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By Eric Rowles
A tool for community change
It’s often been said that youth are the leaders of tomorrow.
And this is in some part quite true.
We look to generations after us to carry on and build on the legacies that we have created as givers, as funders, as architects of social change.
As leaders of tomorrow, it than becomes a waiting game, for tomorrow to come.
However, the reality is that youth in North Carolina and throughout the U.S. aren’t waiting, but rather have created real change in their own communities — now.
And much of their efforts have been channeled through their engagement as givers of their own time, talents and treasures — fueled by community foundations, adult allies and youth-serving organizations and agencies.
Youth Philanthropy — the authentic engagement of young people as givers and trustees of community resources — is alive and well in North Carolina.
Since 2005, over 150-plus North Carolina high-school-aged students have given 3,000-plus hours of their time to support youth-focused community change.
And one of the ways that they have accomplished these transformations is through the granting of $75,000-plus of community funds through a network supported by NC Gives.
For many of these young people, their experience as philanthropists included their first interactions with public and private donors and working side by side with other young people that reflected the diversity of their neighborhoods and communities.
Their role, as youth philanthropists in Davie, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Mecklenburg and Vance counties, was to use their talent and expertise as young people to truly assess what the real needs of youth were in their communities and then to do something about it.
SAT prep, anti-racism, teen dating
There are not enough of us, of money, of time.
We need more to make things better.
This reflection from a youth philanthropist in Gastonia encompasses what many of us feel and observe on a day-to-day basis.
When community needs outweigh existing resources, priorities need to be developed and hard choices made.
This is exactly what young people are doing in this state and throughout the country.
This past year, youth philanthropists in North Carolina researched, debated and eventually reached consensus to fund over 40 different youth-initiated or -focused services, including a call-in hotline to prevent dating violence, a county-wide training on gang prevention, a student-run play addressing cystic fibrosis, a life-and-parenting-skills program for teen parents, the purchase of flame-retardant suits for junior fire-fighters, a town-hall forum designed to promote inter-racial trust, and even a free SAT preparation course for first-generation high-school students.
And when the requests exceeded the community funds, many of these youth philanthropists gave of their own.
Some donated their lunch money for a week. Others collected $1 from each of their classmates.
Some challenged adults to match their giving in their churches, synagogues, family reunions and neighborhoods.
One youth philanthropist even mowed lawns for a month to raise money for their youth grant making board.
A network of youth givers
Through the support of NC Gives and its partners, young people in North Carolina are joining a generation of youth philanthropists throughout the country.
Over the past 15 years, organizations such as the Michigan Community Foundation, Youth Leadership Institute and the Foundation Center have paved the way for young people to be authentically engaged in their communities as givers and philanthropists.
And now young people in North Carolina from Vance to Gaston counties are using their talent, their time and even their own treasure to improve the lives of their peers throughout the state.
These young people aren’t waiting on anything, including tomorrow.
They are changing their world today.
And they want you to support them.
Eric Rowles is president of Leading To Change Inc. and a partner agency with NC Gives.