Most college applications only include information on a student’s grade point average, extracurricular activities and a brief history of employment and volunteerism.
Yet on 16-year-old Langley resident Janoah Spratt’s application, something else will catch the eye of admissions officers: his position as a board member of Good Cheer Food Bank.
“It’s a great honor to be able to serve on such an amazing nonprofit,” Spratt said. “When I first started fundraising for Good Cheer, I never thought I’d be where I am at such a young age.”
Spratt is the youngest person ever elected to the food bank’s board of directors in the organization’s 54-year history. He was officially named to the board position at Good Cheer’s monthly meeting on Thursday evening. Spratt will serve the remaining two years of a previous board member’s term, after his predecessor departed in mid term.
As a board member, Good Cheer Executive Director Kathy McCabe says Spratt’s chief responsibilities are basic board duties: to help monitor the organization’s finances, policies and procedures. However, McCabe is already looking forward to whatever fundraising ideas he has up his sleeve. His fundraising has impressed her before, despite his young age, and she’s confident he’ll spring a surprise once again and live up to her view of him as one of South Whidbey’s youngest and most active philanthropists.
“For starters, Janoah started fundraising for Good Cheer when he was just 7 years old,” McCabe said. “Even though he’s still a teenager, he’s already legislated for us in Olympia, met our representative Norma Smith and ran a talent show with our food bank manager.”
It’s been 10 years since Spratt started raising funds for the food bank, and those years of experience were central to his nomination. It all started when he asked a friend what she did in her spare time, in response to which she introduced him to Good Cheer. His father, Todd Spratt, says it sparked his interest in volunteerism, and he’s been community oriented ever since. He began to sell homegrown flowers and produce from his driveway to donate to the food bank, before later asking businesses on South Whidbey to match his earnings. He then helped bring back a fundraising talent show held by the nonprofit, which ran for four years.
This was all accomplished before he was 10.
“He’s the youngest board member in our history, but honestly he’s probably done more than any board member because he’s been so involved for a decade,” McCabe said. “I’d estimate he’s raised somewhere around $50,000 for Good Cheer, although that’s a ball park number. Good Cheer is always in the back of his mind.”
McCabe added that the nonprofit was looking for a bit of diversity on their board in order to have a wider array of ideas, although that wasn’t central to the decision. She estimates three quarters of the board is retired, quite the contrast to Spratt’s fresh-faced appearance. But despite the young face, McCabe says Spratt is mature beyond his years, well-spoken and enthusiastic. Considering the lack of diversity and Spratt’s comparable beliefs and communication skills, McCabe says Spratt is the perfect choice.
Spratt says he’ll serve on the board for as long as he is able. It’ll be 16 months until he graduates from his homeschooling, which includes his volunteer work with Good Cheer in his curriculum. Spratt says college is the only factor that could compromise his ability to maintain his role for the remaining two years, since his dream school is a few states south at Stanford University. But he’s hardly thought about that scenario and how much his role as board member will stand out on his college application. For him, it’s all about serving South Whidbey.
“I just like giving back to my community, and I’ll always be connected to it,” Spratt said. “It’s important to always try to give back.”
“We live in a country that can be dog-eat-dog, but once you take a step back, you realize what we do will impact us in a roundabout way. I just want to encourage people my age to get out in the community and help others.”