Steamboat Springs As part of a student leadership class at Steamboat Springs High School, three students have taken on a project that will raise money for the community in the areas of public safety, environment/neighborhood services and family services.
In Steamboat's first year involved in El Pomar Youth in Community Service, Ben Beall, Andrew Litzau and John Hottenroth hope to raise at least $500 by Feb. 16, so the foundation can receive a 15:1 match of $7,500.
If the Steamboat team cannot raise $500, the foundation will match them 10:1. Grant applications from non-profit organizations were due earlier this week, but the decision about where the $8,000 will go, will be decided by March 16 by the three students.
"They (EPYCS supervisors) trust us enough to make the right decision. They're really not involved in the decision-making," Beall and Litzau said.
El Pomar Foundation contributes $18 million through direct grants and programs to support Colorado non-profit organizations. Founded by Julie and Spencer Penrose in 1937 in Colorado Springs, the foundation is involved in health, human services, education, arts and humanities and civic and community initiatives.
"Usually the focus (of the community) is on negative aspects of high school students," Beall said. "We want to reassure the community that we can do positive things."
Jon Borgen, the EPYCS coordinator for the northwest region, said the student-led program hasn't come to Steamboat previously because the program only is 10 years old. The El Pomar Foundation hopes to reach every high school in Colorado.
"I meet with the students about three to four times a year, and they've been really on top of things," Borgen said.
Borgen's job is to get students started in creating mini foundations, instructing them on how to review a grant and what red flags to spot. But he said the students do all the work.
Borgen came to the high school last summer and spoke at the State Student Council Conference about EPYCS. The students heard about the program and decided this would be their leadership project, Litzau said.
"It (the program) has kind of given me insight into organizing and community involvement and philanthropy experience," Litzau said.
Lucianne Myhre, leadership teacher at Steamboat Springs High School, also is an advisor in the program, relaying information from Borgen to the boys about their progress, and giving them contacts.
"Those three boys are working so hard. This is an asset for the school and the community," Myhre said. "They've really taken it on."
Beall, Litzau and Hottenroth passed out surveys asking students to circle five specific areas that they feel should be addressed in the community. Students were given seven areas that make up a local community: arts and culture, civic and community, education, environment, health, family services and emergency services.
All areas consisted of seven subcategories and the three students assessed the surveys to find that neighborhood improvement, the environment, family services and emergency services were at the tops of the lists for the majority of students.
"We were the stewards of the high school," Beall said of their duties.
With this information, the boys set out to earn $500, already having earned more than $200. Individual donations cannot be more than $50.
Through dances at Underground for those under 21, $3 tickets are sold in order to raise money. They raised most of the money from the 150 students at the first dance. Beall said he hopes they raise the remainder of the money at the next dance, which was Saturday.
Because this is Steamboat's first year participating in EPYCS and because the students are seniors, this will be their last year. Beall said he hopes the new program becomes a tradition at the school.
El Pomar Foundation has seven different programs involved in making grants for non-profit organizations: El Pomar Fellowship, Awards for Excellence, Outreach, Non-Profit Resource Facility, Seniors in Service, Education Initiative and EPYCS.
Throughout Colorado, 114 high schools have the same goals and outlook, but not the same areas of money distribution exactly. Because of the community-personalized survey, each high school has different areas that deem more prominent for them.
"We want to display how high school students give back to the community," Beall said. "This is a way to have contact with the community."
Hottenroth said although he doesn't plan to be a politician or great leader, the skills he has learned will add to whatever he does in life.
"It's been a valuable process because you have to meet deadlines and communicate with other people," Hottenroth said. "It's kind of a glimpse into the business world."