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Young Students Give $20,000 in Grants to Non-Profits

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Foundation program has area high schoolers help fund grants for local nonprofits

Isaac Morales believes youth today are more involved in their communities than ever before. “They don’t just voice themselves anymore, they take action.” This is evident in The Community Foundation’s Youth Grantmakers Committee.

Isaac will be a senior at Norte Vista High School in Riverside in the fall. He joined the committee when he was a junior and has since gained critical skills. “We all expanded our critical thinking skills while making presentations, supporting our arguments, and learning at site visits,” Isaac said. “We visited three locations of organizations that we could possibly give a grant to. These site visits helped us have a better understanding of how our grants can help recipients with their own mission statements.”

The committee’s 29 students mostly live in Riverside but a few are from San Bernardino County.

In a ceremony at City Hall, the committee celebrated with the nine nonprofits chosen to receive a total of $20,000. The Community Foundation’s Board of Directors approved the choices.

The grant recipients are: Axis Foundation Inc., $2,000; Boys and Girls Club of Redlands, $2,500; Child Leader Project, $2,250; Community Health Systems, Inc., $2,500; Inland Congregation United for Change, $2,500; Oak Grove Center for Education, Treatment and the Arts, $2,250; Safe Alternatives for Everyone, $1,000; Walden Family Services, $2,500; and Youth Action Project, $2,500.

Earlier this year, twenty-seven nonprofits submitted grant applications with detailed project proposals.

They were reviewed by the youth grantmakers, which wanted to help teens dealing with the most important issues facing young people today.

“Since we are high school students we can relate to the important issues facing youth and offer an important insight that might otherwise go unnoticed,” said Bianca Freeman, a senior attending UC Riverside in the fall. “This insight went into evaluating each nonprofit organization and determining how effectively their programs served the youth of our community.”

About two-thirds of the committee’s students attend Arlington, North, Martin Luther King, Ramona and Norte Vista high schools. Students from La Sierra, Notre Dame, and Aquinas are in the group too.

Founded in 1941 by a Riverside businessman, The Community Foundation has expanded to serve both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties by managing donations, awarding grants and scholarships, being a catalyst to address community issues and strengthening the nonprofit sector. Last year, it raised 5.4 million in contributions and currently has over 300 managed funds that exceed $60 million in assets.

The Youth Grantmakers Committee formed after a foundation board member, Stan Grube, attended a national conference and saw how teenagers in Michigan were engaging in making decisions about grants that affected youth in their community. In late 2008, the foundation board approved the Youth Philanthropy Initiative, which launched the Youth Grantmakers Committee.

“The goal is to teach young people about the tradition of philanthropy,” said Celia Cudiamat, the foundation’s Vice President of Grant Programs. “We want to increase their awareness about people outside the confines of their own neighborhood, improve their skills in conflict resolution and communications, increase their knowledge about grantmaking, nonprofits and foundations, and teach them leadership and civic skills. We hope the end result is to increase their interest and involvement in their community.”

Adam Fletcher, a senior heading to UCLA in the fall, believes the committee changed his life. After three years on the committee, he has firsthand experience that this process really works.

“I can look back and know this program has done so much good for the surrounding community,” Adam said. “I established a new perspective on the importance of helping others as well as developed an understanding for exactly what it takes to make the best of a collaborative effort. We needed to be able to express our opinions, be organized and concise, as well as be able to agree on what is best for those around us.”

These developed skills carried over into his everyday life. “I noticed that it became much easier for me to be an individual thinker and to be able to listen to other's opinions and look objectively. This experience has made me a stronger person as a whole, and I can't begin to express how thankful I am for that. But most importantly, this group has an innate ability to change lives.”

Isaac, who will be serving on the committee again next year, summed it up like this: “Youth grantmakers committee is an outlet for us to not only have a voice, but to also have a direct impact with the resources provided to us. While serving as youth grantmakers, we become leaders, we become liaisons, we become philanthropists, but most importantly, we take action.”

Each of the ten graduating grantmakers selected a senior charity of choice. In appreciation of their service, The Community Foundation made a donation to each of the ten charities. Amounts varied from $400 to $1,000, depending on the number of years on the committee, attendance and other factors.

Donations were made to: Arlington High School Envirothon, APES, and Football Team; Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy; North High School – Blue Star Regiment and Boys Soccer Team; Life Christian Academy; King High School’s The King Courier; Notre Dame High School ASB; and Suicide Awareness Requires Action.

Applications for the 2011-2012 Youth Grantmakers Committee are now being accepted. Applicants must be sophomores or juniors during the 2011-2012 school year.

For more information, call Cudiamat at 951-684-4194.

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