Grant program offers opportunities for county students
The Hamilton County Foundation is presenting a new opportunity for students across the county to leave an impact on their communities.
Youth Engaged in Philanthropy (YEP) is a new program that gives high school juniors and seniors a voice to talk about current issues within the community and provide input that would help improve these issues through philanthropy.
The foundation’s executive director, Tamara Morris, presents YEP as a gateway to get students interested in philanthropy.
“I think as a foundation, we are always exploring ways to help our community understand how fortunate we are to have a level of philanthropy that we have in our county,” Morris explained.
The process for students joining YEP begins during their sophomore year. Students fill out an application and participate in an interview. Selection is based on their character in their application and interview.
For its first year, YEP has selected all fourteen students from Aurora, Giltner, and Hampton who had applied to be a part of the program.
The first meeting took place Aug. 21 when students and their parents met with their mentors and went over what goals they were going to strive for over the course of the year.
Lori Thiele, who works at the foundation as the Community Outreach Coordinator, spoke positively about the outcome of Monday evening’s open house during which the program was explained and students and parents were given schedules and an outline of how the sessions would be conducted.
“It went pretty good,”Thiele said. “The goal was just to meet the kids again and the parents and get to know one another.”
During the open house, Morris and Thiele explained to the parents and their students what is expected to occur throughout the year. Participants were told who they were going to be grouped with and which mentors from the program they would be assigned to.
“There are one to two mentors per group and so they will break into three groups,” Morris explained. “So when… they do any service projects in the community they’ll work directly with our mentors and that means that mentor will stay with them throughout the entire year.”
The group will meet in two-hour sessions held once a month at the Farr Library from September through April.
“They’ll come in as a junior and they’ll do a junior curriculum with a focus to work on grant-making and understanding the grant-making process,” Morris states.
“We’re going to have $10,000 to grant out, so we’ll be doing site visits on the applicants that apply for the grants,” Thiele stated.
She said because its the first year of the program, many of the details are yet to be worked out, adding, “We’re doing this one month at a time.”
Along with learning how to manage grants, the students will be able to become directly involved in helping out businesses that will receive the grants.
“They can learn what is the root causes of the problems in the community, and then how to fix them,” Thiele commented. “So basically, they are going to be a young group of kids that are going to come in and learn about their community, learn how to help their community and get hands-on experience on doing that.”
When students reach the end of their junior and senior years, they will be given a capstone ceremony to honor the hard work they have dedicated to improving their communities.
Morris and Thiele explained that YEP allows students to use their voices to bring change and support to possible issues that could be encountered in their daily lives and even their personal interests.
“You want students to be able to self-select their interest level in the program, but we are looking for students who have a real interest in community and contributing to the community, understanding how it works and being able to make an impact,” Morris stated.
“We are letting the students make decisions,” Thiele stated. “They’re going to be making the majority, if not all of the decisions in this program. So if they see something that they think needs help in the community, we want them to be the one to initiate and say, ‘Hey we need to go help this, we need to help the theater with the concession stands or there’s a lot of trash in this park.’ Those are the types of things we’re hoping that students will step up and make their own decisions on what to do for the community,” Thiele explained.
During the process of building a new program in which Hamilton County students will join together, Morris wanted a valuable learning experience for both students and mentors that would benefit them and the local communities for years to come.
“We went out and looked at different programs across the nation,” Morris explained. “This was the program that we chose to bring into the community. (It’s a) well researched, well thought out good curriculum, (with) lots of supporting materials, not only for the mentors but also for the students.”
Thiele stated that she’s hopeful once the students get involved in projects for local areas, more students and others within the county will come to know more about the program and will increase participation in the upcoming years.
She also expressed that one of the most important goals of YEP isn’t just to help students become more involved with their communities, but to help them develop essential skills and character to help them be capable of taking a lead in improving their community once they graduate from high school.
Thiele said the ultimate goal of the program is to develop the students into better leaders who are creative and able to figure things out on their own. She also hopes they will have their eyes open to their community and learn how to make a difference in making their community better.