Youth Advisory Council awards grants to local nonprofits
The Youth Advisory Council (YAC) gave back to nonprofits that support local youth and children’s programs at its annual grant ceremony on Wednesday, April 12.
The 2017 YAC grant recipients were the Alpena School District Community Mural Project, the Berryville Community Center Foundation Community Garden Project, the Clear Spring School Bee Hive Project, Eureka Springs Soccer Club, the Flint Street Fellowship Hungry Student Food Bag Project, Grandma’s House Children’s Advocacy Center, Opera in the Ozarks Children’s Opera, the Ozark Natural Science Center Carroll County Field Science Opportunity and the Project Self-Esteem School Backpack Project.
Janell Robertson, executive director of the Carroll County Community Foundation, said the grants come from the Carroll County Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council Endowment, which is invested, grows and gives back every year to Carroll County projects focused on improving the lives of youth and children. Donations to this and all of the endowments and funds held by the foundation are 100 percent tax-deductible, she said.
The grant ceremony also featured an art auction where attendees could bid on pieces donated by local high schoolers. Attendees also had the chance to vote on their favorite art pieces by dropping tickets in jars, and the students with the most tickets won cash prizes. Robertson said the students who won prizes for their artwork were Hayden Nance, Callista Audette, Zach Favors and Alejandra Galindo.
“I want to thank the art teachers for encouraging students to donate their work,” said Donna Hill, YAC adviser. “We also want to thank the art students for the effort they gave toward their work. You don’t realize what a great thing you have done by donating your artwork to charity.”
Robertson said the YAC students received 17 grant applications this year, amounting to over $15,000 worth of requests. Eureka Springs High School student Heidi Kirk said the YAC students met in the spring to discuss how to award the money to the nonprofits that applied for grants.
“With YAC, we do some community service throughout the year, and our big thing is this grant ceremony,” Kirk said. “We get a list of everyone who has applied for grants, and we delegate the money to all these organizations.”
“Being part of YAC gives you the chance to change the community for the better,” said Berryville High School student Amber Veach.
Hill said the YAC students led the discussion on how to award the grants, making pros and cons lists for potential decisions.
“We pretty much let them run the meeting,” she said. “We just unlock the door and give them pizza. Being a retired teacher, I have a special place in my heart for kids, and, when Janell asked me to help her with this, I jumped at the opportunity. It’s rewarding in and of itself to watch these kids grow and learn and make these complex decisions.”
Robertson said the YAC program is a leadership project initiative from the Arkansas Community Foundation, with the Carroll County Community Foundation being an affiliate of the organization. The YAC program focuses on empowering and encouraging students to get involved in their communities and better understand the needs of local people and how those needs are being met by nonprofits.
“Basically, we’re trying to grow young philanthropists,” she said. “Students apply to be a member, and we take about five from every local high school. We’ve also opened it up to home school and private school students.”
The council of students meets on the third Wednesday of every month from September to April, Robertson said, and works to build students’ familiar with community service.
“We try to do a community service project. This year, we packed food bags at Loaves and Fishes,” she said. “We also had a few nonprofit organizations come in and talk to the students about what they actually do. It really gave students a broader knowledge about the problems in our community and how these organizations are working to solve them.”
Robertson continued, “We hope being part of YAC inspires these students to see that there are so many ways they can help, not only by donating to a nonprofit they have a passion for but also by giving their time or talent.”
The program is working on growing the YAC endowment, she said, in order to provide more grants.
“The need is there, so we need to build our grants to meet that need,” Robertson said.
One way the YAC program is reaching that goal is through the art auction at the awards ceremony, which she said was the students’ idea.
“This was their idea to raise money,” Robertson said. “It’s the second year we’ve done this particular fundraiser. We’re so proud of our YAC students.”