On January 23, Wellesley High School students gathered at the Wellesley Police Department to learn the concept of philanthropy. This meeting displays the desire students have to learn to better their community.
Youth in Philanthropy (YIP) is a program offered to high school students in Hopkinton, Lincoln, Natick, Sudbury, Wellesley and other selected schools such as Concord Academy and Middlesex School. Over the course of 17 weeks, YIP participants review grant applications submitted to the Foundation for MetroWest and make recommendations to the Foundation’s Board of Trustees to award $9,000 in grants to youth-serving nonprofits in the area. Students then raise an additional $1,000 by the end of the program in June through various ways such as bake sales or car washes.
“[YIP] is a great way for students to build both community engagement and leadership skills. The foundation for MetroWest sought to prove that philanthropy was not just the traditional association of the giving of money; philanthropy was also the giving of time and talent, two resources that youth have plenty of,” said Kimberly Blakemore, a program officer in the foundation of MetroWest. “The foundation’s Youth in Philanthropy program developed in response, aiming to educate local young people about the value of philanthropy and community involvement through the unique opportunity to take the reins on grant-making.” Blakemore participates in the YIP program as an advisor from the MetroWest foundation.
In the program, Students and YIP advisors work together through a long process which involves learning how to read grants all the way to choosing two non-profit organizations they would like to support with their grants. “[If] I were to say what my greatest gift is, [it is] seeing the process that the Youth in Philanthropy kids go through,” said Maura Renzella, Youth in Philanthropy facilitator. “Seeing how proud the kids are at the end when they award the grants makes me feel so happy.”
The YIP process informs students of the process of reviewing grants and allows them to learn about nonprofit organizations. This program also empowers students to learn the importance of dedicating something other than their money to help their community. “When I first read about the program on the [Metrowest Foundation] website, I couldn’t really grasp their goal because I thought you wouldn’t actually be volunteering which what I was looking for and interested in,” said Anais Livadas ’19. “My thinking definitely changed once the instructor explained the program. I could clearly understand our part in the community as I learned we would be supporting the organizations that help people in need or the environment or animals.”
Facilitators and officers from the MetroWest Foundation have the opportunity to learn as much as the students do. “It has provided me with an opportunity to think outside the box when trying to come up with philanthropic opportunities for my own children and my own family as well as the youth in Wellesley,” said Renzella.
Renzella revealed that she hopes students can walk away from the program with a greater understanding of the world of non-profits. “I hope kids get a sense of what it takes to run a non profit, . how essential non profits are to certain people, and [how] to think futuristically on how they can become philanthropists–Not just by donating money, but [by] a combination of volunteering with some charity or some social activism about something that they feel passionate about.”
Students as well have goals in mind for what they wish to accomplish within the program. “I want to contribute to the community by helping the less fortunate and helping the world that I live in be safer and cleaner for every living thing,” said Livadas.
“YIP fosters a “we” mentality in students – building community is all about teamwork, and I know that after participating in YIP, students feel a shared camaraderie,” says Blakemore. “Former President Obama put it best: ‘I’m asking you to believe. Not in my ability to create change — but in yours.’ YIP is an opportunity for YIP students to recognize just how powerful they can be – to create real and meaningful change. It all starts here at home.”Students learn through Youth in Philanthropy program that time may be worth more than