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Chobani announces 2020 impact grant winners
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Chobani announces 2020 impact grant winners

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TWIN FALLS — Jose Enriquez’s vision of launching more elective-based courses in Magic Valley schools through his organization Latinos In Action is about to become a reality.

As on of the recipient of the 2020 Chobani Community Impact Fund Grants, Latinos In Action have $45,000 over two years to launch more of its program at Magic Valley schools.

“Our mission is to empower Latino youth to lead and strengthen their communities, but do it in a way that we want them to, first of all, understand they have a lot of assets and talents, then help them develop those (bilingualism, bi-culturalism), and help them develop to give back,” Enriquez said. “It is a very much a service-oriented, leadership, development, and college-readiness course. And this what makes the biggest difference.”

Born in El Salvador and raised in Los Angeles, Enriquez took life experiences from those two places and guidance from great mentors, and infused them to start Latinos In Action to give back to the community through education.

“I started teaching them about these heroes,” Enriquez said. “And then after a while I stepped back and thought, ‘we could teach them about Latino heroes, or we could create our own.’”

Latinos In Action in the Magic Valley is the only place in the United States that has dual enrollment (partnering with the College of Southern Idaho to give college credits to high school students). The group operates in 11 states, and 20% participants are not Latino.

The grant from Chobani will fund the Latinos in Action program expansion, helping to support culturally responsive social and emotional learning, college and career readiness, and leadership development with a goal of meeting the needs of Idaho’s rural communities to benefit their underserved Latino youth. This expansion will take place through a virtual environment, focusing primarily on social and emotional learning, virtual tutoring options, and family services.

The Idaho Community Foundation partners with the Chobani Foundation to administer the grants. The goal is to stimulate economic development and entrepreneurship in the Magic Valley. This year’s recipients are being announced Thursday.

“We provide the Chobani employees who participate on our impact grant panel a portfolio of options and then the employees select the recipients with the ICF administering the funds to the (selected) programs,” Idaho Community Foundation Chief Strategy and Engagement Officer Cara Nielsen said.

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Chobani’s Community Impact Fund debuted in 2018 with a $100,000 annual commitment to the region. In 2019, the grant total was doubled to $200,000 and repeated for 2020.

A grant is going to the Idaho Educational Services for the Deaf and the Blind’s transition program that serves students or young adults ages 14-26 with a vision or a hearing loss. The organization will convert an old school bus into a food truck.

Post-Secondary Transition Coordinator Kristy Buffington said the $55,000 grant will help them build a “restaurant on wheels.”

“Old school buses we usually send them off to the state of Idaho to auction,” Buffington said. “We have an older bus that the school is going to let our transition program have and we are going to turn it into a food bus.”

The bus is going to be a great learning opportunity for our students Buffington said. The menu, what kinds of food they are going to cook, the inventory, the budget, all the permitting, and the logo design will all be assignments for students. The educators will design a curriculum, but the students will run the bus.

Working on this food truck will allow deaf and hard of hearing and blind and visually impaired youth and young adults learn essential life-enhancing soft-skills.

“We want to partner with Magic Valley business leaders and local business owners, hearing and sighted as well,” Buffington said. “This way Magic Valley employers can see that deaf and blind talent pools are an untapped resource in our community.”

The grant also includes a stipend for four mentors: two for deaf students, two for blind students.

Other 2020 grant recipients

Jannus Inc. – This program is a community development initiative that helps underserved and vulnerable people realize financial health and resiliency by offering microloans, emergency personal loans, credit education, mentoring and coaching. Chobani’s Community Impact Fund has previously supported the Jannus’ Economic Opportunity program in 2019, assisting them in opening an office space in Twin Falls. This additional $75,000 grant will fund staff for the new office and ensure their capacity is fully supported through August 2021, which will ultimately create new entrepreneurial businesses and jobs in the region.

Region IV Development Association – The association is partnering with the Magic Valley Food Innovation Center Committee to conduct a feasibility study on the viability of a food innovation center and business incubator in south-central Idaho. The $25,000 grant from Chobani will assist in funding this study with the goal of developing the center, which would strengthen the regional economy, enhance educational opportunities, support local businesses, and encourage emerging entrepreneurs.

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