Students from five area high schools will present $40,000 today to local nonprofits that each school thinks is most worthy of financial assistance.
Students from Hayden, Meeker, Moffat County, Soroco and Steamboat Springs high schools have spent the past year compiling information about nonprofits and raising money to donate to them. As designed by the El Pomar Youth in Community Service program, the students interviewed the prospective grantees and made the final decisions about which group to award money to.
Each school raised $500, which was matched with $7,500 from the El Pomar Foundation, a Colorado philanthropic organization. Through EPYCS, 128 high schools statewide will contribute $8,000 each to nonprofits of students' choice.
At 6 p.m. today in the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel and Conference Center's Burgess Creek Room, the five aforementioned high schools from Northwest Colorado will present their grant monies to their chosen recipients.
"El Pomar's goal is to introduce philanthropy at an early age," said Jordan Bridwell, Northwest regional coordinator for EPYCS. "High school students are usually not able to give financially, so this empowers them to give, and it connects them to their communities."
"It's neat to empower these kids that way. Some of the kids said, 'Wow, they're going to trust us to do that?'" said Deb Smith, director of institutional advancement at The Lowell Whiteman School. The Lowell Whiteman School was selected just a few days ago as an EPYCS school to present grants to nonprofits next year.
Rather than selecting a nonprofit organization to donate to at random, the students survey their schools' student bodies to identify what they think are the most pressing needs of their communities. From that information, they write a mission statement and award grants to the nonprofit groups that most closely match the statement.
The nonprofits write grant proposals to the students, and the students weed through them and interview prospective grant recipients as they narrow down their finalists.
At Soroco High School, students prioritized youth education and recreation as the No. 1 need in the South Routt community. They also wanted to donate to organizations that work prevalently in their area.
Ultimately, they found the youth-oriented Partners in Routt County as the best-suited organization to their mission statement, Soroco senior Wade Ager said. Through, EPYCS, Soroco will donate $1,250 to Partners in Routt County.
Among the school's seven chosen recipients, Soroco also will donate $1,100 to the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program.
"We decided that was the biggest teen issue out of the rest of them, because one of classmates committed suicide this year," senior Kaleyne Gneiser said.
Hayden High School students also chose to give to youth-oriented programs, as well as medical and abuse prevention nonprofits. They chose their own school's Vocational Technology Department as their No. 1 recipient, awarding $2,000 to it.
Steamboat Springs High School students put family support services, health awareness and abuse prevention at the top of their list of concerns. After sorting through 46 grant applications for more than $60,000, they chose the disability-focused group Horizons as their top recipient with $2,000, said Steamboat Springs High School sponsor Millie Beall.
"It's a lot of work to filter out all those," Beall said. "But it's a wonderful process. Every year, these kids say they had no idea there was so much going on out there in the nonprofit world."
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