From left, students gather with grant recipients: (back) Blake Reed, Ric Bennett of the Vale Food Pantry, Janeille Bennett of FAPA, Sally Vergara-Clement of Department of Human Services, SandiJean Fuson of the Drexel Foundation, Kelsey Tolman of the Drexel Foundation, Jim Schmidt of CenturyLink; (front) Justin Buhrig, Trevor Malchow, Logan Cox, Alysa Dotson, Iliana Carrillo, Caleb Voechting. (Submitted photo)
Vale Middle School students wrapped up some lessons on community involvement and philanthropy by presenting some real-life, real-cash contributions to three groups last week.
The presentation was the culmination of a project through the CenturyLink Middle School Philanthropy Program.
On hand to receive their $1,000 checks were representatives of three groups chosen by the students:
• The Drexel Foundation, to use as a matching grant for architectural studies of the Old Hotel and Opera House and to fund youth art projects.
• The Foster Adoptive Parents Association of Malheur County, to fund events for local foster children and provide equipment so foster kids can participate in extracurricular activities.
• Vale Food Pantry, to help buy a large freezer and and also to provide food for local families.
The program had the students seeking grant applicants, reviewing them and selecting three to receive the grants of $1,000 each.
Teacher Angela Lattin lauded the students for their work on the project, noting this selection process was “100 percent student-led.”
The students developed an informal guide to assess programs eligible for the grants, and met weekly at the public library after school to work on the project. They interviewed nonprofits about their missions and needs, who they help, and how they would use a grant. Students presented oral arguments as advocates for the groups, before deciding how to allocate the money.
CenturyLink designed the philanthropy program as way to increase awareness among young students about the needs in their communities and ways nonprofits work to meet them. This round of the program allocated $24,000 for up to eight middle school groups in Idaho and Southeastern Oregon to disburse.
“What is unique about this grant is that it is really student led,” said Jim Schmit, vice president of operations. “We provide them some general guidelines, but then they take ownership of it.”
The students learn about philanthropy and nonprofits in their local area, develop presentations, and decide how to donate the money for maximum impact, he said.
In addition to the learning and skills, he noted the effort “exposes student at this critical middle-school age to needs in their communities that they might not have been aware of, introduces them to many of the good people and organizations working to address those needs – and perhaps plants a seed with them for a lifelong interest in community service, volunteerism, and giving back.”