Teens explore power of giving

David Fu
David Fu

Ret Boney

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Next month, a dozen or so teenagers will decide how to spend $5,000.

But it won’t go for iPhones, new basketball sneakers or a spring-break roadtrip.

Instead, having evaluated the needs in their community, they will entrust the funds to youth-led groups that are working to make Wilkes County a better place for teenagers and their families.

“We’re trying to find a group that is involved in teen pregnancy, drugs, disabilities and other problems,” says David Fu, a 17-year-old senior at Wilkes Central High School and a member of Wilkes County Time, Talent, Treasure Leading To Change.

“The minimum they could get is $500 and the maximum is $5,000,” he says.

The group, referred to as T3LC for short, is a program of the Wilkes County Community Foundation, which is an affiliate of the North Carolina Community Foundation.

In operation since 2007 and funded by individual donors, T3LC gives teens from four local high schools the opportunity to experience the supply side of philanthropy.

Over the course of the school year, participants learn about the many facets of grantmaking, including assessing community needs, designing requests for proposal, interviewing grant applicants, screening proposals and selecting and evaluating grant recipients.

The process often uses mixes fun and games as a way to impart important information and make decisions, says Fu.

In deciding on the group’s grantmaking priorities for the year, the format was chosen to be entertaining, yet inclusive, he says.

“We chose our issues by putting pennies into jars, and whichever had the most pennies showed where we had the most concern,” says Fu. “We showed our concern in a way other than just raising our hands, which could have made people feel shy or not give their honest opinion.”

The group received nine applications for funding this year, a new record, he says.

After determining which applicants meet basic funding criteria, the T3LC will interview representatives from each program.

They chose to conduct the interviews by phone because many of the representatives of the programs, all of which are led by youth ages 13 to 18, may not have transportation for in-person interviews.

The final selection will be made in January, and the group could choose to award the entire $5,000 to one organization, or it could divide the money if it identifies multiple worthy programs.

“There are certain people in our community that want to make Wilkes County better for teens,” he says. “We’re given the opportunity to help other people have the opportunity to help our community.”

And these young grantmakers take their stewardship responsibility seriously, requiring grant recipients to report back on their progress.

“You have to fulfill the project,” says Fu. “If you don’t we’d ask for the money back.”

That sense of responsibility likely will go with Fu after graduation, when he hopes to go to N.C. State University and join more community-involved clubs.

“I want to stay involved in philanthropy,” he says.

David Fu is a member of Wilkes County Time, Talent, Treasure Leading To Change and is involved in the North Carolina Youth Giving Network  (http://www.ncyouthgiving.org/), a statewide movement of youth philanthropists.

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