COMMENTARY

The school of philanthropy

Kansas City StarSeptember 26, 2013 

Students and their families are getting settled in to another school year, and Friday night high school football games are a popular family activity. The Truman Heartland Community Foundation is privileged to have a dedicated group of high school students as part of our community foundation’s family.

These groups of 150 students from 13 area high schools are engaged in our year round school of philanthropy, known as our Youth Advisory Council. These students have been working side by side with our grants committee throughout the summer. They help us make better decisions in our annual community grants process by reviewing the grant requests we receive that relate to programs serving youth, conducting site visits at these organizations and sharing what they learned with our grants committee. There was no summer vacation for the students in our school of philanthropy and our grants committee truly values and appreciates their work and insights.

Here is what Andrea Bright, one of our students from Blue Springs South had to say about what they are learning and experiencing.

“The whole process is a unique privilege to be a part of. Not many students have the opportunity to be helping our community. We may be young and we may not have much to give in the way of finances from our minimum wage part time jobs, but we do have time and insight to give. We are able to be the voice of the Eastern Jackson County youth and what would best impact them.

“I think I speak for everyone that is a part of the Youth Advisory Council when I say that YAC makes us all feel connected to the community. It allows us to be in the know of the needs of the people in our cities. It is an opportunity to deepen our compassion, and strengthen our character. I know an impact is being made when all the Council is passionate about a certain grant and that is then expressed to the grant committee of Truman Heartland. We aren’t just sitting around talking about what is important to us, but we actually get to share our ideas to people who have the authority to grant money from the community foundation.

“As a YAC member and team leader, I am truly thankful for the opportunities that the council provides. I have learned about needs in the community, and organizations working to meet those needs, which I didn’t even know existed before working with YAC. My view of the community has changed after seeing how many good people there are working towards a better tomorrow for our cities. Many adults would be quick to write us off, but Truman Heartland has chosen to invest in the next generation by allowing students to invest in the community. There is something about serving others that allows our brains to be widened and our hearts to be humbled. YAC is not only a current opportunity for us to give back, but also to create a lifestyle of giving that we will carry on into adulthood”The Youth Advisory Council is currently focused on building their own endowment fund which supports their own grant making to youth serving programs. They have built their endowment up to $43,000 over the years and are now actively planning a fundraising event in December. In November some of the leaders of this group will join us at our Community Grants Luncheon and will personally present checks generated from their own endowment fund to nonprofits in our community.

We are extremely thankful for the work of our volunteer principal of our School of Philanthropy, Henri Goettel. We could not provide this program without her leadership and teaching expertise, and as you saw from Andrea’s quote these students are learning important life lessons in our school of philanthropy.

 

Phil Hanson has been the president of the Truman Heartland Community foundation since January 2010. Raised in the Raytown area he went to Rockhurst University for his undergraduate and UMKC for his MPA.

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