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Students learn about giving

With donors Bill Carlstrom, left, and Sandy Aikens, at right in back, members of Susie Richards
With donors Bill Carlstrom, left, and Sandy Aikens, at right in back, members of Susie Richards' communications class at Langley Middle School hold mock-ups of the $10,500 they received for a philanthropy organization they started in class. Class members are Stephanie Sanford, Derel Gabelein, Topher Kline, Kassie Weber, Katie Murphy, John Moore, Marco Flores and Katrina Taylor.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

If you have nine eighth graders who must give away $10,000 dollars in one school year, how many nonprofit organizations will you need to do the job?

Though this may sound like a textbook-generated story problem for math class, it is actually a real life situation for an eighth-grade English communications class at Langley Middle School.

Last week, a trustee from the Bellevue-based Glaser Foundation set up a $10,000 bank account for the class through the South Whidbey Schools Foundation. The money is a grant, one of three given to Western Washington middle school students this year.

There is only one catch for the students who receive the money: They must give it all away to people and organizations that need it.

How to use that money is now the question that now occupies the minds of the students in Susie Richards’ middle school class.

The students know they are required to give the money to nonprofit organizations. Which organizations receive grants from the class will depend on the applications they submit to Richards’ students and on the desires of the class. Eighth-grader Derel Gabelein has two groups he would like to see get some of the money.

“For youth and the elderly,” he said.

He and his classmates are ready to start handing out smaller grants from their bank account, but it will be a few months before they can make an informed decision. Even if the class finds five, 10, or 20 groups worthy of funding, they are not going to give all the money away at once. They will make the money work for them.

To get the grant in the first place, they had to earn a $500 donation from the Island County Health Department for work they did for this fall’s Great American Smokeout. A prerequisite of matching funds to receive the Glaser funds, the students earned their money by staffing an anti-smoking booth at South Whidbey Childrens’ Day last month.

Sandy Aikens, coordinator for the health department’s anti-smoking programs, said the money comes out of Washington’s settlement with the tobacco industry. More of the the $30,000 the county received from the settlement will go to back a dance the young philanthropists are planning.

With all the money in hand, the class plans to host its dance at the school on Nov. 16, the proceeds of which will go toward the philanthropy fund.

The students will get some help in distributing the funds from a real pro. Bill Carlstrom, a trustee with the Glaser Foundation, meets with the class in person and over the Internet each week to talk over the grant application process the students will use, and how the money will be best used. Ideas about those uses are almost more numerous than the $1 bills in their account. Making a gift toward the completion of the planned South Whidbey skate park was one possibility. Starting a new youth center was another.

The class will receive a second, $3,000 grant from Glaser, which must be given out as mini grants to students and teachers at Langley Middle School.

Community and school groups will be able to begin applying for grants from Richards’ class on Jan. 1, when the students get a Web site dedicated to that purpose online.

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