Teenagers are amazing. The Jackson County Youth Leadership Council members raised $745 through bake sales at the Smoky Mountain High School fall musical performances. And then they gave it all away to Jackson County foster children.
Information from Learning to Give, a youth philanthropy organization, states that “Children and adolescents serving their community are given the control and assurance that is needed to build their sense of self-worth.
More tangibly, there is evidence that young people who volunteer, write grants, or fundraise, learn life skills, responsibility, and commitment as well as improve their grades and behavior in school.
In December the 20 members of the YLC practiced empathy. They combined their 2021 bake sale proceeds, with funds raised previously, and donated $1,000 to the Jackson County Department of Social Services Christmas Fund for Foster Children. DSS Director Cris Weatherford accepted the contribution and confirmed that it would be put to good use.
A leadership skill learned in the Jackson County 4-H Youth Leadership Council is empathy – as demonstrated by their decision to donate bake sale proceeds. The teen members learn about philanthropy as time, talent and treasure and then apply that to fundraising and grant funding for youth-led projects in the community.
Each year the YLC members prepare a Request for Proposals, fundraise for monies to award as grants, evaluate the grant applications and budgets submitted, fund the youth-led grants, and evaluate the impacts from grant reports.
Since 2012, 210 members of the Youth Leadership Council have funded 29 youth-led grants totaling $6,080. Much of this money has been raised through bake sales and individual requests from businesses. The youth have funded projects such as building an entrance ramp for a church, books and board games for the public library, an autism education program, a nature club, an Appalachian oral history program, and a community center food pantry.
For more information about Jackson County 4-H, Youth Leadership Council, or ways you can support this program, please contact me at 586-4009 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heather Gordon is the Extension Agent for 4-H, Youth Development in Jackson County.