Big Thought Receives $1 Million Grant to Empower Youth

DALLAS, TX – AUGUST 21, 2023Big Thought (BIG THOUGHT), a Dallas-based organization dedicated to closing the opportunity gap through empowering youth and fostering creativity, is thrilled to announce a $1 million grant from the Walmart Foundation through the Center for Racial Equity. This grant represents a significant milestone in BIG THOUGHT’s journey towards equipping all youths, particularly those in marginalized communities, to imagine and create their best lives and a better world.

BIG THOUGHT is poised to enact transformative change by empowering youths in the Black community, as well as the organizations devoted to serving them. Driven by a shared vision of inclusivity and equity, this collaboration will help propel BIG THOUGHT further along the spectrum of becoming a fully inclusive, multicultural organization,uniquely positioned to contribute to the journey towards an equitable society for all.

“Today marks a pivotal moment in our journey to reshape the future for our youth, especially those ensnared in the juvenile justice system. This grant from the Walmart Foundation through the Center for Racial Equity is more than just a financial boost; it’s a resounding call for change. Our commitment goes beyond the dollars—it’s about reimagining the systems that define young lives. This is just the beginning. With our partners, we are crafting a blueprint for transformation, not only within our organization but within the very systems that impact these brilliant young souls. Every youth carries boundless potential, and it’s our duty to create an environment where that potential can flourish. Together, we’re forging a path toward a future where all our youth can shine.”– says Big Thought President and CEO Byron Sanders.

The initiative spearheaded by BIG THOUGHT addresses a critical problem: the alarming number of young people entering the juvenile justice system each year. Data from the Dallas County Juvenile Department reveals that approximately 7,000 young individuals engage with this system annually. These youths have endured an average of 14 distinct traumas in their lifetime, with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) being eight times more prevalent. The cycle perpetuates itself, as over 70% of youths leaving secure residential placements end up re-offending within three years. The overrepresentation of Black youths in the justice system relative to the general population is a powerful contributor to inequity that persists into adulthood, having negative effects that show lifelong and multi-generational impacts.

Extensive research spanning decades has consistently shown that trauma-informed approaches can significantly improve social and emotional well-being. By enhancing trauma-informed approaches, BIG THOUGHT aims to foster job skills, promote healing and positive self-image, reduce recidivism, and boost social-emotional development among youths impacted by the justice system.

Kristina Cola, BIG THOUGHT’S New Business Opportunities Director who will lead work for the Walmart Grant, shared remarks on the announcement: “The alignment with the Walmart initiative well positions Big Thought to strategically connect community stakeholders directly from the community, as well as civic offices and our local business sector. We are stronger together, having everyone at the same table, with the same mission will further amplify youth voice and opportunity while building best practices and solutions that will have future impact across the nation. That’s exciting!”

BIG THOUGHT has two primary objectives for youth deflection. Firstly, BIG THOUGHT will establish a groundbreaking Community of Practice (COP) consisting of like-minded organizations providing programming that deflects away from the juvenile justice system and supports Black youths and their families. In collaboration with the Dallas and Tarrant County Juvenile departments, BIG THOUGHT aims to break down silos and align with community-based efforts to support incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youths. By identifying successful areas of practice, sharing knowledge, and fostering collaboration, this community will become a content expert on preventing juvenile justice system involvement and recidivism, with the goal of improving outcomes for youths over the next few decades.

Secondly, BIG THOUGHT will deepen the impact of its own direct programming, which aims to deflect youths from the juvenile and adult justice systems. By expanding application of trauma-informed practices, increasing equitable access to interventions, promoting critical 21st-century creator skills, and enhancing program quality, BIG THOUGHT strives to empower more youths with the tools they need to thrive.

This momentous collaboration will include active participation from BIG THOUGHT in the Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Forum’s Criminal Justice Prevention Network, including virtual network meetings and in-person convenings hosted by the Aspen Institute.

The impact of this initiative extends beyond immediate results. BIG THOUGHT’S efforts and the Community of Practice will serve as invaluable resources for policymakers and juvenile justice professionals nationwide, providing insights into changes in populations, environments, and practices. Moreover, the project aims to prevent young individuals from entering the justice system altogether, ultimately reducing the rates of youth interacting with the justice system.

The grant from the Walmart Foundation through the Center for Racial Equity supports a shared mission of improving the lives of marginalized youth by empowering them to reach their full potential.

As BIG THOUGHT embarks on this endeavor, the organization looks forward to the tremendous impact it will have on transforming the lives of young individuals in marginalized communities. The investment exemplifies a shared commitment to creating a more equitable society where all youth can envision and realize their brightest futures.


Big Thought is a Dallas-based nonprofit organization dedicated to equipping youth with the skills and mindset needed to thrive in today’s world. Through innovative programs and collaborations, Big Thought fosters creativity, empowers young individuals, and builds inclusive communities. By championing the power of imagination and critical thinking, Big Thought creates transformative learning experiences that unlock the potential in every young person.