South Whidbey Academy students try hand at grant giving

Jadi McCullum and Gavriel Ewart work on materials for the Youth in Philanthropy class. The class is seeking applications for a $13,500 grant to be distributed to community nonprofits and teachers. - Celeste Erickson / The Record
Jadi McCullum and Gavriel Ewart work on materials for the Youth in Philanthropy class. The class is seeking applications for a $13,500 grant to be distributed to community nonprofits and teachers.
— image credit: Celeste Erickson / The Record

For a group of students at South Whidbey Academy, it’s time to give back to their community.

About 30 sixth, seventh and eighth graders are in charge of distributing $13,500 as part of the Youth in Philanthropy class. The class is designed to raise money and give to nonprofits and teachers on South Whidbey, and they are looking for applicants through mid-March.

Academy Director David Pfeiffer helped implement the same youth program at five other schools, including Langley Middle School. He said the program is a good fit for students at the academy.

“Our belief is to connect youth to the community, and this is a powerful way of doing it,” he said.

The students first began the process in the fall by raising $500 to initiate the grant. Students sold apple cider, made holiday cards and held other events to raise money. Once raised, the Seattle-based Glaser Foundation provided $10,000 for the students to distribute to community nonprofits. Another $3,000 from the foundation will be given for distribution to teachers for projects.

Students are making decisions using a rubric they created, much like teachers do, Pfeiffer said. The class is aimed at building appreciation for organizations that serve the community. Pfeiffer also hopes the experience will open up future possibilities for students to volunteer or intern with the groups, something he saw working with other schools.

“We want the students to get in touch with groups in the community,” he added.

For most students working on such a project is a new endeavor, tapping their language, critical thinking and team-building skills. The class will need to decide which organizations to give to and how much. Students will review the organization, budget and service provided by each nonprofit based on the application.

For 12-year-old Jadi McCullum, getting all the information and making a decision is no easy task.

“Organizing is a huge thing; it’s a huge check,” Jadi emphasized.

Despite the challenges, she is looking forward to picking a group after the applications come in. In the meantime, Jadi, along with the other students on the outreach team, are in charge of organizing the information.

Adah Barenburg, 14, said the experience has made her a better communicator. Adah made posters for the website and called a few organizations letting them know of the grant. One of her favorite parts so far was fundraising for the initial money.

She said before the class she was mostly familiar with Good Cheer as a nonprofit. Through this project she hopes to learn about the other non-profit groups around South Whidbey and how they work.

Teacher Charlie Snelling said that through this grant, he hopes students learn how to operate under the “big picture.”

“They need to learn to work with each other effectively and draw on each other’s strengths, using the talents of the group,” he said.

Another important aspect is learning about what nonprofits do, who they serve, and how they operate. He said he hopes this experience exposes them to the idea of service and volunteering with charities.

“That’s one big section of life I hope they learn about,” he said.


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