 501(c)3 status from the IRS this August.

For this specific project, we are focusing on the part of our mission dedicated to serving the infirm and elderly. We’ve been able to connect with the Alzheimer’s Association – participating in last year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s – and through our connection with them became aware of the Music and Memory program. Being specifically music-based, we have been teaming up with the Music and Memory program, which has opened us to working in tandem with a national movement. The Music and Memory program is built around the innovative practice of using individualized mp3 playlists for Alzheimer’s patients. These playlists are specifically crafted to include music tied to each patient’s youth, with music usually predating the 1960s. Observations show that the connection each person has to the music of their past produces a positive reaction, relaxing some, exciting others, making some more talkative and coherent, and generally becoming a helpful tool in the day-to-day schedule for their caretakers. We’d like to screen a new film titled “Alive Inside” that chronicles their work. The film is moving and shows the power of music to help heal even the most damaged minds.

How I will use the money:

In order to screen this film, M.U.S.I.C. Project has to purchase a license for it, which will cost $500. We intend to screen the film in one of our major theaters in town, which will require a staffing fee and rental deposit. Any funds that we have left from this award would go to promoting the event in the form of posters, ad banners online, possible print advertisements, and handbills.

A little about me:

I am local musician with more than 10 years of performing experience, and I serve as Board President for M.U.S.I.C. Project, a nonprofit organization in San Antonio. I am a college student, currently enrolled at San Antonio College, though I have already completed courses in music business and studio engineering at Mediatech Institute in Austin, where I received certification from the state of Texas. In the last six years, I’ve volunteered as a community organizer with various grassroots organizations.

How will this make San Antonio more awesome?

It goes without saying that San Antonio is growing and attracting a lot of attention. The music community is on par with that growth and deserves equal recognition. Compared to other major cities in the country, San Antonio had been lacking in musician-based organizations. M.U.S.I.C. Project is taking a unique approach to linking local artists with the community, and at the core of our mission is the healing and uniting power of music. Screening this film will bring people together, educate and spread awareness about Alzheimer’s Disease, highlight the innovative work being done and the power of music to heal, respectively enlighten musicians to the effect they can have in their families and community, give people hope, and inspire viewers to be proactive in their approach to dealing with these matters in their own lives. Alzheimer’s Disease touches a majority of us in some way, and we are all better off for knowing.

Guerilla Haiku with GirlZone

A potential Guerilla Haiku. Courtesy photo.
A potential Guerilla Haiku. Courtesy photo.

Here’s my idea:

I have been traveling to San Antonio the last two years partnering with Artpace for its Chalk It Up San Antonio event. Which is also awesome.

My goal when I am in residency in a new city is to find communities and neighborhoods that don’t often get seen or heard and to give them an opportunity to share their stories. This leads me to group homes, homeless shelters, after-school programs, and elder care facilities.

Once I am in these spaces, I facilitate opportunities for the participants to share their story in 17 syllables and get other people in their community to write with them.

The result of every event is an experience of connection within a community, stranger to stranger, and a set of photos of people’s poetry in the places and with the people who inspired those poems.

Kids, chalk, and poetry: It's a winning combination. Courtesy photo.
Kids, chalk, and poetry: It’s a winning combination. Courtesy photo.

How I will use the money:

I have an interested partner organization, the Martinez Street Women’s Center, that conducts an all-girls after school program called GirlZone to support young women in high-needs environments. It has no funding to bring Guerilla Haiku programs to its institution, and funding from the Awesome Foundation would pay for two after school Guerilla Haiku programs for its girls: the materials, transport and facilitation fees.

A little about me:

I am an educator/actor and founder of the Guerilla Haiku Movement, a public art project that has been to 50 cities across the country since April of 2011, joining communities in creative play.

I am committed to people connecting with each other and sharing their stories, and haiku has become my tool to facilitate those meaningful interactions.

YouTube video

This Tedx Talk clarifies the story of how Guerilla Haiku started:

How will this make San Antonio more awesome?

When the people of San Antonio are given the opportunity to express themselves creatively and publicly – especially folks who are not typically heard from (8 to 13-year-old high-needs young women), there is nothing more awesome than that.

ENVIRONATE: Empower. Excel. Environate. by Jocelyn E. Hernandez

Here’s my idea:


ENVIRONATE seeks to educate underprivileged (lower end of the income bracket: less than $60,000 annual family income) youth on sustainable development practices by providing research apprenticeships with eco-focused professionals. We believe that the hidden talent of at-risk students in the areas of business, law, policy, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math will unlock global change by empowering local communities.

ENVIRONATE is a verb I created that means to educate on environmental matters. What makes our program unique is that we provide a three-month virtual training prior to the seven-week summer hands-on experience. This way, students can get the most out of their work and potentially be able to create a study of their own. Throughout the school year, we will offer monthly leadership seminars in which host speakers will share their expertise and teach the students the skills they need to work in a professional environment.

