Steamboat Springs The high school experience has been expanded this year for Hayden students. Not only can they learn the derivative of a trigonometric function or how to understand Faulkner, Hayden students are now learning how to be philanthropists.
This school year, Hayden High School joined the El Pomar Youth and Community Service program.
Students are given thousands of dollars by the El Pomar Foundation and assigned the task of funding nonprofits that apply.
They form a board, create a mission statement to clarify what kind of programs they are interested in funding and review applications.
This is not play money.
"This is a large source of revenue for this area," said Millie Beall, executive director of the Routt County United Way.
With Hayden on board, 121 high schools in Colorado participate in the EPYCS program. Each school has $10,000 to give away. Of that money, $9,500 comes from the El Pomar Foundation and students raise $500.
There is one rule. Students can only count $50 from each donor toward their $500 total.
"They don't want us to just approach someone like TwentyMile Coal and ask for a $500 donation," Hayden High School teacher and EPYCS sponsor Maggie Berglund said. "They want students to go through the fundraising process."
Hayden students raised $270 at Hayden Heritage Center's Christmas Tree Raffle in December.
"We cut down our own tree and made six wreaths," Berglund said. They plan to raise the rest by selling concessions at sporting events and by soliciting donations from area businesses.
"It's really detrimental if they don't raise the entire $500," Beall said. "It means El Pomar will match them a lot less per dollar than they've raised."
Fellows of the El Pomar Foundation train students along the way. EPYCS groups from Craig, Meeker, Hayden and Steamboat Springs meet in Craig for four "block meetings." The El Pomar representative answers any questions students may have and gives them lessons on the ins and outs of philanthropy.
At one meeting in Craig, the adults role-played different scenarios for the students.
"There was this one guy who was supposed to be the jerk," Beall said. "He was there to defend his proposal. One of the groups actually funded him, and afterward we were so surprised. The guy asked them, 'Why did you fund me?'"
"El Pomar wants to make sure that the next generation is involved in community service," Berglund said.
Eight students are on the board of Hayden's EPYCS group.
Senior Kim Walker joined after an assembly where she heard Berglund speak.
"I've always been interested in community service," Walker said. "This was such a good opportunity for me to get involved."
Walker hopes the money will go to organizations that provide activities for young people.
"In this town, there is not a lot to do for teenagers," she said. "Maybe this money will go to form organizations that promote things other than partying and doing drugs."
For example, she hoped the high school band would be asking for money.
All the money that is raised must be granted out to the community, Berglund said.
In the Hayden group's mission statement, students decided to define "community" first as Routt County. Their mission statement reads: "The students of Hayden High School desire to improve the well being of Routt County's community by funding organizations that support local recreation, environmental solutions, arts and health."
The wording came after the EPYCS participants passed out a schoolwide survey. It asked the students at Hayden High School what issues are most important to them.
"Most people said they wanted funding to go to sports," Berglund said. "They also wanted to make sure the money came back to the school, maybe for new carpet.
"Mostly they wanted to make sure the money stayed regional," she said.
"It's important to let young people make decisions about what's important in the community," Berglund said. "How much of this population is under 18? But they can't vote. How much money goes toward what they want?"
EPYCS gives them a chance to put money where they think it should go, she said.
The due date for applications was Jan. 10. Now, students have to sort through the applications and decide which programs will be funded.
The Hayden EPYCS group received almost 40 applications for their first funding cycle.
"I've learned that in this valley, and probably all over the world, there are a lot of organizations that need money," Walker said. "And there are a lot of organizations that don't get the acknowledgement they deserve."
This is the first year that Hayden has participated in EPYCS, but Steamboat Springs High School has been involved for years.
Beall is the advisor for the Steamboat chapter.
She learned about the program three years ago when her oldest son got involved.
"It's not very different than what I do (with the United Way)," Beall said.
She took her group of students to the Penrose House in Colorado Springs. The Penrose family set up the El Pomar Foundation.
"We wanted to teach the kids how unique this program is," she said.