High Schoolers Present $25,000 in Grants to Local Nonprofits

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By Community Editor

Tuesday evening, April 24, 2012, marked the first commencement for local high school seniors in the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation's Future Philanthropists Program and it was also the second year in a row they have made grants to local nonprofits.

As participants in the Program, these high students learn how to evaluate requests for funding from local charities and conduct site visits, review numerous proposals for funding and decide on how to distribute $25,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations.

Hephzibah Children's Association received a grant for high school students to plan, design and run a once-a-year rodeo for children living in Hephzibah's group homes. Students will learn how to create and manage an event for underprivileged children, how to work with a budget, businesses, vendors and others. Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry received a grant to support its Nutrition Education Program educating clients on healthful food choices and preparation. In this program, young people participate in curriculum and recipe development as well as program delivery and assessment. PING! Received a grant to expand its high school mentoring program for low-income students. Also receiving grants were Sarah's Inn, Steckman Studio, West Cook YMCA, District 97 Lincoln Elementary PTO, Oak Park Education Foundation, Oak Park River Forest High School Robotics Club and, Parenthesis. Each grantee presented a compelling case for funds to provide services for youth which included young people in the development and delivery of those services.

The Future Philanthropists Program has four objectives: 1) to educate young people about the fundamentals of philanthropic leadership in the community, 2) to involve young people as decision makers in the process of allocating financial support to charitable organizations in Oak Park and River Forest, 3) to provide leadership opportunities in which young people can explore and demonstrate community social responsibility and 4) to introduce young people to potential career paths in philanthropy and public charity service. 

Student advisors at OPRF District #200, Trinity High School in River Forest and Fenwick High School in Oak Park worked with the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation to promote the program as a service learning opportunity. Interested juniors complete an application and participate in a screening interview by the Foundation. A maximum of 15 students are accepted into the program and each student agrees to make a 2-year commitment to the program.

Philanthropy Mentors, serve as role models of community philanthropy and volunteerism facilitate and advise the students. They have also made a 2-year commitment to provide continuity in the service learning experience. Speakers from the community serve as presenters at the opening of each monthly session to share their experiences in their philanthropic work from a variety of perspectives.

In their second year of the program, seniors go back to the organizations they funded in year one and assess the impact of their funding decision. They also make visits in teams to large, Chicago-based foundations to conduct research on specific aspects of grant making. This year the participating foundations included Boeing Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation, Steans Family Foundation and the Woods Charitable Trust. Seniors also help mentor the juniors as they deliberate on their grant making responsibilities.

Oak Park and River Forest Community Foundation Board member Rick King designed this program to provide young people with community leadership opportunities through a uniquely-adapted philanthropic experience as community foundation grant makers. Fore more information about the Future Philanthropist Program or to support the Future Philanthropist Program, please contact the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation at 708-848-1560 or by e-mail: programofficer@oprfcf.org.

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