WATERTOWN — Now in its fourth year, the Northern New York Community Foundation’s Community Spirit Youth Giving Challenge program committee this year received and reviewed 144 entries from seventh- and eighth-graders who recommended grants to 79 different organizations that serve residents across the tri-county area.
The initiative was launched in 2017 to introduce middle school students to concepts of philanthropy and community needs. The challenge seeks to engage youths as they explore the meaning of community and are empowered to recommend grants to support their concepts that strengthen the quality of life in the region.
Students each write an essay that articulates their definition of community and explains what makes it a great place to live, work and play. Participants are then asked to name a charitable organization that makes their community a better place through its service to residents.
“Instilling an interest in civic engagement and service is one of our core values. We believe that collectively we must do all that we can to perpetuate traditions of commitment to community,” said Rande Richardson, Community Foundation executive director, in a statement. “Interest in this program continues to grow each year, and that is a good indication that we have future leaders eager to step forward by making service a priority in their lives. It also provides a great pathway to the Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Council.”
Participating schools for the 2020-2021 challenge include: From Jefferson County, Alexandria Central, Carthage Central, Watertown City Schools, General Brown Central, Immaculate Heart Central, Sackets Harbor Central, South Jefferson Central and Thousand Islands Middle School; in Lewis County, Lowville Academy; from St. Lawrence County, Canton Central, Morristown Central, and Ogdensburg Free Academy. Two Jefferson County home-schooled students also participated.
In the past four years, 83 students have been selected to present 79 grants totaling $40,000 to 67 different nonprofit organizations that serve tri-county residents. Since the Community Spirit Youth Giving Challenge began, 397 students representing 21 school districts across the region have applied to the program, recommending grants to 160 different charitable organizations. Consistent themes of community that most often appeared in essays were: “caring for one another,” “working together to help others,” “safe and supportive people,” “encouraging,” “teamwork,” and “shared values.”
Charitable organizations students selected for funding range from those that provide support for essential human needs and animal welfare to those that strengthen and enrich communities through education, arts and culture, scouting, child care, health and wellness, and recreation.
A committee that included Community Foundation staff and a retired junior high school teacher judged and scored the applications with results as follows:
$500, Disabled Persons Action Organization, Watertown, Caleb Hale, Case Middle School, Watertown
$500, Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, Watertown, Riley Burns, Case Middle School, Watertown
$500, Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways, Watertown, Destiny Gist, General Brown Central School
$500, Hawn Memorial Library, Clayton, Anna Huizenga, Thousand Islands Middle School
$500, Hearts For Youth, Alexandria Bay, River Costello, Alexandria Central School
$500, Hospice of Jefferson County, Watertown, Koel Everard, Carthage Central School
$500, JRC Foundation, Watertown, Luke Charlton, Case Middle School, Watertown
$500, Neighbors of Watertown, Michael Lumbis, Case Middle School, Watertown
$500, North Country Family Health Center, Toryann McKinney, Case Middle School, Watertown
$500, Power Play Sports Foundation, Watertown, Trey Ledoux, Immaculate Heart Central School
$500, River Hospital, Alexandria Bay, Londynn Lawhon, Thousand Islands Middle School
$500, South Jeff Backpack Program, Adams, Alexsandra Blevins, South Jefferson Central School
$500, Stage Notes, Watertown, Delaney Anderson, Carthage Central School
$500, Watertown Urban Mission, Grayson Feisthamel, Case Middle School, Watertown
$500, SPCA of Jefferson County, Watertown, Jack Adams, Case Middle School, Watertown
$500, Hand-in-Hand Early Childhood Center, Lowville, Lillian Exford, Lowville Academy & Central School
$500, Salvation Army Watertown Corps, Chase Nakano, Lowville Academy and Central School
St. Lawrence County
$500, Canton-Potsdam Hospital Foundation, Canton, Olivia White, Canton Central School
$500, Help Sami Kick Cancer Foundation, Canton, Vivian Coburn, Canton Central School
$500, Renewal House for Victims of Family Violence, Jazmine Carpenter, Morristown Central School
As public health guidelines permit, the Community Foundation and schools will work with winning students in the coming weeks to coordinate visits to their respective charitable agencies to present grants and learn more about the organizations they chose.