New grant funds to advance racial health equity

June 28, 2023

YWCA Greater Charleston and three of its partners have received more than $450,000 in grants to disrupt drivers of poor health and outcomes among children of color across Charleston.

YWA Greater Charleston, a historic nonprofit with the dual mission to eliminate racism and empower women across the region—promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all— has received a grant to address barriers to mental health and positive outcomes for children of color across the tri-county area.

A total of $450,000 in grant funds was awarded by the American Heart Association / Voices for Healthy Kids to YWCA Greater Charleston and three of its community partners: the Beloved Early Education and Care Collective (the BEE Collective, formerly the Berkeley Early Education & Care Collective), Charleston Hope, and the E3 Foundation.

YWCA Greater Charleston will spearhead efforts on behalf of the group, coordinating individual campaigns which will work together to recognize the effects of trauma in families and children of color, support educators and staff who interact with them across the region, and train these providers to respond in a way that makes all students feel safe, valued, and welcomed.

“Through this, these grant funds will enable the building of prosperity and the empowerment of young people of color to accelerate their own lives,” said LaVanda Brown, M.Ed, executive director of YWCA Greater Charleston.

Under this partnership, the BEE Collective’s goal is to require pre-K educators and staff across Charleston County to participate in professional development training on mental health, trauma-informed care, and implicit bias.

“In our community, Black children and their families are most impacted by preschool pushout,” said BEE Collective co-founder Dr. Kim Nesta Archung, citing high expulsion and suspension rates in children of color fueled by trauma. “Preschool educators deserve the opportunity to learn when and how to take appropriate action and alternative ways of handling challenging behaviors.”

Charleston Hope’s goal, meanwhile, is to see the Charleston County School Board require all employees, across the entire Charleston County School District (CCSD), to receive trauma-informed training annually.

“Students bring various levels of trauma into the classroom each day,” said Emily Kerr, Charleston Hope founder and executive director. “Because everyone responds to trauma differently, it can be incredibly hard for teachers to know how to recognize and respond to it. Trauma-informed training for all employees will not only teach prevention and de-escalation techniques to all of CCSD, but it will also create a common language and goal across the entire District.”

The goal of the E3 Foundation, which provides the groundwork to create a suite of graduated-scale cultural competency trainings for school educators, administrators, staff, and personnel who interact with members of the African American, LatinX, or indigenous communities, is to see the CCSD Superintendent of Schools factor equity into all District decision-making.

“Our mission is to ensure that Black and Brown students most impacted by inequities are educated, empowered, and elevated to act in their power and purpose,” said Audrey K.S. Lane, founding partner and executive director of the E3 Foundation. “This partnership will give us an opportunity to help meet that need.”

“We are proud to fuel the mental health and success of children of color across the Charleston, S.C. tri-county region,” said Shannon Melluzzo, senior grants administrator for Voices for Healthy Kids at the American Heart Association. “Our goal is to empower advocates to act in their own communities for the benefit of children and their health. We are pleased to work in this region with four highly respected and active organizations known to be effective at improving outcomes for the children and families they serve.”


About YWCA Greater Charleston

For 115 years, YWCA Greater Charleston has worked to eliminate racism and empower women in South Carolina’s Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester Counties. Among its initiatives to eliminate racism are its multi-day MLK Celebration, one of the city’s longest running events; annual Stand Against Racism; and Racial Equity Institute workshops equipping local leaders and laypeople to address racism. It empowers women with its annual What Women Bring event, attended by hundreds to empower South Carolina’s women in business, community, and culture; WE 360°, helping women of color overcome barriers in entrepreneurship; Own The Room public speaking workshops empowering women’s success; and women’s health programs. It brought the first Girls Who Code club for middle school girls to Charleston; today its Y Girls Code program includes female students of all ages. Its SheStrong program empowers young women in high school to develop as leaders and changemakers. For more information, visit

About Voices for Healthy Kids

Voices for Healthy Kids is an initiative of the American Heart Association, working to make each day healthier for all children. Voices for Healthy Kids empowers advocates to act in their communities and improve the health of children across the nation. Join us at, on Twitter @Voices4HK, and Facebook.

About The American Heart Association

The American Heart Association (AHA) is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. It is dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, it funds innovative research, advocates for the public’s health, and shares lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with AHA on, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.