Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Youth Present “ESCAPE”
A Native American Youth Short Narrative Film in Partnership with FYI Films

Contact Name: Alex Munoz, Director
Organization: Films by Youth Inside
Phone Number: 310-439-3113
Email: Leisle Bartley

Los Angeles, CA: Imagine you are a young person living in a community where the poverty rate is 40%, where alcoholism, tobacco use and juvenile crime are rampant, and your community is overwhelmed by many other health, social and economic issues. Just for a moment, put yourself in the shoes of that young person trying to grow up in such a community. You might feel hopeless or even depressed thinking about your future. But instead, the youth of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe decided to take a more positive approach by learning filmmaking to tell their stories of life on the reservation to help lift them up and inspire other youth to make different choices. Their first short film, called “Escape”, is scheduled to premiere October 4 in Cortez at the Sunflower Theatre and October 6 in Durango at the Gaslight Theater. The film centers around two misfit teens who are tempted to end their lives in order to escape their harsh and oppressive circumstances. The youth’s courage in telling the story is mind-blowing. They address critical issues that they deal with on a daily basis. “Escape” addresses extremely sensitive topics in a very engaging manner such as teen violence, poverty, substance abuse, bullying, homophobia, and domestic abuse.

During a two week period this summer, seventeen youth participated in a film workshop directed by award-winning filmmaker Alex Munoz, Founder and Creative Director of Films by Youth Inside. While his previous work has focused on incarcerated youth, Munoz agreed to customize the film production workshop for Native American youth on the Reservation and the results were amazing. “I’d put some of these young actors in a Hollywood film in a heartbeat”, said Munoz after seeing their acting performances on the big screen. With no previous experience prior to the workshop, these youth learned to write scripts; perform the roles; design costumes, make-up and movie sets; record sound; photograph and film, and direct a motion picture film using state of the art professional equipment donated by Sony Pictures Entertainment and Seagate Technology. We are grateful for the support of the Sunflower Theatre for sponsoring the Cortez screening.

Funding for the project was provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs/Office of Justice Services, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Center for Rural Outreach & Public Services. Tickets are available by invitation only and can be obtained from the youth of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe or calling Beverly Santicola at 866-843-3493. For more info on FYI films visit

To download the pdf version of the press release click here

Executive Director, Center for Rural Outreach & Public Services Inc. Purpose Prize Fellow 2014

Americans who live in rural communities face lower income levels, higher poverty rates and greater unemployment than their urban counterparts. Many rural communities have never recovered from the impact of the Great Depression, the advent of agribusiness and the rapid economic and social changes resulting from the revolution in information technology. Directly affecting rural youths, schools are closing, consolidating or facing increasing program cuts.
With a passion to help, Beverly Santicola co-founded the Center for Rural Outreach and Public Services Inc. (CROPS) in 2004. To achieve its goals, the organization has developed a network of resources to provide development assistance to rural governments, nonprofits, churches, schools and citizens. CROPS supports rural nonprofits by providing training on grant writing, budgeting, strategic planning and other key practices.
The organization lends technical support to nonprofits, churches, schools and government agencies. CROPS also runs youth programs that encourage rural youths to become community leaders by developing diverse skills, including grant writing and public speaking. “Rural communities, especially those that are unincorporated, lack the necessary leadership to take meaningful, positive steps toward change and are grossly underserved in vital public services,” Santicola says. Among its accomplishments, CROPS has generated $300,000 in funding for an unincorporated town that had never received a grant; helped 25 percent of its youth volunteers obtain scholarships; and trained youths to write proposals that generated $20,000 in grants.

Read more about Purpose Prize here.

Growing Rural Wins $5,000 Grant from CHS Foundation

April 25, 2013, Author: Bev Santicola
Published by: CROPS

Houston, Texas – In a recent letter from William J. Nelson, President of the CHS Foundation (Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota) to Beverly Santicola, Executive Director of the Center for Rural Outreach and Public Services, Inc. (or CROPS), it was announced that a grant of $5,000 was approved by the Foundation for CROPS’ Growing Rural project. President Nelson wrote, “We are proud to support the efforts of the Center for Rural Outreach and Public Services, Inc and thank you for the opportunity to continue investing in the future of agriculture, rural America and cooperative business through education and leadership development.” CROPS will use the funding to replicate the Growing Rural model program in Cusick, Washington and to expand and enhance the Growing Rural model to include curriculum in Growing Rural – youth leadership in agriculture and environmental sustainability, as well as promote the program on its website with youth success stories.

