Greensboro breeds young donors

By Kevin Eagan

GREENSBORO, N.C. — More than 25 Greensboro-area high school students are getting a hands-on lesson in philanthropy.

With $20,000 combined from the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and the United Way of Greater Greensboro, the teens work as grantmakers in a program known as PACT, or Philanthropy through Awareness, Community and Trust.

The group establishes funding priorities, solicits and reviews grant application, and makes grants.

“I’ve learned that one group really can make a difference,” says Jonathan Grice, a senior at Northeast High School. “The hardest part of the experience is deciding who gets the money. PACT is a great way to get in the community and do good work.”

The focus of this year’s grants, double the total available when the program was launched two years ago, include raising awareness of problems facing young people, such as poverty, substance abuse and peer pressure; promoting after-school programs, especially for foster children; and development of mentoring and education programs for young people.

“These students are all very thoughtful and thorough,” says Tara Sandercock, vice president for programs at community foundation.  “With what they’ve learned through this experience, they can teach adults a lot about good grant making and philanthropy.”

The group, which accepted applications through the end of January and now is reviewing them, plans to announce grants in mid-April.

In past years, the project has awarded grants to:

* Family Support Network of Greater Greensboro, assisting with the facilitation of “Sibshops,” a program to help siblings of children with disabilities.

* Greensboro Opera Company, giving children a chance to discover their talents through opera singing.

* Tristan’s Quest, an interactive program promoting positive behaviors for behaviorally and emotionally disturbed students.

The foundation and United Way recruit students for the project each spring, says Sandercock, and aim to keep increasing the diversity of the group.

Diversity refers not only to ethnicity, she says.

“We try to find students with varied levels of educational achievement and extracurricular involvement,” she says, “for the program is not designed just for top achievers.”

The project includes sophomores, juniors and seniors, and students can opt to serve one, two or three years.

While the group has an adviser, students tend to act on their own, with veterans typically sharing with newcomers what they’ve learned about philanthropy and grantmaking, says Sandercock.

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