Understanding Youth Philanthropy: Worcester Teen Leadership Conference (WTLC)
A Peacemaking Project by Devin K.
What is the injustice we are solving?
The injustice we seek to change in our communities is the lack of access to youth philanthropy programs for both racial minorities and youth of low socioeconomic status, which inhibits them from both learning about and participating in the valuable leadership opportunity of youth philanthropy, and silences their voices within important decision making panels.
Our Compassionate Solution:
To solve this injustice of the lack of racial and socioeconomic diversity within youth philanthropic programs
we will address the absence of accessibility for marginalized youth to participate
by specifically seeking their perspective through a conference at a location convenient to them, with food and materials provided, and at no cost to participants.
Our Project Plan:
- 1. Get 15 marginalized (impoverished/homeless/minority) high school students to participate in an educational, interactive, and motivational youth philanthropic conference
- 2. Secure a location for the conference that is accesible for the students
- 3. Receive student feedback that the event made them learn more about youth philanthropy
- 4. Empower marginalized students to use what resources they have to make change in their communities
- 5. Have at least 1 conference attendees join Youth For Community Improvement
- 6. Use the knowledge we gain through the conference to talk with family foundations and youth philanthropic programs across New England to discuss how they can be more inclusive to marginalized teens, and how more programs/resources can be created for teen philanthropists
We will increase my / our compassion by...
1. Reaching out to marginalized youth to participate in the program. 2. Advertise and do community outreach in a considerate way that takes into consideration the technology gap that exists within our community: we will print paper applications 3. Ask questions in our applications that are clear, as many Worcester students speak English as a second language. Also, we will offer applications in other major languages, or any language requested by applicant schools. 4. Hosting the conference at a location convenient to the students who have transportation issues 5. Listen to the unique struggles of the students while at the conference, so that we can more effectively and truthfully address the issue of accessibility in youth philanthropic programs when we talk with adult philanthropy leaders and community foundations 6. Give $50 to the winning partners of the “Shark Tank” philanthropy activity which will go towards the personal Worcester non-profit that they advocate for
How will you show courage?
1. We will enter an adult dominated field typically led by privileged families and advocate on behalf of marginalized youth voices in our community, as teen leaders ourselves 2. We will (and have) communicated in a professional manner to adults within our community in our planning process, from finding a location to finding food sponsors 3. Despite the fear of public speaking amongst some of the members of this project team, we are all passionate enough about this issue to speak in front of 15 students at the conference 4. If this project is sucessful, we will use our new insights to talk with philanthropy leaders across New England about changes they can make to be more inclusive. We even hope to hold a philanthropy conference of our own where we present our findings and expertise to dozens, even hundreds of adult philanthropy leaders
How will you collaborate with others?
1. In nature this project is very collaborative as it is 10 high school students from all across Worcester County, MA working together to solve this issue 2. We will work with youth philanthropic leaders such as Sarah Shugrue who we interviewed to make sure our conference presents the best information possible 3. We will reach out to Worcester public schools to recruit students an find a confence location 4. We will talk with community business owners to find food sponsors/discounts 5. At the conference we will collaborate with the attendees to learn about their struggles, and think of solutions to the inaccessibility of youth philanthropic programs 6. After the conference, we hope to collaborate with as many philanthropic leaders within New England as we can to spread our message to those in power and share our findings
How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)
1. Get demographic information from our 15 participants to analyze how well we achieved diversity and serving marginalized youth 2. Most importantly, we will be giving our a survey before the conference to assess the philanthropy knowledge of the 15 participants, and at the end of the conference we will hand out the same survey to see if we were impactful educators. 3. If participants show interest and hopefully join Youth For Community Improvement. Our goal is at least 2 attendees joining YCI. 4. If through our project, we are able to gain valuable insight to share with adult philanthropic leaders in New England
- 1. Schedule the entire confence day full of substantive and creative activities, with the assistance of philanthropy professionals to be the most impactful (completed)
- 2. Create a budget that takes all expenses into consideration including the particular needs of marginalized youth (completed).
- 3. Reach out to Worcester public schools to find a host location (completed)
- 4. Reach out to local restaurant owners to find food sponsors or those willing to give us discounts (completed)
- 5. Create an application so that students can apply to attend the conference- and then give that application to the 5 public high schools in Worcester, MA.
- 6. Review the applications and form a diverse group of participants
- 7. Create and send the pre-conference evaluation document to the 15 participants
- 8. Organize our resources for the conference, and practice the speaking parts for all the activities
- 9. (This step would likely be before step 7) speak with Administration at the host location school and participant students to set a convenient date for the conference
How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?
