HENDERSON, N.C. — Just when senioritis should be kicking in, 17-year-old Daniel Addington is using his limited free time to figure out how best to help other youth in his community.
As members of the Teens With Power youth-giving group, Addington and 11 other high-school students are charged with disbursing about $1,500 to boost the lives of youth in Vance, Granville and Warren counties.
Created by the North Carolina Community Foundation in 2006, with the help of the Vance County Community Foundation and the Henderson Family YMCA, Teens With Power has worked with 46 teen members and awarded about $4,500 in grants to youth-led groups or groups benefiting young people.
“It feels good to give to people who are giving to others,” says Addington, a senior at Northern Vance High School, where he is vice president of the school’s National Honor Society, a member of the Key Club and a member of the National Technical Honor Society.
“The projects are helping people our age,” he says. “In a sense, we’re helping get stuff underway. That’s a very enjoyable process to be part of.”
Last year, Teens With Power received eight grant requests, he says, all of which got either full or partial funding, totaling $2,500.
One grant of $300 funded a recycling program at Southern Vance High School, while another provided $550 for the Northern Vance High School Key Club to purchase books for its Book Buddies program, in which members read to children in elementary schools.
The group receives its initial funding from NCGives.
Ongoing funding comes from the North Carolina Community Foundation, which solicits contributions from individual donors with the help of the Vance County Community Foundation, and looks for foundation and corporate support for the effort.
Currently, Teens With Power, which meets monthly, is working to get the word out to youth-oriented groups that funding is available.
They are starting a Facebook page, Addington says, and will work with the local newspaper and post information to bulletin boards at the high school.
And Addington, the son of a minister, plans to reach out to faith groups.
He found out about Teens With Power by reading the local newspaper.
“I’m interested in helping the community and I thought something outside of school would be interesting,” he says. “Instead of just doing community service, we fund community-service projects.”
Once the group receives applications, which are due in mid-December, the members of Teens With Power will review each one to decide which merit funding, and how much.
“We have to come to complete consensus,” he says, adding that, while even one dissenter can derail a grant, the group reached agreement quickly last year.
The process has been an education for Addington, who says he has learned that philanthropy is more than “the basic John D. Rockefeller definition” he had in mind before joining the group.
And soliciting, reviewing and awarding grants has made him more aware of the needs in his community.
“There’s a lot of need in Vance County, and you can look at all the negative statistics,” he says, referring to drop-out numbers and teen pregnancies.
“But there are also a lot of people who want to help,” he says. “It’s encouraging to see people our age who want to grow this community into something better.”
And philanthropy takes hard work and patience, lessons he and his fellow Teens With Power members have learned first hand.
“In a process like this, you have to be willing to devote your time, you have to be patient and you have to want to help,” he says. “It’s not something you get into just to have something on your college application. The people I see here are not people who want to look good; they are people who actually care.”
When asked if he’ll continue to be involved with philanthropy after leaving Teens With Power, Addington is adamant.
“Oh definitely,” he says. “There are plenty of opportunities in college and beyond.”
Daniel Addington is a member of the Vance County Teens With Power and is involved in the North Carolina Youth Giving Network, a statewide movement of youth philanthropists.