Youth philanthropy at South High School

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

The South High Community School’s Service Learning Council (CSLC) announced their mini-grant awards last month at an awards reception at South High. The CSLC gave out more than $18,000 to 17 local nonprofits. The individual awards ranged from $475 to $2,100. This is the fifth year that the CSLC has given out the mini-grants. During that time the Council has awarded more than $60,000.

The Community Service Learning Council is currently comprised of 30 civic-minded students from the school who meet weekly to investigate, analyze and help solve some of the issues within the local community. They work with various organizations to understand the issues, propose credible solutions, and follow through to implement the solutions.

One of the major tasks of the group is providing the mini-grants. The students take a bus ride throughout the neighborhoods in the fall to determine the needs within the community. They then create a Request for Proposals (RFP) that focuses on those issues. The RFP states what the focus is – 2011 focus is Hunger, Housing, Community Events and the Environment. The RFP further states all projects must include students in a leadership role. The RFPs are sent to more than 60 non-profits. When all the proposals are in, the students evaluate them with a rubric that they designed. Each proposal is given a weighted number based on five different criteria.

The students then determine how much funding each group will be allocated.

The money the students give out comes from two main sources: the Greater Worcester Community Foundation and UNUM. Once the allocations have been determined, an awards ceremony is held at the school where a student introduces the recipient, provides details of the program, and presents a check.

During fall 2011, the CSLC will visit the sites of the grantees to assess each project. Each recipient must provide a breakdown of their expenditures and a photo journal.

Staff advisors Peter Sherman and Joseph Caforio feel the Youth Philanthropy is a great experience for the students. The entire process is run by the students, with their advisors just monitoring the details. Both teachers feel this sense of empowerment builds the students’ confidence and prepares them, in a realistic way, for the future. It is amazing to see the students get up in front of a group of people and present their grants. It is profound when adults are thanking the kids for giving them money.
“In addition, it is rewarding when we see these lessons follow the students out of South High and into the college arena, being leaders there as well,” said Peter Sherman.

The CSCL, students and their advisors have presented the Youth Philanthropy project and other projects statewide and nationally. Additionally, the teachers have presented at numerous conferences nationally and have worked with other schools in developing SCLC programs. Needless to say, the students take this responsibility seriously and have learned much from many projects that have taken place in their CSCL groups.

As Anna Mercy Hope-Sowahs said, “I’m happy we once again have the opportunity to give back to the community.” Senior Gertura Gbarbo affirmed the same: “It makes me happy to see more local organizations applying for our mini-grants. It shows that we are developing and reaching out more in our community.”

“It is a great feeling to watch the community grow and to know you had a hand in the change. I’m glad we have these mini-grants to hand out,” said, senior Jacqueline Boateng. Senior Jermoh Kamara, who has been part of the Community Service Learning group for four years said, “I have grown as a person participating in CSL… I am proud of serving my community. We have worked as a team in CSL, whether it was dissecting proposals and dispersing grants to local youth organizations.”
Well said, Jermoh!

Then senior George Romniou summed up this latest project best: “Paying it forward to the community throughout grant projects is a real-life experience.”

Grants were given to the following organizations: Worcester Blackstone Canal Horse and Wagon Tours, Worcester Public Library Foundation, Youth in Charge/Worcester Roots, Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center, Regional Environmental Council, Worcester Art Museum, Central Mass Housing Alliance, Pernet Family Health Service, Regional Environment Center, Mass Audubon Society/Broad Meadow Brook, Worcester Roots Project/Toxic Soil Busters, Friendly House, Inc., Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Mass, Pleasant St. Neighborhood Network Center, Girls Incorporated of Worcester, Oak Hill Community Development Corporation and to the South High Worcester Future Teachers.
Congratulations, students and staff for caring about our community and making a difference in Worcester.

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