Trying to find the roots of our injustice as well as the impact on our community helps us to understand the approach to trying to solve the injustice of lack of access to YPP (youth philanthropy programs) for protected classes and/or POC, LGBTQ+ individuals (Ariel). We have learned so much more about injustice in community, beyond even the lack of opportunity for marginalized youth within the field of philanthropy. Through discussions with participants and community leaders- we have discovered an opportunity gap that is holding back all teens in Worcester, but particularly students of color. There are so many obstacles in the way of students becoming leaders and starting their own initiatives that is created by the Worcester educational bureaucracy. Students cannot have an event after school or they have to pay janitors feeds, even if they don’t make a mess, or are willing to thoroughly clean themselves. When janitors feels for a two hour long meeting hand go as high as $200, it is literally impossible for inner city students to organize themselves. We also experienced the technology gap within our application process for students applying to the conference. We created a google forms version, as well as a version guidance could print out and give to students without access to technology. Unfortunately, students informed us that many guidance counselors were not doing their job and did not inform students of the opportunity in any way. It’s truly sad how paid city employees are obstacles in the way of the success of students simply because of their incompetency. We were not surprised to find that our participants did not know what youth philanthropy was before attending our conference. The average from 1-10 of reported knowledge of “youth philanthropy” before of conference taken from the pre-assesment results was a 2. After the conference, we proved our success as teachers, as that number grew to an average of 7. We also learned that students in our city simply don’t know about the opportunities and resources that exist for them outside of school- and even outside the philanthropy world. In a post assessment, one student wrote that “I feel like by taking advantage of my resources, I can change my community for the better”.
How did your community change as a result of your project?
The teens who participated in the project were able to find new avenues on how to be more vocal about what they want to see change in their community. They were able to understand their voice is needed in many different areas whether it be the school system, city council, or public health. Many people wanted to get more involved in other programs to be able to better address their needs as teens. Hopefully the project creates a chain reaction for more youth to use their voice to change our community (Kristen). One student who attended wrote that “ This conference/program, has helped me feel more motivated [to be active in the community]”. Another student wrote, “I do feel better educated about youth philanthropy. I’ve always heard others say my voice matters, but I never understood how important it was”.
How many people were impacted by your project?
Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project that you shared above?
In addition to those directly impacted, are there additional people you feel were indirectly indirectly impacted or reached? If so, how many? (This might include people who read about your project, families of people that attended your workshops or received services, etc.)
We are a team of 10 students who have been greatly impacted impacted by this conference, and have become better leaders because of it. Our goal was to have 15 students participate, and we achieved 15 accepted and impressive applicants to our conference. Unfortunately, only 9 were able to follow through. However, we did impact even those students who weren’t able to come- as we shared our contacts with them and will continue to inform them of opportunities within the philanthropy field in central Mass. We also impacted those who spoke at our conference, gave us advice as to how to run the conference, and on business leaders who gave us discounts on foods and snacks. We made a larger impact because our project made foundation news and was shared throughout Worcester media outlets. Hopefully many Worcester citizens read about our team and are inspired to get more involved, or have more respect for the passionate kids that Worcester is producing. Additionally, our impact goes farther than we could ever know. We have inspired students to become leaders, start their own initiatives, and positively impact even more youth. Already we have heard from one participant who is going to volunteer with YPP, a youth philanthropy educational program in Worcester geared towards elementary schoolers. Now all those little kids will be impacted by a positive older role model who we inspired to take action (Devin). We tried to emulate the size of the GWCF’s(Greater Worcester Community Fund) YCI(Youth for Community Improvement) class size. Unfortunately, had a smaller class size than we expected but I think it helped to make sure that all people involved in our conference were heard and that we were able to facilitate effectively.Due to the fact this was our first time doing something like this it was nice to have a smaller class to make the experience more smooth. (Ariel)
How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?
We learned from both the students that attended our conference, and the students that backed out at the last second, or simply couldn’t attend. So many students who attended felt comfortable to share stories about discrimination they feel they have experienced because of their race or ethnic group within Worcester Public schools and how that has negatively impacted their view on community service within Worcester. One student spoke about a friend of theirs who was told by a teacher to go back to Mexico- despite him being a legal Latino American. While we focused on youth Philanthropy, there is no denying that there is an inherently racist educational system that exists within our community in central Massachusetts- and when the majority of extracurricular opportunities stem from school, students of color are being tuned away. There were 5 students who had filled out an application and were accepted into our conference and the day before they contacted us saying they could no longer attend. We wanted to know why, and all of them said it was because they couldn’t find rides. We were very disappointed as our team had made clear for weeks in advance that we could drive students, we could hand out travel stipends, and we could pay for Uber rides with parental supervision. While we trust students couldn’t find rides, the issue presented is much more complex and institutionalized than that. After talking with extracurricular program leaders, teachers, and business owners in Worcester, we discovered that there is a culture amongst Worcester teens that not showing up, and not communicating at a mature level is acceptable. Some members of our team come from privileged towns where we are taught about responsibility and “adult/professional behavior” in classes from a young age. Unfortunately, Worcester public school teens aren’t being taught the necessary life skills that will allow them to follow through with important opportunities such as our conference where they can make connections that could potential help them in their careers (Devin). Our conference was created to allow those affected by our injustice the opportunity to be educated on youth philanthropy, learn ways to contribute and at the end of the conference, actually become philanthropists by donating money to an organization. Through our conference we were able to have open discussions with those affected by the lack of education regarding philanthropy and identify how that issue directly impacted their lives. Our team genuinely cared to hear these people’s stories and personal experiences regarding the injustice placed upon them and with this we were able to educate ourselves on the effects which we had not previously considered (Alyvia).