Growing Rural Wins $10,000 Grant from Ball Brothers Foundation

December 1, 2012, Author: Lynn Olszewski & Bev Santicola
Published by: CROPS

Knox, Indiana – In a recent letter from Jud Fisher, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Ball Brothers Foundation (Muncie, Indiana) to Beverly Santicola, Executive Director of the Center for Rural Outreach and Public Services, Inc. (or CROPS), it was announced that a general grant of $10,000 was approved by the Foundation for CROPS’ Growing Rural Evaluation Program.  The purpose of this grant request is to build the capacity of CROPS to implement a youth leadership and rural development program that can be replicated nationally by producing research based evidence that Growing Rural works. Collaborating partners for the Growing Rural Evaluation Project include Lynn Olszewski, Director and Christine DeNicola, Associate Director of the Northwest Indiana Area Health Education Center; Robyn Minton, Vice President of Operations, The Center of Workforce Innovations; and Saundra Bailey, Work One-Knox. Youth volunteers will be recruited in the summer of 2013 to survey the community to identify public health problems, prioritize problems and select one or more to address, develop solutions and implement service learning projects that produce measurable and observable outcomes.

Santicola shares San Pierre story with Clinton

July 29, 2010
Published by the Pilot News, Plymouth, Indiana

At a national conference on Rural Philanthropy in Little Rock, Arkansas last week, Beverly Santicola, Executive Director of the Center for Rural Outreach & Public Services, Inc. (or CROPS), had the opportunity to meet former President Bill Clinton and give him a Growing Rural DVD that features the San Pierre Revitalization Project. The conference, held at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum and hosted by the Virginia-based Council of Foundations, was attended by approximately 150 leaders from philanthropic foundations, federal government agencies, and nonprofit organizations from throughout the United States. “I found out about the conference from the Ball Brothers Foundation only about a week before the event” said Santicola “and signed up at my own expense in hopes that I could garner some financial support for San Pierre. I had no idea President Clinton was going to be there until I arrived in the conference hall the morning of his speech.” Read more…

Youth lead the way to rural community revitalization

March 6, 2010, Author: Krista Birkeland
Published by Education Grants Alert a product of LRP Publications

Born from the idea that kids can be taught to do extraordinary things, Growing Rural is a youth-led rural development initiative from the Center for Rural Outreach and Public Services. Participants in the program write grants, plan events, design projects, engage in research, make public presentations, and even produce training manuals to teach other youth how to emulate their practices — all for the sake of community revitalization.“The idea is to empower them to serve small towns so that they will come back when they grow up,” said Beverly Santicola, executive director, CROPS.  Read more…

Not Your Typical Redevelopment Board

Monday, January 21, 2008 - 5:00am PST by NATE BERG Therese Schmidt
Published by Planetizen: Planning, Design & Development

With little else to do, teenagers in the rural Indiana town of San Pierre have found a new place to hang out: community meetings. But they're not just hanging out; they are actively participating in the planning and revitalization of their community. On a typical Friday night in America teenagers hang out with their friends on their neighborhood corner, or at the mall, or maybe at the local movie theater. But for teenagers living in San Pierre, a small, unincorporated rural farming community located 80 miles from Chicago in northwestern Indiana, this isn't the case. Despite its small size, San Pierre was once a thriving community. It was home to more than 34 different businesses, and was surrounded by farmland and people gainfully employed in agriculture, retail sales, banking or other service industries. Unfortunately, like many other small rural communities in America, San Pierre has experienced a long streak of economic decline; it is now the second most distressed area in the state. Today there are no gas stations, grocery stores, elementary/secondary schools, pharmacies, hospitals, movie theaters, baseball leagues, or manufacturing plants, and the population of San Pierre has dwindled to just 156 people. Buildings stand vacant and dilapidated, and what infrastructure remains is crumbling and in desperate need of repair. And for teenagers, finding a place to hang out isn't that easy. Read more…