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Youth Philanthropists present their Work to Local Superintendents, Principals and Steuben County Community Foundation

Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Youth philanthropy group FIST (Forever Improving Steuben County Together) had the unique opportunity this month to present the work they had done this school year to their superintendents, principals, and Steuben County Community Foundation (SCCF) at FIST’s Annual Luncheon. FIST is composed of students in grades 7th – 12th from Hamilton, Fremont and Angola schools.

They are supported by one teacher guide from each school district and two staff navigators from the Steuben County Community Foundation (SCCF) FIST’s upcoming president, Jed Mortoff, states “This annual luncheon is a unique opportunity for us as we are able to share the good work we’re doing with those who enable us to do it. This event gives FIST the chance to thank those who support us and celebrate the work we’re doing with them!” 
 
FIST has been hard at work using their time, talents and treasures and inspiring the youth of Steuben County to do the same. They have participated in numerous volunteer projects, grant making, philanthropy education programs, and community intergenerational programs. This year FIST was granted $10,000 from the Steuben County Community Foundation which allowed them to dream bigger, grant more, and provide new programs.    
 
Over $17,000 was granted by FIST in the 2023-24 school year! 23 grants were made in total. One of these grants was to Fremont’s Student Council to plant trees around the school. Another grant was made to the Community Humane Shelter of Steuben County to support their Shelter Buddies Reading program. FIST members are extremely grateful to be a part of the youth perspective for grant making in Steuben County.  
 
FIST members have had many opportunities to volunteer this year. Members volunteered at the LJCA Handy Camp, Little Lambs, WLKI Pie Auction, Humane Society, Cops for Kids, and more. They look forward to the new opportunities the next school year will bring.  


   
This year, FIST also held their own programs, some of which they partnered with local businesses and nonprofits like Jenny Lou’s Greenery and Steuben County Council on Aging. Their programs included Trick or Treat for Canned Goods, Senior Citizen Luncheon, Planting Seeds of Philanthropy and FLIP. The Trick or Treat for Canned Goods encourages students of all grade levels to participate in donating cans for local food banks. This program has been a wonderful way to introduce philanthropic opportunities to the youth of Steuben County and has been a great segway when FIST speaks to 5th graders in the schools about philanthropy during their FLIP program. FLIP is one of FIST’s original programs. It allows FIST members to introduce philanthropy to students, have conversations with them one on one, and work alongside the 5th graders to help them make their first grant to a local nonprofit. All of the programs this year were successful in helping FIST accomplish their mission and FIST looks forward to holding more programs again next year.  
 
During their presentation, FIST members engaged those in attendance by asking them to answer this question: “How do you show philanthropy in your everyday life?” Each guest participated and gave a wide range of answers that gave FIST members a fresh perspective of how to be a philanthropist even when it is not your job. FIST members also took time to thank the superintendents, principals and SCCF for their continued support that makes this group possible. After their presentation, FIST members and attendees were able to have positive interactions with one another while eating a wonderful lunch together.

Fremont Community Schools superintendent, Dr. Bill Stitt, said “It is one event I look forward to attending every year. To see young adults from all three Steuben County schools come together for the improvement of our county. It is a joy to see what F.I.S.T. members accomplish every year. It is student lead and student driven. I am so proud and honored to be invited to the luncheon”.  
 
FIST is a youth philanthropy organization founded by the Dekko Foundation under the direction of the Steuben County Community Foundation. Students from Hamilton, Angola, and Fremont become members as 8th graders and remain through high school. Each school has an adult representative. The focus of the group is to promote philanthropy among young people. FIST meets once a month to plan ways to empower the youth of Steuben County and assist in service projects. Collectively they donate more than 1000 hours a year of their time to improve their communities. In addition to volunteering their time and talents through service projects in the community, FIST offers grants to community nonprofits and school projects that promote youth involvement in philanthropy. 
 

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