What did your team learn?
Personally, I believe that through the process of planning and executing our conference we were able to all grow as individuals. Our project required many of us to branch out to people in our community in order to ask for assistance, advice, and to invite youth to our conference. This project was not only an opportunity to teach our peers about youth philanthropy but it was an opportunity for every member of our team to learn and enhance skills such as decision making, public speaking, reaching out to those in our community, etc. (Alyvia). We learned a lot about compromise and hearing one another out which is an important concept to learn especially as we move on to college and other professional environments. We learned how to organize meetings that fit the schedules of our group members and meeting places that were convenient to the most group members as possible. (Ariel). I can’t speak for others in my group, but I personally learned a lot about myself and what a community really is through this project. Earlier in the school year I had an incident where I feel that an opportunity was taken away from me due to my Latino heritage, and due to my family not being as affluent as others in my predominantly white, privileged town. I remember going home to my parents crying, feeling defeated by a system that was seemingly always against me no matter how hard I worked or how impressive my resume was. I decided to stop trying to impress the town I moved to when I was 12, and look back to the city that accepts me, and is proud of me for the person I am - and that is Worcester. This team is a group of diverse kids that support one another in any pursuit. I learned though this project that a community isn’t where who live, it’s who you chose to live life with. And I chose Worcester, and I chose the friends that have supported my leadership in this project.
What challenges did your team overcome?
A major issue that arose throughout the span of our planning and execution process was getting people to be involved. Our team consisted of strictly teenagers who are all reliant on parents and guardians to drive us around and get us to places we wished to be and this was challenging for us as even though we were all passionate about being involved, at the end of the day we were not always able to meet face to face. This issue was also prevalent in securing participants for our conference as we aimed to involve only youth participants yet our group was devoted to giving as many kids as possible the opportunity to take part in our conference and we found ways around this curve. Members offered rides to participants, dates were changed to fit people’s schedules and money management was used to pay for transportation for our key speaker. Our team’s devotion to the project was able to overcome a major roadblock we faced and were able to successfully host our conference (Alyvia). In the beginning of our journey we had a lot of help from people around the Worcester county community to aid us in our mission. As we progressed in the planning of the conference that communication between those individuals grew less often due to conflicting schedules and other responsibilities they had. We had to learn to trust our own judgement as well as use resources given to us that were available at the time. As a result I feel like as a whole we came up with our most creative, thoughtful and best ideas (Ariel).
How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?
Our project was catered to improve youth knowledge of philanthropy and for us, we felt it was necessary to get as many youth voices involved as possible. We involved the opinions of our peers, friends and our own experiences in order to fully ensure that our conference would be successful in achieving our goal of educating youth on philanthropy. We worked with a youth philanthropist within our community to hear her insight on the injustice and even invited her to speak at our conference while also encouraging her to take part in discussions throughout the event and help enlighten us and the participants which we believe was extremely beneficial in leaving a positive impact on everyone involved in the project. She works along side Governor Charlie Baker’s legal team, and with the NAACP to fight for civil liberties for students of color in the greater Worcester area, and is most famous for her battle to keep a poster of Colin Kaepernick up at her school for black history month despite opposition from white school leadership. The experiences she shared with conference attendees was extremely motivating, and showed how powerful youth voice can be. We also reached out to philanthropists from organizations outside of the Greater Worcester Community foundation for advice about hosting a conference. We even modeled one of our activities off of an activity used by Mass Philanthropy. Getting our conference location was a joint labor with a fellow Worcester Community philanthropy group called Andy’s Attic that collects clothing to be donated to low income students. The executive manager of Andy’s Attic is a contact we received through networking, and working alongside her, we were able to host our conference at the same time as their meeting at South High School. If we hadn’t joined forces, we would have had to pay huge amounts of janitors fees which would have made both of our events impossible. Everyone in our group had different connections, networks and friendships which all aided us in planning and carrying out our plan. Each individual in our group had an impact in the planning through another individual, group, business, etc. The diversity in our groups really aiding us in expanding the scope of the project.
What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?
At the start of our journey in creating our peacemaking project everything seemed very intimidating especially since our team consisted of strictly youth, yet a component that was extremely important for us throughout this process was communication. While forming any project with a team it is essential that every voice and opinion is heard because every member offers a unique viewpoint that could make the project the very best that it can be. Don’t be afraid to have very candid discussions all throughout the process as they can help shape the project to become something beyond your original plans and lead to great success (Alyvia). When planning the peacemaking project the best thing to do is to understand the importance of the project you want to create. Once the need for the project is understood by the team the planning will go more smoothly because everyone understands its value. There should always be a reason for why you want to create the project and the goal should be able to better another person’s life (Kristen). My advice would to have a fun and a passion for what you are doing because if you lack the passion for your project certain aspects of it will be lacking. Make sure to understand the people that will be impacted by your project and to not be afraid to ask for help from others (Ariel).