One of the signature programs of the New Canaan Community Foundation is the Young Philanthropists Program. Each year, approximately 30 high school students come together to learn about philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, and how they can have an impact on local community issues.
Each year, students identify one or more areas of interest and learn about the issue through guest speakers, visits to local nonprofit organizations, and hands-on volunteering opportunities. According to Nicole Kolenberg, community engagement officer at the New Canaan Community Foundation, “The students had their program year cut short due to the closure of schools amid the COVID-19 crisis and had to finish up the rest of program through online meetings to finalize the grants. The students were concerned with how the current crisis was not only affecting the organizations they chose to fund, but more importantly, the people these organizations serve as well.”
Combining investment earnings from the Community Foundation’s Young Philanthropists Fund (one of more than 65 funds housed at the foundation), a generous match from an anonymous donor invested in the student’s work, and donations the students raised through the annual “Most Generous Town” campaign with rival town of Darien, this year’s grant budget swelled to $20,000.
The Young Philanthropists’ 2020 grant investments are:
· ABC of New Canaan: $4,000 to support the organization’s mission to provide their students a range of opportunities, including many that may not be available in their own community
· Building One Community: $4,000 to support the organization’s mission to advance the successful integration of immigrants and their families
· Filling in the Blanks: $4,000 to support the organization’s mission to fight childhood hunger by providing children in need with meals on the weekends
· Inspirica: $4,000 to support the organization’s mission to break the cycle of homelessness by helping people achieve and maintain permanent housing and stability in their lives
· Kids in Crisis: $4,000 to support the organization’s mission to provide emergency shelter, crisis counseling, and community education programs for children of all ages and families facing crisis
The Community Foundation is proud of the work put in by these students, but even more proud of the lessons learned through the decision-making process that led to these grants. Each of these Young Philanthropists leaves with a greater understanding of the world around them. These are life skills they will carry forward wherever they go.
As the class of 2020 heads into their next phase of life, the New Canaan Community Foundation hopes that every graduating student takes what they have learned and builds upon it. We know that each graduating Young Philanthropist student leaves with an eye capable of observing the world around them and the capacity to take action. Young Philanthropists can and will make a difference. Congratulations to each of them.