I can personally attest to the significant impact research has had in my life. From meeting President Obama at the White House Science Fair to placing third in the world at Intel ISEF, it’s pure and simple research that has helped me get there. These experiences have shaped my career goals and equipped me with invaluable networks. My partners and I hope that our organization will create a new generation of environmental leaders. As youth, we know how important issues like climate change are to our futures, and we believe that low-income students are an underutilized source of global change. This group lacks the connections but not the capability.

Bringing young minds into the field provides a new perspective and also introduces them to the workforce. Given that access to educational opportunities remains a pressing issue for minorities and other at-risk students, it’s critical that we invest in their development. With success, we hope to double the program in its second year and eventually expand to other cities and perhaps even internationally.

How I will use the money:

Right now, we are struggling to start our organization with no initial investment. Our main expense is stipends. Because most San Antonio youth work during the summer, it is essential for us to provide compensation for our internships. Our goal is to give each student a $750 stipend and a $250 transportation allowance. With $1,000, we could fund one internship, and hopefully instill a lifelong interest in the environment in one student. With support from one foundation, the word will spread.

A little about me:

 Jocelyn Hernandez at the Marina Barrage Green Roof in Singapore. Photo by Jonathan Gutmann. 
Jocelyn Hernandez at the Marina Barrage Green Roof in Singapore. Photo by Jonathan Gutmann.

I am Jocelyn Hernandez, a senior at the STEM Academy, a debater, and a Mayor’s Fitness Council mentor. As a Voelcker Scholar at the University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio, I’ve conducted cancer research for three years. I developed a treatment that is 530 times less expensive than chemotherapy with no side effects. I presented at AACR and placed third in the world at Intel ISEF. I am a recipient of the Harvard and Princeton Book Awards. This summer, I was one of 22 students selected nationally to study in Asia with the State Department.

How will this make San Antonio more awesome?

San Antonio is a city on the rise. Thus, as we approach the year 2015 and 2020, it is critical that we embrace sustainable development. Greenhouse emissions, solar variation, and air pollution have long been associated with climate change. While environmental protection has come to mean limiting resource extraction and exhibiting eco-friendly practices, the protection required is not solely ecological. Sustainability deals with cultural identity, economic productivity, and overall political structure.

Now is the ideal time to shift rhetoric and come to the sociopolitical realization that clean technology and energy efficiency must be prioritized to tackle and prevent ecological and economic challenges. The complete exhaustion of natural resources poses major consequences. These include resource deprivation, violent conflicts, or in some cases, famine and starvation. There is also a direct correlation between biodiversity and linguistic diversity because the stability of the environment plays a pivotal role in some cultural rituals and practices.

Minimizing our reliance on fossil fuels and reversing the damage to natural ecosystems and biodiversity will require a massive shift of technology and higher capital investment. However, investing in research efforts will make this pathway more cost-effective. Supporting STEM research, training in the field, and communicating discoveries for policy impact are ideal for sustainable development. This model provides a medium to analyze environmental concerns and design financially viable solutions to reinvigorate people, businesses, and the world about taking action against climate change. San Antonio is the ideal venue to host research in environmental affairs as it is home to nationally renowned institutions and champions small business development.

It is up to our generation to forge sustainable development in our countries and beyond. Recent improvements and technological developments have facilitated our lives, but it’s important to prioritize environmental matters if we want those benefits to be long-term. Research is a great gateway into reinventing the future of sustainable development and innovating the way we implement it. What a better way to make San Antonio greener than to equip youth from socioeconomically disadvantaged areas with the tools they need to succeed.

Our organization will provide low-income youth with professional working experience and hopefully inspiration for future careers in environmental fields. Although ENVIRONATE is relatively new, we have lofty goals for the future. We hope to expand our programs across the country, increase our number of annual internships, and provide scholarships for students to study environmental fields in college. San Antonio needs its high school students to be globally engaged and educated regardless of their social background. Often it is a student’s family circumstance that deters him or her from succeeding and gauging insight of the post-secondary world. Therefore, we can forge equality of opportunity in San Antonio one student at a time.

*Featured/top image: Photo courtesy of Tucker’s Kozy Korner.

Related Stories:

Awesome SA Finalists: Urban Fruit, Youth Code, Local Goods

Awesome SA Finalists: Fruit, Roots, Seniors, and “S.O.M.E.”

Awesome SA July: $1,000 for Photography ‘Life Book’

Awesome SA Stays Golden with Music, Movies, and Math

Awesome SA Popping Up in Travis Park

Awesome SA Finalists: Adopt a Tree, Co-Creating Space, and Sun Safety

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff.