As a sophomore at New Canaan High School two years ago, leading a busy life with sports, school and extracurricular activities, I had been less than inclined to add another program to my list of to-do’s.
Yet my mom, having volunteered with the New Canaan Community Foundation, insisted I try the organization’s Young Philanthropists Program. In it, high school students meet regularly to learn and discuss community needs and how they’re met by nonprofits, as well as how grants help fund those agencies.
No surprise, mom was right—this was a program for me: I love to help others and make a difference in my community, and the Young Philanthropists allows me to not only follow that passion, but to also learn about how a nonprofit is built and sustained.
Since entering the program, I have learned a lot about nonprofit organizations in the area, and we have been able to participate in hands-on work with various organizations.
This year, we volunteered at Building One Community, a Stamford-based organization serving immigrants, to teach a class in English as a Second Language. While this was challenging, I had an amazing experience helping a woman who had just moved to the United States that week learn English.
These experiences help inform grant decisions because we can see an organization in action and recognize the difference it is making in our community. This year we had a budget of $12,000 and many grant requests from great organizations. As our specific focus this year was education and human services, we narrowed down our search to five that we want to invest in: Open Door Shelter, Building One Community, Norwalk Community Health Center, Carver Center, and the New Canaan Parent Support Group.
However, we are trying to expand our current budget (with a fundraising campaign that’s running April 9 to 12). We want to give more to our chosen organizations because we believe they truly have an impact on our community.
When I look back on my high school experience, I find that one of the most influential programs I have participated in has been Young Philanthropists. It differentiates itself from others because it is not only about volunteering, but also understanding the behind-the-scenes of nonprofits. I believe the work of nonprofit organizations is so important, and high schoolers should learn our social and philanthropic responsibilities in our community.