Students take donor's role

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— High school students are accustomed to applying for jobs, scholarships and colleges.

But through the EPYCS program, students from throughout Northwest Colorado recently found themselves on the other side of the interview table for a change.

Students from six high schools in the region interviewed various nonprofits to determine which organizations would receive more than $48,000 in grants.

The students, who raised the money through the El Pomar Youth in Community Service program, awarded grants to 30 mostly local organizations during a ceremony at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel on Thursday.

"Out of all the groups I've participated in, EPYCS has made me feel the best about myself," said Margie Jones, who was elected an outstanding EPYCS student at Hayden High School. "Most of the programs we granted money to do so much work for our community. To be able to help them in that way was just awesome."

Sponsored by the El Pomar Foundation in Colorado Springs, the EPYCS program challenges students to raise at least $500 through fund-raisers that can range from selling baked goods to checking coats.

The foundation adds $7,500 to the money raised, and EPYCS clubs take on the role of grantor.

Students at Lowell Whiteman School, Steamboat Springs High School, Soroco High School, Moffat County High School and Meeker High School participated in the program.

Beneficiaries included Totally Kids, the Humble Ranch, Steamboat and Craig Mental Health Centers, Northwest Colorado Legal Services, Grand Futures Prevention Coalition and Advocates Against Battering and Abuse.

"By the time they went through this process ... they were astounded by how many nonprofits there are in our area and that sometimes these projects don't go on if people don't contribute to them," said Deb Smith, an advisor for the Lowell Whiteman EPYCS club.

Whiteman, which received the Outstanding School of the Region award, was only one of four new schools to be selected for the program this year. Students from 134 schools statewide participate in the program.

Raising the money was just a small part of the EPYCS process. Each club conducted surveys and developed mission statements based on causes and issues most important to students.

Each club sifted through at least 30 grant requests and interviewed organizations with goals most relevant to the mission statements.

"It's a really cool opportunity for the kids -- for them to get into philanthropy but also because it's student driven ... they do everything," said Kipp Rillos, advisor for the Hayden EPYCS club.

Students took the process seriously and even attended a seminar about interviewing

"It was kind of cool to see all the different aspects of interviewing so we really knew who we were interviewing and what they would do with the money," said Kimmie Craven, vice president of the Soroco EPYCS club.

It helped to think about being on the other side of the interview table, said Jones, adding that her club gave weight to nonprofits with good presentations.

"They were very professional," said Summer Laws, co-director of Communidad Intergratda, which received $1,500 from the Whiteman EPYCS club. "I thought they did a great job."

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