Categories: News

How the 2021 David Prize winners are supporting New Yorkers

The 2021 David Prize awarded $1 million dollars to five New York City-based visionaries within the child care, education and youth services and immigration sectors to support their creative solutions to some of the city’s most pressing challenges.

The David Prize is an initiative to support up-and-coming change-makers in New York City. The third annual David Prize open call is currently open. New Yorkers can apply or nominate someone through Dec. 21.

The 2021 David Prize winners are already making a big difference in the city. 

On Oct. 19, Jaime-Jin Lewis, Five Mualimm-ak, Cesar Vargas, Fela Barclift and Felicia Wilson each received $200,000 to transform their plans into lasting initiatives that will directly impact New Yorkers. 

Jaime-Jin Lewis, founder of Wiggle Room, a tech company that builds tools to stabilize and grow Family Child Care businesses, is expanding the organization’s reach to support more childcare providers with the support from the Prize.

Jaime-Jin Lewis is the founder of Wiggle Room and 2021 David Prize recipient. Photo by Cootchill Nelson

“This win is for all early childhood advocates and activists in NYC who have been working on this issue for decades,” Lewis said. “This prize signals that childcare is a critical issue our city is facing, and it tells New York that it is time to invest in the creative solutions to build up this early care industry and provide overdue support for the educators who are raising our next generation.” 

Family Child Care businesses often provide childcare to poor and working class communities, communities of color, children ages 0 to 3 and children whose guardians work non-traditional hours. Lewis is fighting for a more durable childcare system in New York City. 

“The prize has helped more people realize the critical state of child care in our city,” Lewis said. “This is a huge mission, and this is something that is long overdue in our city. This prize has really given us the visibility to build and grow strategic relationships across the sector.”

Five Mualimm-ak works to bridge the gap of services for justice-impacted-young-adults serving multi-year community supervision sentences. Five runs the Youth Anti Prison Project which houses, trains and employs youth throughout their entire community supervision sentence. 

With the Prize, Five is launching two homes: one for young women and one for young men ages 18-25. The homes will provide a landing pad for young people as well as businesses that provide apprenticeship programs for the youths.

Five Mualimm-ak runs the Youth Anti Prison Project and was awarded the 2021 David Prize. Photo by Cootchill Nelson.

Mualimm-ak said creating housing for youths creates opportunity. With the support of the Prize, Mualimm-ak will be able to provide safe spaces for young-adults and give kids the start they need to be successful in life. 

“They’re (the David Prize) empowering New Yorkers,” Mualimm-ak said. “Through supporting me, they’re supporting so many people.”

Fela Barclift, also known as “Mama Fela,” is the founder of Little Sun People, a preschool in Bed-Stuy that has been a community pillar for four decades. The school fosters self-esteem and positive identity through an Afrocentric curriculum. 

Fela Barclift, also known as “Mama Fela,” is the founder of Little Sun People and recipient of the 2021 David Prize. Photo by Cootchill Nelson.

With the Prize, Barclift will expand Little Sun People to support students from Pre-Pre K and beyond, with plans to build an elementary school. She also plans to codify the culture and curriculum of Little Sun People for other schools and educators and write a book of affirmations for African descendant children. 

Felicia Wilson advocates for youth and young adults transitioning out of the New York City foster care system to receive the resources and support needed to thrive.

She plans to build out her new non-profit organization, What About Us with the Prize support. 

Felicia Wilson is the founder of What About US and a 2021 David Prize recipient. Photo by Cootchill Nelson.

What About Us, a Brooklyn-based non-profit, works to support people ages 13 – 25 aging out of the foster care system through helping them navigate housing, financial management, education and employment. The nonprofit connects youth with alumni of the foster care system who have successfully aged out. 

Cesar Vargas, who provides competent legal counsel to immigrants serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, is building a city-wide network of agencies, nonprofits and legal providers to further support immigrants and their families who face the complexity of navigating immigration and military law.

Cesar Vargas provides competent legal counsel to immigrants serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and was awarded the 2021 David Prize. Photo by Cootchill Nelosn

Vargas will hold “Know Your Rights” town halls exclusively focusing on helping military families across the five boroughs. With the support of the Prize he will not only be able to make people more aware of the issue of veterans getting deported, but also have the resources to support the veterans and families themselves. 

This year, The David Prize team and a diverse, multi sector group of expert advisors chose 22 finalists from thousands of submissions sharing ideas in areas including child care, education and youth services, human rights and criminal justice, immigration justice, homelessness, economic development and sustainability, healthcare and creative expression.  

Due to the extraordinary circumstances over the last two years, the other 17 finalists also received support from The David Prize in the form of industry connections, financial support, further sources of funding and other assistance.

The 2021 finalists include: Yin Q, Troy Walcott, Sharon Richardson, Shams DaBaron, Ravi Ragbir, Michael Angelo Roberson, Liz Jackson, Kristin Wallace, Ken Lewis, Chris Hackett, Gladys Jones, Gabrielle Prisco, Darnell Benoit, Carmen Mojica, Caridad De La Luz, Alexis Mena, and Ana Maria Martinez de Luco. 

Haeven Gibbons
Published by
Haeven Gibbons

Recent Posts

Number of NYC cops on subways hits another record under Mayor Adams ‘omnipresence’ deployment

Mayor Eric Adams's recent deployment of more police officers into the New York City subway…

January 24, 2022

Dems in Independent Redistricting Commission pass baton to Dem Legislature

Democrats on New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) on Jan. 24 washed their hands of…

January 24, 2022

Georgia to impanel grand jury in probe of Trump bid to overturn 2020 election

The Georgia prosecutor investigating then-U.S. President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results…

January 24, 2022

Disgraced former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dies in prison at age 77

Sheldon Silver, the former Manhattan lawmaker and Assembly speaker who rose to become one of…

January 24, 2022

Road Trip Takeaways: Nets’ defensive struggles, Kyrie Irving & consistent foul calls

The Nets went 2-2 in their four-game road trip that included stops in Cleveland, D.C.,…

January 24, 2022

Mayor Adams unveils gun violence policy

Mayor Eric Adams is proposing more arrests, stricter sentences, more outreach and a rollback to…

January 24, 2022