Summit High School students raise over $12,000 for local nonprofits
FRISCO — After nine months of extracurricular work, 10 Summit High School students donated more than $12,000 in grants to local nonprofits through the YouthRoots program, sponsored locally by The Summit Foundation. The program was mainly student-led with the kids of all ages reviewing grant applications and choosing to award the funds to the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, the Summit County Care Clinic, Smart Bellies and Building Hope Summit County.
The students raised about $7,000 by asking businesses, banks, real estate companies and other individuals for donations. The Summit Foundation provided a match of $5,000 in addition to facilitating support from local ski areas.
The foundation had a similar program in the past called the Youth Giving Council. This year, the nonprofit was approached by Denver-based YouthRoots, the founder of which is from Summit County, to start Youth Connect in the region.
“We wanted to do something a little bit different to involve a range of students,” The Summit Foundation Executive Director Jeanne Bistranin said. “We also thought it would be good for students to do research on their own to find out what the community needs are and also to raise money to get the full cycle of philanthropy.”
While the old council had students awarding funds via grants, they personally didn’t raise them like they do now in Youth Connect. According to Bistranin, the students requested about $500 per benefactor.
But before the young adults asked donors for money, they learned leadership skills and created a needs assessment when meeting as a group every other Monday. Youth Connect facilitator Laura Landrum had the kids do more lighthearted activities such as take Myers-Briggs personality tests and play telephone in addition to teaching them how to read financial statements from nonprofits, write requests for proposals and practice pitching donors.
It was those one-on-one meetings with donors, which Landrum said the students organized themselves, that showed the students’ growth over the week.
“It was a really cool process to see the students come in — a couple came in with friends and a couple didn’t — and see them go from shy, nervous teens and see at the end of the semester them say, ‘I feel passionately about this, and this is what I think we should do,’” Landrum said. This was Landrum’s first time working with The Summit Foundation and YouthRoots.
After speaking with donors, the students used county data, results from their own surveys and other factors to choose nonprofits that focused on youth mental health, youth substance use and the high cost of living affecting youths in the county.
“It was a hard decision, but what really made us choose (the nonprofits) was the way they would help the community, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, such as the Care Clinic helping immigrants,” 17-year-old Soledad Borrego said.
A recently graduated senior, Borrego applied to be a part of Youth Connect because of her passion for activism. In school, she participated in the theater and music departments as well as the Mountain Dreamers club. However, Youth Connect was a new experience for her, and she wishes to continue that sort of community service and advocacy.
“I’ve raised money for the Thespian Honor Society, but it was so different,” said Borrego, who is hoping to major in performing arts and indigenous studies in college.
Even though the pandemic made the meetings go virtual, Landrum was glad to see the students still interested in the program and purposefully seek out nonprofits that are helping during these times. Though they funded some operational costs, Landrum said the students wanted to fund as much programming as possible, too.
“It’s such an amazing program,” Borrego said. “You meet great people and get a lot of leadership experience. You go out and ask these people for money and that takes a lot of courage,” she said, adding that her theater background helped during the pitches as she improvised and felt empowered.
“That built up so much strength, and I think it’s wonderful,” Borrego said. “It’s just a great thing to get involved in.”
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