Julia Cleary: I just wanted to give the kids equal opportunities


Credit: Courtesy of Julia Cleary

Junior Julia Cleary is the president of Kids Empowering Kids, a nonprofit. She started the nonprofit with a fellow high school student as a freshman in high school. “It’s unfair that people with higher socioeconomic classes have access to tutoring, so they can do better in school.” Cleary said.

Hailey Robinson

In her freshman year, junior Julia Cleary took volunteering to the next level and started a nonprofit with another high school student. To kick off her high school career, she formed Kids Empowering Kids, which helps kids who are staying at the Family Promise homeless shelter in Natick.

“We connect the kids staying in the homeless shelters with teen volunteers in the community so that the kids can have access to music, sports, art and tutoring,” Cleary said.

The nonprofit had a humble beginning, originating from when Cleary’s fellow high school student (a junior at the time), Zach Abrams, approached her. Kids Empowering Kids stems from Abrams’s ideas of equality for other kids like himself.

“[Abrams] was working on starting this because he saw that the kids were stuck in the shelter all day and didn’t really have much to do,” Cleary said. “He started to develop [the nonprofit], and I helped him put it in the Family Promise shelter.”

Cleary’s volunteering with the Family Promise shelter had a history. Abrams’s idea combined with Cleary’s connection to the shelter helped the pair to bring their idea into action.

“I already volunteered at Family Promise but I mainly just started talking to the people there and they liked the idea [of the nonprofit] and they wanted to include it in their shelter,” Cleary said.

Cleary’s remarkable independence and initiative have taken her and Kids Empowering Kids far. Abrams graduated high school and took a step back from the nonprofit. Since then, Cleary took on the role of president, adding countless responsibilities to her plate.

“My personal role as president means talking to the volunteers, [recruiting] volunteers, talking to the families and making sure everything is going well,” Cleary said.

Balancing everything that comes with presiding over an entire nonprofit has proven to be an obstacle for Cleary and her team of teens, but not one she can’t overcome. Her genuine passion for her cause encourages her to work for Kids Empowering Kids.

“We have weekly meetings and because we’re high school students, we’re all very busy,” Cleary said. “[However], it hasn’t really been an obstacle because we genuinely want to provide the service to [the kids].”

Cleary’s group of students for Kids Empowering Kids is a team of five, all of whom work as tutors or volunteer at Family Promise. Cleary attributes the success of her nonprofit to her team, which does a great deal of work for the cause.

“The overall expansion of it has been my team and me,” Cleary said.

Cleary hopes to expand Kids Empowering Kids’ services even further in the future. Family Promise has multiple shelters in the area which Cleary hopes to bring her services to in the future. Abrams continues to help Cleary find a shelter to expand to from afar, while he’s enrolled at Middlebury College.

“Right now, we only have [Kids Empowering Kids] in one shelter, and we would like to reach more Family Promise shelters specifically because [the one in Natick is] the one we have a relationship with,” Cleary said. “For now, in my high school career, I would like to expand it to at least one more Family Promise shelter.”