Their Lives Changed Overnight… How Youth Responded
By Julie Markland, Program Associate, Indiana Philanthropy Alliance (IPA)
Almost overnight, the lives of high school students all over the country, along with their teachers, mentors, and group facilitators, were completely disrupted. At a time where spring break, prom, and graduation was on the mind of many students, suddenly they found themselves wondering if they would return to school at all, or whether the abrupt ‘goodbyes’ were the last memory they would carry with them. Later in the spring, when racial tensions increased nationwide, students found themselves again witnessing another significant historical turning point.
At IPA, we took a two-prong approach to supporting the youth philanthropy programs embedded in community foundations across our state. First, we wanted to make sure we were supporting the groups by providing resources that would address concerns and help “fill in the gaps” where there was a lack of information available. Second, we knew this was a time where youth wouldn’t passively sit back and watch events unfold, but rather jump in with creative ways to contribute to their communities. We wanted to document and highlight these actions.
IPA compiled a list of resources to support youth and mentors in the philanthropic field during this global health crisis, as well as guide youth through conversations and learning exercises about racism and equity issues:
As youth groups shifted in-person meetings to digital platforms such as Google Hangouts, GroupMe, Snapchat groups, and Zoom, youth philanthropists found ways to make a meaningful impact while maintaining social distance.
For example, at the Scott County Community Foundation, members practiced “social distancing volunteerism” by picking up trash in their neighborhoods, writing encouraging chalk messages at a hospital, and packing boxes of diapers for a church who would provide home delivery to those in need.
The FIST Youth Pod at Steuben County Community Foundation put together this YouTube video to show the community what they were doing to make an impact during the COVID-19 crisis. Members organized a card-making project and began sewing masks to donate.
The PULSE Youth Pod at Noble County Community Foundation proactively used the $2,000 that remained in its budget along with a match by the Salvation Army to “bridge the generational gap” and make life more bearable for senior citizens in local nursing homes. PULSE used these funds to make activity kits, including crossword puzzle, word search, and coloring books, along with paints and hands-on activities like model cars. Kits were delivered to seven nursing homes in Noble County housing roughly 420 residents.
The youth council at Orange County Community Foundation had about $5,000 remaining in grant funds not yet awarded and unanimously decided to donate funds to a local clinic which was leading the way in the fight against COVID-19 in the county. They designated $1,000 toward personal protective equipment, $1,000 toward miscellaneous expenses, and $3,000 to aid in COVID-19 testing.
At the end of the school year, councils found creative ways to say ‘goodbye,’ especially to the graduating seniors. Through virtual events, they acknowledged the difficulty in ending their time together in such an unusual way.