RONDA, N.C. – In late January, 17-year-old Rachael Greene and several other teens spent $5,000.
They didn’t spend it on movies, cell phones or trendy sneakers, but on needy kids across Wilkes County.
As members of “Time Talent Treasure Leading to Change,” or T3LC, these 18 high-school students are learning about philanthropy by soliciting and evaluating funding requests, and awarding grants to local organizations.
“It’s really about changing somebody’s life and helping make the world just a little better for someone else,” Greene says of philanthropy, “even if it’s starting with a small community.”
A senior at East Wilkes High School, Greene was nervous at first about adding T3LC to her already busy schedule of studying, playing tennis, directing her school’s marching band as drum major and working at the local movie theater.
But participating with the group, which is a program of the Wilkes County Community Foundation, has helped her gain insights into needs in her community and the role young people can play.
“I didn’t know there were so many types of groups that needed help,” she says. “The news is kind of depressing, but this reminds me how blessed I am to live in this community. And it teaches me how much people can do working together like we did.”
As part of T3LC, the teens are put in charge of $5,000, provided by an anonymous donor, and must decide how to grant out the funds.
Participants meet monthly to determine which community needs to target, solicit proposals from qualified local organizations and narrow requests down to the chosen few.
This year, the group evaluated 14 funding requests totaling $34,000.
By working together through a “consensus-based selection process,” the teens reviewed and discussed each application.
“I wasn’t sure how it would go,” Greene says of T3LC members. “We’re all from different backgrounds. But we all had a lot of the same ideas about who we’d like to help the most. Everyone really listened to each other.”
The group ultimately chose to award grants totaling $5,000 to community nonprofits, including the local housing authority, which received $1,500 for a community garden tended by low-income kids, and The Samaritan’s Kitchen, which received $2,325 to purchase food for school-age kids on the weekends.
The grants clearly are beneficial for recipients and the children they serve, but the process itself has been a boost for the teen members of T3LC.
Assessing and addressing the needs of her fellow youth, and being in charge of thousands of dollars, was empowering, says Greene.
“At first I couldn’t believe they’d trust us,” she says of the adults involved in the process. “You know how parents and adults can be. But I’m so thankful they gave us that opportunity. It helped me mature because we were making serious decisions.”
After graduation this spring, Greene plans to attend Wilkes Community College for two years, then apply to the University of North Carolina Wilmington to study marine biology.
She also wants to stay involved with philanthropy.
“It helps kids to grow, mature and learn about helping others,” she says. “I wish everybody could experience that.”
Rachael Greene 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.