Since 2009, the Inland Empire Community Foundation’s Youth Grantmakers Program has been inspiring youths to engage in local philanthropy.
Participants in 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 in their communities and the nonprofit organizations working to address them. Participants learn to analyze grant applications, discuss where funds will have the most impact and jointly agree on the grant awards.
In the 2021-22 school year, 33 students from 16 high schools awarded $30,000 in grants across Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
This year, Youth Grantmakers supported organizations that included the following.
- Assistance League of Riverside, $2,500
- Big Brothers Big 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
- Assistance League of Coachella Valley, $2,500
- Highlanders Boxing Club, $2,500
- Project Fighting Chance, $2,500
- Riverside Medical Charitable Foundation, $1,000
- Assistance League of Victor Valley, $2,500
- Empowering Success Now, $2,500
- Foothill Family Shelter, $1,500
- Magdalena’s Daughters, $1,000
- S&L Foster Family Agency, $2,500
Every year, graduating seniors choose 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 a grant was awarded to support the work the of program by the participants.
“He felt it was instrumental in his life and wanted to help future Grantmakers,” the foundation’s Youth Initiatives Manager Denisha Shackelford said. “It’s a lifechanging program where participants can use their experience in life and in job opportunities.”
The program has a positive impact on participants, teaching them leadership skills and helping them find their voice. Youths are often overlooked and feel that adults do not listen to what they have to say, according to Shackelford. Youth Grantmakers gives them the opportunity to discuss what they feel are the biggest challenges in their communities and discover how they can use their voice to help surmount them.
During the height of COVID-19, participants chose to support nonprofit groups with unrestricted funds to help them weather the challenges of the pandemic. This year, as students moved back to providing funding for programs, they prioritized those that focused on mental health issues. Having faced the challenges of distance learning and seeing their peers struggle with isolation, they saw a need to address mental health.
This year, Youth Grantmakers worked remotely, and all three groups worked together. While their primary focus was on supporting organizations in their respective regions, they also had the opportunity to learn about nonprofit groups in other regions. Furthermore, they had the benefit of creating relationships with other students in different regions of the counties.
“They worked together to accomplish their goals and they can see how they made a difference,” Shackelford said. “In adulthood they can look at how to help in their communities or even start their own nonprofit organizations.”
Alumni of the Youth Grantmakers program often recommend friends and siblings to apply for the program and want others to share the same experience. They also return to assist with the program or find new ways to help the community on their own. One alum reached out to the program to get advice on starting a backpack program at the elementary school he attended, wanting to ensure that students had the school supplies they needed.
Many of this year’s Youth Grantmakers participants will return next year and there is space 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 the Inland Empire Community Foundation directly.
“This program truly does make a positive difference, both internally with our young people as well as in our communities,” Shackelford said. “It’s a great resume builder for college and a meaningful way to meet school-required volunteer hours.”
Information: 951-241-7777 or https://www.iegives.org/