Since 2009, the Inland Empire Community Foundation’s Youth Grantmakers Program has been inspiring youth to engage in local philanthropy.
Participants from the San Bernardino, Riverside and Coachella Valley Youth Grantmakers meet once a month from September through June. Over two hours on Sundays, high school students learn about the needs of their communities and the nonprofit organizations working to address them. Participants learn to analyze grant applications, discuss where funding will have the most impact, and jointly agree on grant awards.
In the 2021-22 school year, 33 students from 16 high schools in Riverside and San Bernardino counties gave $30,000 in grants.
This year, Youth Grantmakers supported organizations that included the following.
- Riverside’s Assistance League, $2,500
- Big Brothers & Older Sisters of the Inland Empire, $2,000
- Girls on the Run Riverside County, $1,680
- Love Riverside, $1,500
- Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center, $2,320
- ABC Hopes, Inc., $1,500
- Coachella Valley Aid League, $2,500
- Highlanders Boxing Club, $2,500
- Project Fighting Chance, $2,500
- Riverside Medical Charitable Foundation, $1,000
- Victor Wally’s Assistance League, $2,500
- Empowering Success Now, $2,500
- Foothills Family Shelter, $1,500
- Magdalena’s Daughters, $1,000
- S&L Foster Family Agency, $2,500
Each year, graduating seniors select a senior charity of choice. This year, one of the senior participants asked if he could give his award to support the Youth Grantmakers program. This was the first time that a grant was given by the participants to support the work of the programme.
“He felt it played an important role in his life and wanted to help future grantmakers,” said Denisa Shackelford, the Foundation’s Youth Initiatives Manager. “It is a life-changing program where participants can access their experience in life and job opportunities.”
The program makes a positive impact on the participants, teaches them leadership skills and helps them find their voice. Young people are often ignored and feel that adults don’t listen to them, according to Shackelford. Youth Grantmakers give them the opportunity to discuss what they feel are the biggest challenges in their communities and find out how they can use their voices to help them overcome.
During the height of COVID-19, participants chose to support nonprofit groups with unrestricted funding to help meet the challenges of the pandemic. This year, as students went back to providing funding for programs, they prioritized those focused on mental health issues. After facing the challenges of distance learning and watching her peers struggle with isolation, she felt the need to address mental health.
This year, Youth Grantmakers worked remotely, and all three groups worked together. While her primary focus was on supporting organizations in their respective fields, she also had the opportunity to learn about nonprofit groups in other areas. In addition, he had the benefit of building relationships with other students in different areas of the counties.
“They worked together to accomplish their goals and they can see how they made a difference,” Shackelford said. “As adults they can see how to help in their own communities or even start their own non-profit organization.”
Youth Grantmakers program alumni often recommend friends and siblings to apply for the program and want others to share similar experiences. They also return to support the program or find new ways to help the community on their own. An alum reached out to the program to ask for advice on starting a backpack program at the elementary school she attended, to make sure students had the school supplies they needed.
Many of this year’s young grantmaker participants will return next year and there is room for more students. The program will reach out to high school counselors in August to suggest new participants. Freshmen, sophomores and juniors interested in the program can ask directly with the Inland Empire Community Foundation.
“This program really makes a positive difference to our young people as well as our communities internally,” Shackelford said. “It’s a great resume builder for college and a worthwhile way to meet the volunteer hours needed for school.”
Info: 951-241-7777 or https://www.iegives.org/