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UK announces three nonprofits as inaugural Cornerstone community innovation partners


By Amanda Royer
University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky is pleased to announce an innovative campus-community partnership at The Cornerstone, UK’s newest facility designed to foster community, creativity, technology, entrepreneurship and equitable economic development. A collaboration of three Lexington-area nonprofits, led by Believing in Forever, has been selected as the inaugural Cornerstone Community Innovation Partner. Believing in Forever, in partnership with Black Soil and Operation Making a Change, will have an ongoing presence at The Cornerstone to facilitate innovative programming as well as increased community engagement with students and faculty.

These three nonprofits — collectively to be known as the Campus Community Connection — will focus on inequality, injustices and communities of color in Lexington. The Campus Community Connection plans to address three major community needs, including providing places for youth to express themselves, aiding those experiencing food insecurities and offering mentorship for youth. Believing in Forever plans to continue their work of allowing youth to express themselves using art as a platform to enhance leadership and raise awareness of social and racial injustices in Kentucky. Black Soil will address food insecurities for community members, particularly those in the East and West ends of Lexington. Operation Making a Change plans to continue mentoring and providing trauma-informed care for youth grades six-12.

The Cornerstone, at the corner of South Limestone and Winslow Street on UK’s campus, welcomes its new Community Innovation Partner. (Photo by Mark Cornelison, UK)

Using The Cornerstone as a launching point for community engagement, the Campus Community Connection will collaborate with other nonprofits in Lexington and encourage others to engage at UK.

Devine Carama, executive director of Believing in Forever Inc. looks forward to this new collaboration at The Cornerstone.

“I’m beyond excited about this new partnership,” Carama said. “My relationship with UK started years ago as a lecturer and most recently as a co-instructor of our Lyricism and Leadership: Hip Hop and Community Change course as part of UK’s Community and Leadership Development program. To see that relationship evolve into something like this is such a blessing. We look forward to connecting the Lexington residents and businesses with students and faculty on campus in an effort to build a stronger and more equitable community!”

Believing in Forever Inc. helps Kentucky youth find their purpose and empowers them to take on leadership roles within their community by using their own unique gifts and talents. By encouraging youth to believe that leadership is not an age, education level, financial class, title or position, youth are encouraged to find their own purpose, voice and leadership style through expressive art, mentoring, community service and education. Community initiatives of Believing in Forever Inc. include: A Coat to Keep the Cold Away; Dads on Campus; L.E.A.D; Sons of Single Mothers Mentoring; Fresh Water for Flint Water Drive; Community on the Corners Poetry in Motion; and The Luna Library.

Black Soil is focused on reconnecting Black Kentuckians to their legacy and heritage in agriculture. Black Soil addresses this mission by bringing together urban families with rural and urban-based Black farmers/growers/producers across the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Additionally, Black Soil wishes to help foster a greater market share for Black farmers as they produce healthy food options for a large consumer base.

Operation Making a Change is a prevention and intervention program for youth at risk of being involved in the court system. Additionally, this program encourages students to develop leadership skills and the understanding of making good choices throughout their lives.

The Cornerstone serves as the gateway to an emerging innovation district that will further link the university with the city of Lexington. The innovation space and esports facilities on the first floor of The Cornerstone are now open. A flexible, technology-rich innovation space with a variety of programming to stimulate conversation and collaboration between students, faculty, staff and the community is now available. Other features of The Cornerstone include a gamers’ lounge, the UK Federal Credit Union Esports Lounge, with 50 PC gaming stations and 3 console gaming areas and a multiuse 100-seat theater equipped to host 6v6 esports tournaments, hold classes, and be the home for a variety of other presentations and events. The Cornerstone Exchange food hall is also currently open with its first vendor, A Cup of Common Wealth, and other food and beverage vendors will open soon.

Amanda Royer writes for UK Now


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