The spring 2014 YOUTHadelphia participants.
Since joining YOUTHadelphia, a teenage advisory committee of The Philadelphia Foundation’s Fund for Children, John Macri has learned a thing or two about philanthropy. Beginning in January, the St. Joseph’s Prep junior spent every Thursday afternoon learning about grantmaking, civic engagement, and what it really means to be a philanthropist.
“You think philanthropy is a bunch of guys in a boardroom,” he told the crowd of grantees at YOUTHadelphia’s spring grant award ceremony, “But we’re just a bunch of teenagers, getting stuff done.”
Last Thursday, Macri and 21 of his peers — a diverse group of public and private high school students — awarded $50,000 to youth-focused nonprofits. In addition to deciding where the money goes, YOUTHadelphia participants set funding priorities, scrutinize grant applications, and conduct site visits to narrow down the potential grantees.
“For the youth involved, it makes philanthropy accessible to young people who otherwise don’t know it exists,” said Libby O’Donnell, who oversees YOUTHadelphia for The Philadelphia Foundation.
It also gives them opportunities to make major funding decisions.
“Fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money,” O’Donnell said. “It teaches youth the importance of doing their due diligence. They have conversations about the issues they see among their peers and at school.”
Maureen Smith, a 17-year-old from Roxborough, was among the teens who introduced PathWays PA as a grant recipient. The group received $5,000 to support a program helping girls who stay at its shelter examine the portrayal of women in the media.
“PathWays provides young women with a place to lay their head at night. They provide basic things that every human being should have,” Smith said. During her site visit, she noted the shelter’s warmth and “homelike” qualities. The young women she met also made an impression.
“What really stood out to me was the fact that these young women had been through so much that I never could imagine myself going through or my best friend going through,” she said.
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Other grant recipients receiving $5,000 each included Scribe Video Center, United Communities Southeast Philadelphia, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Legacy Youth Tennis and Education, Men in Motion in the Community, Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility, North Light Community Center, The Attic Youth Center, and Philadelphia Outward Bound.
According to O’Donnell, YOUTHadelphia’s grantmaking attracts a strong pool of applicants each year.
“It’s a really tough task that [the students] have,” she said, “But they are making good grants. It’s important for the community to see that they can trust young people to make decisions like this.”
Smith, who advocated for PathWays and has plans for a career in philanthropy or politics, summed up her experience this way: “I learned that it’s difficult to spend the money on only a limited number of programs, but at the end of the day, that’s a part of being a leader — making the tough decisions.”
YOUTHadelphia is recruiting Philadelphia-area high school students for its spring and fall cohorts. To learn more or apply, contact Libby O’Donnell at firstname.lastname@example.org.-30-
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