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Youth Empowered Philanthropy (YEP) Program
Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne
The YEP program began in 2020 with the mission to inspire philanthropy as a habit for future generations. The class of 2022-23 met monthly from September-May and was made up of 24 students representing 7 high schools in our community. Throughout the year, students volunteered for local organizations and fully facilitated their own grant cycle to award 10k. Students created their own grant applications, scored over 70 nonprofit applications, scheduled and attended 15 site visits with nonprofit executives, and finally advocated for where their funds should be distributed as a group.
I will never forget the first day of this cohort and asking the students to explain what “philanthropy” is through their eyes. The answers confirmed that their vision at the time for impactful philanthropy was tied to wealthy or older individuals, something that was far out of their reach as high school students. Throughout the year, I watched 24 students from different schools and life experiences come together as one to discuss and give input on the state of our community, and discuss how to take real steps toward change for their future. A theme for the year was the impact of mental health, and I saw students confront life experiences and personal views in a healthy space and for the greater good.
What began as a group heavily facilitated by Community Foundation staff has taken off to function based on what is important to the youth members of this program. I reflect back to the conversation on the first day and the students who may have been shy to speak at first, now stand in front of the group and advocate for a nonprofit they believe deserves funding. At the close of this cohort, I saw a room full of 24 high school students invested in the well-being of their community and felt as though they could contribute to the changes they wanted to see.
YEP sparked a range of interests in our parting members. I saw few who have looked for internships directly with nonprofit organizations and several who have went on to support organizations with their time this summer. One YEP graduate, started this fall at the IU School of Philanthropy to study Nonprofit Management, a passion she developed through this program.
Special thanks to:
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