Photos courtesy of Holly Goodliffe
Shannon Toole, right, works on an art project with a student at the Boys and Girls Club in East Palo Alto.
Teens are often interested in helping others but are not quite sure where to start.
SV2 (Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund) is offering teens a chance to not only get involved but better understand the needs in their community. Through April, 35 middle and high school students are coming together for seven training sessions to inspire broad and deep learning about what nonprofit organizations are, how to think about giving money effectively, and how to select an issue on which to focus. At the end, the PhilanthroTeens will choose an organization to give a grant of $5,000 to $10,000. Teen participants are children of the SV2 donors who attend a variety of schools in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
"We are so proud to be training the next generation of Bay Area philanthropists,” says SV2 Executive Director Lindsay Austin Louie. "It’s amazing to see how the teens mature and become engrossed in social issues over the course of only 21 hours of meetings.”
Launched in 2009, the SV2 Teen Philanthropy program has graduated 60. Returning high school students make up this year’s Leadership Committee. While SV2 donors and staff run the group sessions, the teens take charge in making decisions about the program. Throughout the spring, the teens are volunteering at three nonprofits that work to alleviate poverty. They will then debate the strengths and challenges of each organization before deciding how to allocate their grant dollars between the nonprofits.
For the teens, it’s a chance to truly understand the issues around them personally.
Eighteen-year-old Ian Prouix, a senior at Menlo-Atherton High School, joined after his sister. His family has often been supportive of philanthropic efforts and Prouix wanted to learn more. He was intrigued by the idea of supporting efforts that would make long-term investments rather than offering one-time fixes.
This year, Prouix’s second with PhilanthroTeens, he’s a leader which allows him to take a more active role in the group’s work.
"It’s inspired me a lot to see things firsthand versus just reading about it,” he said.
Learning about local poverty issues was eye opening for Prouix who, through the process, met a teen who is also a senior at M-A receiving help. It was a realization Prouix had never previously had.
Shannon Toole, a 17-year-old junior at Sacred Heart Prep, had a similar experience. Toole joined the group freshman year after she and her mother had read an article about the program in a local magazine.
"Getting involved has made me more aware of what’s going on around me,” she said of working with organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and Shelter Network.
The opportunities have also inspired Toole to continue to be involved. She’s particularly enjoyed working with children at the Boys and Girls Club on things like reading, arts and crafts.
Denna Nazem, 14, joined as a sixth grader. Since joining, the eighth grader at Menlo School has taken the lessons from PhilanthroTeens to a new level by starting her own project at school.
Specifically, Nazem was interested to learn about the effects of childhood poverty.
"It changed my view about how important education is,” she said.
As a result, she helped create the Menlo Mentors — a group of about 30 middle school students who volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club tutoring students and overall mentoring after school.
Nazem credits PhilanthroTeens with opening her eyes to the volunteer opportunities, the importance of getting involved and also ways her school can become involved.
This year’s SV2 teens program is under way, but we still have a few spots open for new SV2 Partner families, if you join by Friday, March 2. The remaining PhilanthroTeens sessions for this year are from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday March 4, March 25, April 22 and April 29. For more information visit www.sv2.org/page/teen-philanthropy or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.